Filed Under (Boats and Boating Gear) by Debbie on 29-10-2007

Your boat is all cleaned up now and ready to sell.  I’ll bet there was a moment of ‘gee she looks really good’.  The next step is to welcome aboard the new owner…or at least convince the buyers that your boat is the best one for them.

Because time is money, especially if you’re paying for moorage or to store the boat plus insurance and everything else, we want to sell as quickly as possible.  You’ve cleaned and staged the boat and she looks good when you approach her and below deck is warm and welcoming.

The next steps are all business.  You need to market or promote the boat, show the boat maybe even demonstrate how she works.  You’ll need to qualify the buyer not always an easy thing to do.  You’ll need to be able to negotiate a deal and then write up the sales agreement (never call it a ‘contract’) and you’ll need to handle the transfer of title.  Depending on the price of your boat you may even need to be able to help the buyer secure financing. 

Step one:

Get your paperwork in order.  Once you find the buyer you need to have the sales agreement for them to sign.  Be sure you have it on the boat and at home.  You don’t want to let them get away without making the offer.  Once they leave, if they aren’t on paper it will be easier for them to detach from the boat.  When a buyer makes an offer they begin to take possession of the boat, it starts to become ‘theirs’. 

You can write up your own agreement or look around at the local office supply store.  If you write up your own be sure to include:

  1.  You’ll want to have a place for the buyer and seller names along with addresses and phone numbers.
  2. A description of the boat.  Manufacturer, year, length, HIN, state registration, model.
  3. The location of the boat.  If it’s in a marina be sure to include the name and address.
  4. Sale price
  5. Earnest money deposit
  6. Date earnest money was received
  7. A closing date
  8. A date the buyer will have officially applied for a loan if needed.
  9. A detailed list of everything included.
  10. Provisions:subject to survey, sea trial, financing.  Boat must be insurable (if they get a loan).  Also be sure the earnest money is refundable in full if any of the above mentioned items are unsatisfactory.
  11. Places for both the buyers and the sellers to sign and date.
  12. Have copies of your current state title and registration or certificate of documentation to attach to the sales agreement.

Step two: 

Now that you’re paperwork’s ready, you can start fishing for the buyer.  Remember, there’s lots of competition out there.  You need to stand out.  If you’re in a marina, be sure to check with them before placing that ‘for sale’ sign.  Many marinas have rules about selling boats and some may even charge a commission if you sell it on their property even if they are not part of the sales process.

There are several places to place ads and depending on the price range of your boat you may need to branch out a bit.  Print ads, internet (see my information for an ISP to get you up on the web) flyers, and chandleries any place you can get the word out will be of value.

 Be sure you give the right information on your ads.  What do buyers want to know?  Builder, year, size, engine, sails, keel, rig, electronics, and trailer if there is one.

Save the ‘salty talk’ until you’ve a serious caller.  Never over sell because it just sets everyone up for disappointment.  Watch out for the words you use.  Bristol, like new, turn key, ready for cruising, all set you up for a fall.

Buyers want to know what’s special about your boat.  Have you been the only owner?  Did you recently repower?  Buy sails, upgrade something?  That’s what they want to know.  Be careful of raising the red warning flag, needs TLC or unique design and owner maintained will generally turn off a buyer.

Never let a buyer get to the boat before you.  Ever!  Always get there at least 30 minutes before your meeting.  Why?  If you’ve suddenly sprung a leak and have water 3 inches deep on the cabin sole, you stand a chance of setting things right.

Plus there is a certain amount of liability involved.  You don’t want the buyer wandering down an icy dock during gale force winds.  Make sure you have an easy way to access the boat.  No wobbly ladders or rickety steps, please!

If you’ve good weather, don’t be surprised to have a prospective buyer ask to have you take them out.  Don’t be too quick to comply.  Tell them that any sale will be subject to a sea trial.  Once they’re sure this is their new boat you’ll be happy to set up for that.  Keep in mind they should have made the offer and put earnest money down before you take them out on the water.  Some people just want to go for a ride on a boat…and some may not be safe.

Step three: 

Once you get down to the art of negotiating the price remember, it’s business.  Don’t take offense if they offer lower or make comments that may seem unkind.  Remember, you’re the broker and while the buyer may offer something really stupid don’t fire back a counter offer that’s equally as stupid.  Try to think of the buyer as a ‘fish on’.  You’d land the fish no matter how much of a fight it put up before you decided to toss it back in.  So, stay on target and remember to stay cool.

In my day job I tell my sellers that ‘a deal is only as good as the paper it’s written on’.  Never do anything on a smile and a handshake.  Standards dictate a written offer, signed all around.  The buyer customarily gets to have a survey, an opportunity to arrange financing if needed and insurance plus a ‘test drive’.  Sometimes the buyer will want to do the survey…in my day job I always discourage that.

Once you’ve worked your way through the sales agreement, it’s time for the money to change hands.  Cash is good and a cashier check too.  I don’t think I’d ever take a personal check.  If you opt to take someone’s personal check, then I’d be sure there is a time lag in there before signing the boat over to them.  You want to be sure the check is good.  My hubby once decades ago had someone write him a personal check for $28,000 and change that came back NSF!  Enough said.

If you take a boat in trade you become the buyer and all the standard contingencies apply.  You get the survey etc.

So, you sold the boat, paid off your loan and cancelled the registration/documentation and insurance.  Hopefully you have a few dollars in your pocket.  Was it worth it?  Only you can say.  If it took countless days to find the buyer and it was an up hill battle then maybe a broker would have been worth the cost.  Who knows, as I said…only you can say for sure.  For my hubby and I, it was worth the effort.  Best wishes and happy fishing for the buyer.  Missed part one?  Click here.  Please remember to help out if you can.

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