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Old 02-01-2010, 03:36 PM   #1
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Is a broker useful?

I have been looking in earnest for a trawler/motor cruiser for the last couple of months. I began my search without the help of a broker. With the internet listing all available boats I found no reason to enlist a broker. Besides I felt that as sometimes happens in Real Estate,*a listing broker may be willing to take a cut in his commission to facilitate a sale especially if there is no buyers broker involved.
After looking at 15 boats listed by 7 different brokers I have made some conclusions.The most pleasant experience when viewing a boat has been those boats where the owner was present, 2 were for sale by owner and one was an owner showing me his boat due to the unavailability of the broker. All of these folks were pleasant to speak with, had above average boats and I felt were far more knowledgeable about their boats than most brokers. All were willing to talk about their boats, boating in general and the local cruising area. Each one would have been a joy to share an evening drink, and watch the sun set at a secluded anchorage. I recently sold my sailboat without a broker, *and the several people I came into contact with in the process of selling my boat were very similar.
So you may be thinking that I find brokers to be an un-necessary distraction. For the most part I think this is true, until you find the right broker.
I had one broker that only reluctantly showed me boats on a Saturday because he didnt work weekends. He also tried to convince me that my concerns about the numerous leaks and the ton of work necessary to bring the boat up to seaworthy condition were inconsequential. And to top it off dont tell me as were about to leave this derelict that the seller is a friend and he took great care of the mechanics on this boat. Youve already convinced me that youll do anything to sell me this boat even if you have to lie and misrepresent it to get a sale. This broker showed me 5 boats in one day, all that I had selected from his brokerage. I never heard from him again- no follow up.
I contacted a seller listing his boat through a forum and asked if his brokerage contract allowed him some leeway in his commission payment if he sold the boat directly. It did not but the seller informed the broker of our contact. The broker contacted me directly and asked if I was prepared to pay at least 90% of the listing price. *I told the broker I could not negotiate a price over e-mail sight unseen. The boat suddenly became more difficult to schedule a viewing. The boat is still for sale at the original price.
Another broker agreed to show me a boat even though I explained to him I could not buy a boat until my current boat sold. After showing me the boat he asked to see my boat. After viewing it I asked his opinion and he said he would list it for 15k but I could realistically expect to get 12K. I sold it myself 5 months later for 17k.
So is a broker really necessary? My answer to that question based on my experiences so far is absolutely yes if you can find the right one. I accidently stumbled onto a great broker when I scheduled a viewing on a boat he was listing on the internet. After viewing the boat he asked my opinions. Before answering I asked if I could have a few private minutes on the boat to discuss it with my wife. I thus had an idea of what she thought of the boat before relaying anything to the broker. I then told the broker all the things we didnt like and those we did like. He didnt once try to tell me I was wrong on any of my opinions and agreed with my observations. He did correct me on some things and explained that certain issues were common to this boat as well as many others in this vintage. He also asked me questions that could give him an idea of what we were looking for and surprisingly asked my wife directly what she thought. We spent 2 hours looking at this boat and not once did he try to hurry us along. Since that viewing he has suggested several boats and has gotten information on several others we have mentioned to him. He steered us away from one boat that I had high anticipations for when he called the listing broker and found the owner had painted the boat himself. My broker explained that this can be a real problem in the future if the prep work was not done right. As he explained, its unlikely a seller is going to do the work properly if he is simply going to turn around and sell it. The listing broker apparently had concerns about the paint job when my broker asked him about it.
So if you are a buyer in search of a broker here is what I suggest.
Ask friends for recommendations, but judge them like any broker listing a boat. Youll soon know if this guy is working for you or for himself.
Realize that even though it is a buyers market and you are in the drivers seat, treat each broker with respect until he loses that respect. Be respectful of a brokers time, but if he just cant seem to work out a time to show you a boat, drop him and move on.
Some brokers especially in SE Florida are accustomed to selling million dollar boats. To some brokers a $100,000 boat is hardly worth the time. Youll sense this immediately, drop them fast.
If a broker is not familiar with a boat he is showing this should be a major red flag. Even though it may not be his listing he should have called the listing broker and found out about the boat. If he seems unfamiliar with the systems on the boat, then he probably has not been in the business long. Send him back to home depot where he belongs. For this reason its probably prudent to ask many questions about a boat even if you know the answer. You can quickly judge the brokers knowledge. My broker was able to tell me the planning characterizes of the boat he listed as well as the speeds where the most economical operation is attained. This guy knows his boats and it shows.
If certain design characteristics of a boat are unsatisfactory (like no walk thru transom) and the broker tries to convince you that your concerns are not important or more likely that you can live with it by practicing the high jump, realize quickly that he doesnt have your interest at heart.
Dont be influenced by a brokers fancy web site. Some brokers have much time on their hands and spend hours designing their web sites rather than selling boats. One broker I mentioned above has an absolutely fabulous web site.
If you do find a good broker, dont expect him to suggest a reasonable offer. It is unfair to put him in that position. Realize there is an inherent conflict of interest. Even asking if an offer has been made on a boat in my opinion is unwise. A sellers situation may have changed since the last offer. Realize again that the most motivated sellers have done everything they can to make their boat look good. They may not be so motivated to accept any offer that comes along, but you can bet a motivated seller will know the market, price his boat right and make the boat look as good as it can. *
Expect to participate in this boat buying experience. Dont expect the broker to find all the boats you should consider. Most all boats are listed on the internet and you should guide your broker with selections youve made.
Lastly, I think its important if you find a good broker to let him know you will stick with him until together, you find a boat. A good broker will spend much time not only searching for a boat, but working with other brokers to find the right boat for you. If you find a good broker and he finds the right boat for you ask him if he would buy the boat himself if he intended to use it as you would. If you trust the broker, his answer may be very enlightening.
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Old 02-01-2010, 05:58 PM   #2
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Is a broker useful?

