Should You Use a Yacht Broker?

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Senior Member
Oct 6, 2007
The other day I returned a phone call left on my voice mail from a man inquiring about a used boat I have for sale.* When the caller answered I identified myself and asked what I might offer regarding the used boat he had called about.* The caller immediately responded that he did not want to buy a used boat through a Yacht Broker and hung up.* I shrugged my head and wondered why he would NOT want to buy a boat through a Yacht Broker.
If you are considering buying a used boat, here are some things to consider.
Finding a Good Used Boat
A yacht broker will have access to information you will not have or be able to get.
A yacht broker with integrity will be honest about used boats.* If there is something wrong with a used boat, he will inform you.* I use a disclosure to inform buyers about problems with the boats I represent.* If you are using a buyers broker, he/she will investigate other used boats for you, and help determine which used boats are worth visiting or considering.* Hes going to be able to speak to other brokers about their used boats asking the right questions, and find out information that you would not likely get on your own.* Hes going to have access to information than you will not have making the search process easier and faster.
Whats a Fair Price?
Once that potential used boat is located, what is a good and fair price to pay?* Using data found at, hell give you the prices of similar used boats bought in recent months.* Remember, a boat is only worth what you are willing to pay and the seller is willing to take.* Most importantly, hell know the motivation of the seller and guide you in making an offer that will allow you and the seller to negotiate to a satisfactory selling price.
Who Holds the Money?
Professional yacht brokers write purchase contracts that specify each step in the buying process; the length of time for the seller to accept the offer, the date by which you the buyer will either accept or reject the used boat, any specific conditions that the offer is contingent upon, and the anticipated closing date. *The contract will also specify your getting your deposit back if you change your mind.
And oh yes, an offer requires a good faith deposit.* Who will hold that deposit if a transaction involves you as a buyer and the seller without a third party?* Buyers beware!
Lien Checks
When we assist in the sale/purchase of a boat, yacht brokers complete checks to make sure you get clear title to the boat.* Any existing ships mortgages are paid in full.* In addition, documentations are transferred and Bills of Sales are prepared.* When working with a yacht broker, you receive the necessary legal documentation identifying the used boat as yours.* Buying used boat from an individual can be hazardous if these checks are not made.
Getting her Home
You have found the perfect used boat and got her for a good price; but handling a 42 foot boat has you intimidated.* Shes a pretty big boat.* But not to worry, when dealing with full-service yacht brokers nothing is left to chance.*
Be sure you select a yacht broker that will agree to help you with learning your new used boat as well as getting her home.* I do this with all my customers.
Choose Your Broker Carefully
Most yacht brokers are very responsible and treat their customers accordingly.* Ive heard many horror stories from my customers about their dealings with less than professional yacht brokers.* Many of them are out for the quick buck and could care less about you as a customer.* I have even had dealings with them myself and often wonder how they have ANY customers.* They dont return phone calls or emails, dont seem to know much about used boats and dont show up to work until lunch it seems.
Be sure your chosen broker is very knowledgeable about the used boat you think you want.* For me, powerboats, especially trawlers are my forte.
Choose your broker carefully.* Do bit of research to determine the character of the person you are dealing with.* Ask for references.

Most of the things you mention above are available by using Boat/US' buyer/seller services, including title transfers, insurance, ballpark valuations, escrow, etc. E-Bay is becoming more and more a good place to buy/sell boats, even in the larger ranges. Brokers still have their place, but I think the Internet is sure reducing their advantage. If ever opened up to the public, or someone else designed a site that worked the same way for the public, the brokers would really be hurtin'.
I am in fact in the market for a sundeck trawler.
The ONLY way I will buy from a broker is if he and the seller agree that I will get a handholding session with the seller. A broker cannot know all the quirks, foibles, buttons, knobs, switches etc. of a larger boat. Sometimes yacht brokers, like real estate brokers, want to keep buyer and seller apart at all cost. I guess they feel that doing so justifies their existence.

-- Edited by surveyor1 on Wednesday 8th of April 2009 04:37:59 PM
Here is something that a lot of people overlook when declaring they will not buy through a broker. It's been our experience that yacht brokers are like real estate agents. They often become aware of what's coming onto the market long before it's actually listed and its availability becomes widespread knowledge.

