Buying “THE” Boat – a personal experience

Buying your Cruiser

Ok, you’ve figured out what you want, checked your finances and you’re ready to buy the boat to carry you to the ends of the earth. Before you run off in all directions at once get organized and get ready for some serious negotiations.

Some buyers do get lucky, find the boat they want right away and get the right price without any problems. And some of us go through a nightmare or two before finding our ultimate dream.

The problem, at least from our experience, is dealing with yacht brokers. We looked at several boats before finding Revenge, the boat formally known as Amenity. First we searched the Internet. Try Yachtworld.com and Boats.com. They are the same database, but their search engines work differently so sometimes it’s easier to use one web site and other times the other. It all depends on what you need.

There was a Morgan 46 in Annapolis I wanted to see so while down there closing the sale on Mad Max, I made an appointment with the broker. She was nice enough, but I wish she had told me the boat was trashed. Really, it took a lot of concentrated neglect to get a boat in that much trouble. Well, that was a waste of time. I’m glad I didn’t make a special trip just to see that boat.

Surfing the Internet we found four or five other boats in Annapolis to investigate and set up appointments for a Saturday afternoon. These were all represented by different brokers none of whom evoked much confidence. Only one boat stood out, a Cheoy Lee that had some mileage, but was well maintained … and clean. A special note to sellers, clean your #$%^ boat. It’s really hard to see past the spider webs and layers of dirt. Nobody really wants to have to scrub the boat from top to bottom before their first sail.

But I digress. I was concerned about the engine hours on the Cheoy Lee. I wasn’t interested in an extra $10,000 bill to replace the diesel in the first year. There was also a Morgan 45, another project boat, that had potential. But, I didn’t really want a project boat.

So, back to the Internet! I found an Irwin 43, in Annapolis, with the right price, $110,000. I made an appointment with the listing broker and went to see her. First, at the broker’s office, he shoves a bunch of paper under my nose and hands out a bunch of unwanted advice. Finally we head for the boat. When we get there, sure enough there is an Irwin siting at the dock, but something doesn’t look right. When I get below I realize that this is not the boat I came to see and the broker is spouting something about $160,000 won’t get this boat. Losing my patience I told him, “this is not the boat I came to see.” He says, “Oh, that boat is sold, but I have some other boats you can see.” We head back to his office, scarf up some more paper and head over to Back Creek to look at a Cheoy Lee. Yea, the same one I saw a few weeks ago! I told him, “I saw this boat, I’m concerned about the engine hours and I thought this boat was listed by another brokerage.” He said, “that’s not a problem, nobody gets it all” and I left. Just finding a boat is becoming a project.

Back in Havre de Grace a few days later Tony Tumas strolls by while I’m working on Evil Waves. I’ve known Tony for a long time and he’s sold a few boats to an old friend so I ask his opinion about the Cheoy Lee. Tony is a fountain of information and after a half hour or so we agree that he should act as my buyer’s broker. Now folks, if there is one important piece of advice you get from this article it is, “get a buyer’s broker”. Buying a used boat without someone representing your interest is like playing the lottery. The odds are against you. You need someone on your side. A buyer’s broker doesn’t cost you anything extra, their commission is negotiated with the sellers broker. It comes from the commission contracted when the boat was listed. And a buyer’s broker can save you time and money.

So, Tony runs down to Annapolis to look at the Cheoy Lee and the Morgan. We decide that the Cheoy Lee is a good choice and make an offer. Too late! The boat is already under contract. It’s been sitting there for months and the day before I make an offer someone beat me to it. Ok, we make an offer on the Morgan. The sellers broker is angry that I enlisted Tony to represent me and tells us that he is expecting another offer on the Morgan. It’s bizarre, we don’t think he ever presented my offer to the owner. We don’t think the owner would be very happy to know what was going on. Oh well! A week later the Morgan failed survey. So, we make another offer, we know this is a project boat, they counter and Tony and I agree that they want too much. We revoke all offers. Time out! This is really beginning to bug me.

The V-berth

Back to the Internet where I find two more boats. The pickin’s are getting slim. Tony checks out both boats and reports back that the Cheoy Lee (yes, another one) looks good. The other boat has serious problems. So, we make an offer on the Cheoy Lee and an appointment to see her. The sellers broker (another #$%^ broker) won’t tell us if the owners have accepted the offer, countered, or what. Tony and I head to Annapolis … again. It’s a nice boat. It’s in good shape, but it is a basic Cheoy Lee. No air, no refrigeration, no generator, no nothing and the interior was hand finished. We stop in to see the broker who won’t talk to us because, “it’s a holiday”. Oh boy! A few days later we get a not very serious counter and after a few more rounds we withdraw all offers. I’ve got the, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going nowhere in a hurry blues.”

I’m out of options. There are no boats left on the bay. Talking to Tony one Thursday afternoon I tell him about the Irwin bait and switch game I played a month earlier. The boat is still listed in the Internet. Now here’s the funny part. Tony decides to call the broker about it. Picture this, I’m siting in his office and I show him the listing on the Internet. This boat was sold at least a month ago and it’s still listed. Tony calls the broker and is told the boat is sold. A few minutes, very few minutes, later the listing is gone. Not just listed as sold, but completely gone. Well, I needed a good laugh about then.

Another week or two, by this time I’m so punchy that everything is starting to blur. Anyway this Endeavour 38 shows up on the Internet. So I call the broker. It sounds interesting and I have Tony make an appointment. I won’t go into the story I got from the listing broker. Well, he wasn’t really the listing broker, but he acted like he was and he acted like the boat had just come on the market. Tony, however, talks to the real listing broker and is told that the boat has been on the market for some time and they are expecting an offer. Poor Tony! I went off on him. I’m a Vietnam Veteran and I was just short of Postal that day. Tony had to peel me off of the ceiling and calm me down.

So the day comes for us to see the boat and she is beautiful. A one owner ’85 Endeavour 38, well maintained, she’s slightly smaller than I wanted but her layout has plenty of storage and she’s very pleasing to the eye. The owners are there and Tony really earns his keep by getting them to talk about the sale that fell through last fall, the problems that showed up during survey and what they had done about them.

To shorten a long story we agreed on a price and went ahead with the survey and sea trial. Tony finds me a surveyor, assists with the survey and sea trial and he’s not done yet. He also helped with the loan and insurance, arranged transportation for us to pick up the boat and got us two weeks complimentary dockage at Tidewater Marina.

In summary, when you’re ready to buy your dream prepare for some fun and get a broker to represent you. Look for someone who has the contacts and reputation to help with the boat loan and insurance. Someone that isn’t pushing their own listings.

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