We did not have the experience or knowledge to undertake a search for a GB on our own. We were extremely fortunate in that we ended up with an outstanding broker to help us find our GB. Twelve years later he is still the lead broker with the company (which specialized in GBs) which is a pretty good indication of the regard in which he is held. His honesty and integrity is something you don't find all that much in any profession these days. His objective was to see that we got a boat that we would truly have a good experience with and that did not exceed our ability (or means) to keep up and use.

Since this the only boat-buying experience we've had*with a broker, our view of the process is very positive. However, as Tim says, the nature of the broker is critical to the experience you will have and the value they can bring to the search and transaction. The better a judge of character one is, the better the experience they will have if they enlist a broker.

We would not hesitate to use this broker again even if we had to fly him to a different location in the country. However we would never assume any other broker automatically had the same characteristics.

-- Edited by Marin on Monday 1st of February 2010 07:00:01 PM
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:50 PM   #3
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Brokers are a lot like car salesmen with a little bit of real estate sprinkled in. They do have something to offer. The one thing is soldboats.com. These are the "comps" like real estate agents use. It allows them to see what similar boats have sold for.

The reason I say car salesmen is that 10 times out of 10 I know more about the boat I am looking at than they do. This irritates the PISS OUTTA ME!!!!! I have NEVER found a broker that is more knowledgeable about XXXXXX boat than I am. Even when I gave him a multiple day "heads up" of what I am interested it.

I could go on and on but ultimately what brokers offer is yachtworld.com and soldboats.com. That is pretty much it. Everything else, I can do on my own and do it better.

PS....I have friends that are brokers and I use them when I am in the market simply to allow "someone" to make some cash...it may as well be a friend. Well even this angle is a PIA. I have to call them....they call the listing broker....they have to wait for a call back....and then they call me. That whole exchange can take upwards of 3 days just to get one question answered.

PSS....I have a fantasy of becoming a broker to be THAT broker that I would like to deal with.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:04 PM   #4
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RE: Is a broker useful?

OMG John! Don't just sit on the fence...tell us what you really think!

I have a broker (friend) that I bought 3 boats through. I did all the leg work, investigating, etc. and he did the paper work. The last boat I bought, I did not go through him and I haven't heard a word from him since. That was three years ago.

I don't have any ax to grind with brokers but the really good ones are few and far between. (Just like most service oriented workers.)

My latest experience is to do my own "due diligence", retain my own surveyor and use a documentation service for all the paperwork. It works out fine and I don't have to pay* 10% to a person who contributes very little to the deal.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:32 PM   #5
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Different strokes ------. When I purchased my current boat, the use of a marina based broker guaranteed me a slip in a very*nice marina. No small matter in the PNW. Other than being cheap, why not use a very qualified broker?
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:41 PM   #6
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RE: Is a broker useful?

In the case of the broker we used, he was in the midst of a full restoration of GB32-7 at the time we decided to buy a GB and he had represented GBs for many years prior to this. So he knew a great deal about the boats and provided a lot of valuable information for my wife and I to consider in our decision.

If we had been in the market for different make of boat, he might not have been able to provide us with nearly as much guidance. But since at the time the only boat we were considering was a GB36, he was the perfect broker for us.

Since the replacement for our current boat will most likely be a GB as well, when the day arrives that we begin the search for real we will use him again as he is so knowledgeable about all their boats, from the woodies to the current model line. Even though we have learned a hell of a lot about our GB in the almost-twelve years we've owned it, we know little about the newer ones, their systems, engines, etc. So I suspect he will be as valuable to us in our new search as he was in our original one.

I do not have the time or the interest in poring over websites, chasing down boats, or looking at bunches of boats. I basically want to be pointed to the best examples of the specific boat we want, determine which one best suits our needs, sea trial it, get it surveyed, and if everything is up to snuff, close the deal and start using it. Looking for a boat is not part of what either I or my wife have any interest getting from our boating experience.