We most likely would not have the boat we have were it not for the fact we used a broker to help us find it. The day we went in to talk to him (Scott Blake of the then-Grand Yachts Northwest, now Northwest Explorations) he showed us the GBs they had in their inventory. He was carrying a sheet of paper that I assumed was an office memo or something.* After determining that we were not in the market for the newer boats they had in stock he held up the piece of paper and said (more or less), "Here's a fax we just got today from a broker we know in California. He has a customer who just bought a GB46 in Vancouver and is right now taking it down the coast to Alameda. He currently owns a GB36 and he doesn't want to own two boats. So he's going to put the GB36 on the market, and his broker faxed us today to see if we might have anyone interested in this boat before he lists it. Based on the spec sheet here, it sounds like this might be the sort of boat that will meet your requirements."

The California broker knew the folks at Grand Yachts Northwest, knew they had a pretty good turnover of used GBs, so before he went to the effort and expense of listing and advertising the boat he figured he'd see if GYN had a potential buyer.

The potenial buyer turned out to be us. We made an offer that day contingent on the boat being what the spec sheet said it was and that it passed sea trial, *hull and engine surveys. The offer was relayed to the owner out at sea in his GB46, he accepted it, we flew down to California to check out the boat, sea trialed it, had it hull and engine surveyed, and in the end, bought it and trucked it north.**

Even with the trucking cost, we paid thousands of dollars less than we would have paid for the same boat in the PNW because at that time this type of boat did not command the kind of prices in California as they did--- and perhaps still do--- in the PNW where*their popularity allowed sellers to ask premium prices.* We very likely would never have learned of the availability of this boat had it not been for the relationship between the brokers in Alameda and Bellingham.

-- Edited by Marin on Wednesday 8th of April 2009 07:05:54 PM
That's just luck, Marin... right time and place.
Brokers are great for newbys that have no idea of what they want , or frequently even why , or what they will DO with the new toy.

The internet is great for folks that KNOW which boat they think they need.

I've bought boats both with and without brokers. I hired a buyers broker this last time but didn't do my homework correctly. The guy was a jerk. While he did make sure the paperwork was correct he was unable to offer any significant knowledge to the boat. That is: "How exactly does this work?" His reply: "Well, lets turn it on and find out".

So, I'm not sure I'd bother to do that again. Like FF says, I pretty much know what I want and what I think I need. After 30 years of boat ownership I have developed a few opinions of my own which serve me pretty well. I can see a new boat owner getting good value out of a well matched broker though.

I think I'd be sure to find a broker that owned and used the same kind of boat I was looking for. A trawler owner/broker selling me a trawler. If I was looking for a Bayliner I'd be looking for a Bayliner owning broker. While some may have that wide breadth of knowledge to intimately know a different style, I like the specialist. Ask the average Bayliner owner about watermakers and I think you'll get a blank stare. Ask the average trawler owner about how often to change an outdrive's oil and you'll get the same look.

If you're out looking at trawlers and you ask the broker what kind of transmission is on the back of the engine and he/she doesn't immediately know the answer....... I'm thinking you don't have the right person. He/she should be able to tell you about the "known" problems with the different brands. Wooden GB flybridge delamination, CHB stringer rot, window leaks, black iron fuel tanks, water collecting in the keel, transom rot, etc. If he isn't conversant with things like that he hasn't been paying attention and I don't want to hire him.

Like every other profession there are good and bad. Try to find a good one if you're going to use one.

Keith wrote:

That's just luck, Marin... right time and place.
Finding the right boat on e-Bay is just luck.* Finding the right boat in the paper is just luck.* Finding the right boat on Yachtworld is just luck.*

We've got five or six boating friends, power and sail, who had exactly the same experience as we did.* The broker they were talking to was aware of a boat coming on the market before it had been listed and advertised. In some cases the boat was local so our friends may have eventually*found out about it through the usual boat advertising outlets in this area.* Of course, everyone else looking for that kind of boat would find out, too.

