Frank's Corner: Buying a Boat 2

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    Greg Rutkai

    When it comes to buying used sailboats I have found that in general private sellers get a higher price than brokers. Yes, you heard right: private sellers also often get away with fixing less stuff and having less complaints from their buyers.

    It seems pretty obvious why, if you think about it.

    A person that is selling his or her own boat has one boat to sell and can often spend a lot of time discussing minor details, taking folks on casual demo sails and often can form a nice friendly relationship with the buyer. This makes it hard sometimes for the buyer to low ball them on the price or demand some repairs after a nice afternoon sail and a few cold ones.

    Often folks avoid brokers assuming they will pay more. Some don't even check.

    In my case, we have 20 to 40 boats on display in one location and the boats must compete with one and other. The good deals are easy to see. The bad deals are easy to see also. Just walk around the yard. The boats that are clean and low priced sell, the dirty overpriced boats don't. Those same dirty, overpriced boats often turn into clean underpriced boats in due time but sellers need to learn too! After a period of time they also walk the yard and see why they have not sold.

    That's when the check book comes out and the boat gets cleaned up and the price goes down.

    A private seller often has nothing to compete with that does not involve the buyer getting in the car and driving to other marina's, and often other states, so it's pretty easy for the buyer to "love the one you're with." Don't get me wrong, folks do shop, but a lot less when it involves a lot of running around.

    If folks are working with a good honest broker who knows his stuff, (make sure they have sold plenty of boats like the one you are looking for), they can avoid a lot of running around looking at over-priced boats or boats that have issues.

    That broker probably has already seen it or even had a client survey it. He doesn't want to waste his time or yours.

    The other major problem with many private sellers is that they are often novices with little experience with boats. They may know their own boat somewhat, but have little overall knowlege of similiar boats and even existing problems with their own boat. They just don't know!

    The potential buyer will automatically assume they are dealing with an expert, since they are the owner.

    I have had many people bring me a boat to sell who have assured me the boat had great decks and never had a blister. The boat arrives and it's got wet decks and blisters. The people were not lying - they just didn't know what to look for.

    The biggest potential issue is the rare case of the sneaky seller who may not have clear title, he may owe a lot of money to the marina or may have a lien. This can be real bad!

    Imagine paying for a boat, maybe only a few grand and then upon pick-up being informed by the marina that the seller owes a year of storage. That is now your problem. This seldom happens but it does happen more than it should. A good broker will take your money and before paying the seller he/she should have checked with the yard, looked over the title for liens and done some due diligence on the buyer's behalf. Until all bills are paid, the seller does not get paid. I pay them right out of the seller's proceeds.

    I have found that most sellers are happy to absorb the 10% brokerage fee and not expect to get a higher price because of it. If a boat has a book value of 10k they don't ask for 11 because it's with a broker, it doesn't work that way.

    Most folks are using a broker because they don't have the time or inclination to show folks the boat. They are sailing their new boat or are selling because they didn't have time for this one.

    I have seen people get screaming good deals from private sellers as well as brokers, just seen a few less problem deals involving titles, liens and yard bills with brokered sales.

    Greg Rutkai

    Please let Frank know what you think about this new section of Sailing Texas. We need feed back!

    If you would like to add your thoughts on this or on any sailing topics, please Email Alison at and I will post your sailing experiences on this website.

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