And even though we know a lot more today than we did before, we will do the same thing we did before, and take a friend who knows more about boats than God but who doesn't give a hoot if we buy a particular boat or not to serve as a totally objective--- and very critical--- pair of eyes and ears.
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Old 02-02-2010, 02:40 AM   #7
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Is a broker useful?

A broker should be used to sell boat to get it out there on the web and in front of the general boating community.* It seems brokers like most things are starting to specialize in certain kind/size of boats.* I would also use a broker in a large boating community like Seattle or one of the larger marinas, and I would try to get a slip that has a lot of public view.* Like our slip is at the front of the marine by the gate where a lot of people can see the boat.* Use*a broker that has a good volume of buyers and located the boat so it can be seen.* Location location location.*

Now, as far as buying a boat that depends more on the buys knowledge and experience of boats in general. When we bought the boat being newbies using a broker was a must.* However, now after 15+ years being around boats a broker is not really necessary.* Being a live aboard we have seen a lot of brokers/brokerage firms come and go and I would not trust a broker.* Boat brokerages are not like real-estate brokers as they tend to sell the boats list though their brokerage or general area.*So to find THE BOAT you still have to do most of the leg work.***

Oh, I would never ever leave my boat in a brokers care as they trend*not check and take care of the boats. I have seen many boats damage because the brokers do not tie up properly do* not lock or check on the boats.* So make sure you check on your boat on regular bases. So it depends on a lot of factors.*

Would I used not us a*broker today to buy,**but I would use a broker to sell my boat. The brokers main purpose to get the buyer and sell together and make a deal.**


-- Edited by Phil Fill on Tuesday 2nd of February 2010 03:42:34 AM

-- Edited by Phil Fill on Tuesday 2nd of February 2010 03:43:30 AM
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:45 AM   #8
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Interesting comments from everyone. Keeping in mind that most of you folks on this forum have owned several boats and are far more familar with boats and their systems than most buyers, it stands to reason a broker could be of limited value. However for folks like me that are learning about the different types of boats, a knowledgeable broker who is not just trying to make a quick commission can be a truly valuable asset.

And folks like Marin who are familar with boats and know the boat they want but don't want to spend hours hunting one down, a good broker can save time and money. In my case, my broker saved me two days time and driving when he warned me that a boat I really liked could have some real future problems. I would not have known this even after I had viewed the boat.

With that being said, I think anyone can benefit from a good broker. An unbiased knowledgeable second opinion is always valuable. The trick here is to find a good broker. Until I found one, my experience with them was; they were an unnecessary distraction.
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:27 AM   #9
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RE: Is a broker useful?

You won't get an unbiased second opinion from a broker. The boats he has for sale are the best, no matter what.
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:57 AM   #10
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RE: Is a broker useful?

There are buyer's brokers and sellers brokers. My comments were strictly for a buyer's broker. This is the guy I appointed to insure I didn't get hurt too badly and arranged all viewings, paperwork was up to snuff etc. Commissions were split. We looked seriously at over 15 boats and he did a great job of filtering. I made low ball offers and he made sure seller was not too cheezed off.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:08 PM   #11
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Quote:
Keith wrote:

You won't get an unbiased second opinion from a broker. The boats he has for sale are the best, no matter what.
Keith,

My experience has not supported your statement. I won't defend a broker that is in the business*solely for himself, but there are brokers that truly are a valuable asset when making a large purchase as most boat tend to be. The trick is to find a good one, no easy task.
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Old 02-04-2010, 04:29 AM   #12
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Are you a broker, Tim? You sure seem to have a vested interested in defending / promoting them.
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Old 02-04-2010, 02:12 PM   #13
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Quote:
Keith wrote:

Are you a broker, Tim? You sure seem to have a vested interested in defending / promoting them.
His profile says he is a pilot. *Who do you fly for, Tim? *Continental here. *You can PM me so this doesn't go off topic.
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Old 02-04-2010, 05:56 PM   #14
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RE: Is a broker useful?

And to add to what BornSailor said, a broker may also have good connections to an insurance company or broker, which can be particularly useful if one is getting an older boat.
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:55 PM   #15
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RE: Is a broker useful?

Y'all are correct on the first time around. But if you are "wired in" to your local boating community, then you should no where to find insurance and financing.
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Old 02-05-2010, 07:48 AM   #16
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RE: Is a broker useful?

This has been interesting reading. It's true that a good broker can be quite helpful when buying/selling a boat. It's also true that "good" brokers are hard to find and in my area, very rare. John makes the point about being "wired in" to your boating community. If one has a dearth of boating experience, then a broker is absolutely necessary. With experience, to use a broker is an extra expense that need not happen. Most documentation services can answer questions about boat financing and insurance and they will point you in the right direction. Such a service that is in my area is Donna Jenkins Documentation Service. I have processed 8 boats through her office since 1995 and have had excellent service. I've also received answers to questions that my broker couldn't give me. Towards the end of 2002, I started using her service and did my own due diligence. Result? New electronic equipment in my new purchase with the saving of 10% broker's fee on the boat!
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