But in a few of these cases the situation was the same as ours--- the boats the local brokers had just heard about were in another state.* Friends on our dock recently*bought a 40' sailboat out of Maine that a local broker had been told about through his relationship with a New England broker.* It's a very popular model and the owner wanted to sell it but at the time had ony discussed this with*the New England*broker.* The New England guy mentioned it to*the Washington guy, who mentioned it to our friends.***Our friends feel that had they not had the advantage of a "forewarned" broker, the boat would have been listed, advertised, and sold long*before they ever got wind of it.

I'm not advocating*that everyone should*use a broker.* All I'm saying is that a lot of established brokers have connections that let them know ahead of time what's coming on the market.* Just like the real estate folks.* So it could be--- you can call it luck if you like---- that if you have a relationship with a broker you might find out before the rest of the market that a particular type of boat you're interested in is coming up for sale.

If you're just shopping for a general*type of boat and are not make, model, age, etc. specific, then this advantage may not be of any value to you.* But if--- like us and the friends I talked about earlier--- you know exactly what you want, and what you want is a very in-demand boat as ours was at the time we bought it, having that "inside information" from a broker can make the difference between getting exactly*what you want and having to wait a lot longer before a similar deal comes along, if it ever does.

And Ken makes a very important point.* If a person wants to use a broker, that broker should be very familiar with the type of boat the buyer is interested in.* In our case, the broker we used worked for the PNW Grand Banks dealer/distributor.* At the time he was restoring his own wood GB32, hull number 7.* He'd made delivery trips of new and used*GBs.* He helped manage his company's large GB charter fleet.* And he went with us to California to check out the GB we ultimately bought (at no cost to us).

So there are brokers and there are brokers.* Hook up with the wrong one and the boatbuying experience, and the boat itself maybe, can be miserable.* Hook up with the right one and the boat buying experience can be a lot of fun.

-- Edited by Marin on Thursday 9th of April 2009 03:44:27 PM
Your example is still just luck. What if you'd had the next broker down the road? You wouldn't have found that boat until it was listed. Just because somebody uses a broker doesn't mean everything will automatically work out. Right time and place...just luck.
I don't disagree at all. My only point is that to make a blanket statement that one should never bother to talk talk to a broker is stupid because it might be that using a broker will get you information about a boat that meets your requirements that you otherwise would not find out about. Or not. But why elminate a potential source of information? Harping about how this all just luck is also stupid because you can say that EVERYTHING is just luck. But even it if is, the same thing applies. Why shut yourself off from a potential source of good information because of some dumb-a*s bias about brokers?

If a person thinks they know enough to find the perfect boat by perusing the internet and print ads, great. But too often these same people tell newcomers to boating that using a broker is the dumbest thing they can do. Yes, you can get a lousy broker but you can also be fooled into buying a piece of crap on the internet. Someone new to boating won't have the experience and judgement to determine if a boat is really good or not. We certainly didn't when we went shopping for a GB. So we used a broker. In our case, he was very, very good. You can call that luck if you want. But given our knowledge level at the time, we probably never would have even attempted to enter the "big boat" world as a buyer, let alone have the experience to determine that the boat we ultimately bought was a good one.

Today, ten years later, we would be more inclined to look for a boat on our own if we wanted a different boat. We've had ten years of using, maintaining, and repairing our boat on our own. So we know a lot more than we did back then. But we would still probably talk to the reputable, experienced, and honest brokers we know. This doesn't mean we have to buy through them, but we'd be fools to ignore a good source of inside information on what might be coming onto the market.
I've been boating for 40+ years; I have built my own boat, and have owned both big(for us at least) and small baots. I've sold them myself, and I've been through brokers.

I have used a broker (different ones) twice as "purchasing agents". A couple of things that haven't been mentioned here that have worked for me:

Facilitation of negotiation. By this I mean I have someone to bounce ideas off, do market research on value, and provide a buffer from the selling broker. I'm still in charge of what I want to pay, and what I want ot insist on in terms of repairs, etc following the survey. I just feel this puts me in a stronger negotiating position.

Transport and recomissioning. There has always been a lot of "one off" stuff at the close of the purchase. Having the boat surveyed, transported, put back together, polished and cleaned, other minor work. I have found that the broker's network is better than mine for work that I'm only doing once.

Since the selling and purchasing brokers are splitting the fees, there is no additional cost to me.
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