Most people claim to love their boats. But if you really think about what it is that you love, the answer is usually quite telling. Do you love the engine and prop or the sensation of 40 knots on the open sea? Do you love the aft cockpit or the summer days you and your friends spend fishing? Do you love the three-cabin layout or the quiet intimacy of long weekends away with the family?
As any good broker will tell you, the fondness you think you feel for your boat is in fact a fondness for the wonderful memories it enables you to forge – and while this distinction might sound like idle pedantry, it’s vital to recognise how much it informs and motivates boat buyers. Just as your most joyful moments on the water are facilitated (rather than provided) by your boat, so your potential buyers are looking to commit to an idea; a lifestyle; an idyllic vision in their mind’s eye that a boat might enable them to realise. And if you can feed this truth into the sales process, you will often achieve a much faster, more lucrative and more satisfying result.
Step 1: Take a step back
Job number one then is about taking a step back and putting yourself directly in the mindset of the buyer. He has no fond memories to attach to your boat but he does have aspirations. So you need to approach your boat as though viewing it for the first time. You need to think about its merits and its flaws; you need to consider how it compares to the competition; and you need to assess how you might make it more appealing to a potential buyer. Draw up an exhaustive list of any elements that make you stop and think; any elements that cause a moment of doubt or hesitation. Then be proactive and rigorous in rectifying them.
Step 2: Commit to the marketing
When you’re attempting to attract interest in your boat, a phone snap and an accompanying features list is not enough. You need to show it as though it already forms an active part of the lifestyle the buyer wants – and that means you need to clean it thoroughly, bring the servicing up to date and ensure any safety and maintenance-related chores have been carried out. Check the anodes, the antifouling, the safety certificates – and arrange, order and catalogue your receipts, compliance, registration and ownership documents in a specific folder. This is partly to show the potential buyer what your boat is all about and partly to give them the confidence that you’re the kind of fastidious owner whose boat is likely to serve them well.
Before you take the photographs, you should also remove any personal belongings. They reduce the sense of scale, compromise the cleanliness and make a visitor to the boat feel like an imposter, when they ought to feel like they have walked into a place that was always conceived with them in mind. If you reflect on how high-end boats are exhibited at the world’s most prestigious luxury yacht exhibitions, the lessons are clear. Make it clean, bright and accessible. Make sure the beds are neat, the curtains are open and the cupboards are empty and invest in some fresh flowers and a bottle of wine so your boat feels ready to enjoy. Put it in an enviable position, which taps into the boat’s natural strengths, and photograph it on the kind of day that makes you want to reconsider selling it.
Step 3: Show it at its best
When it comes to viewings, you are in the driving seat, so pick a day when the weather is good and, if it’s in a working yard, pick a day when activity is at its lightest. Position it on a pleasant pontoon and, if your boat is being sold with a mooring, make it welcoming. It is the buyer’s responsibility to ensure he is in possession of all the relevant facts, so the likelihood is that he will want a sea trial as well as a survey, but you still need to be in possession of the facts because you’re going to face questions…
To that end, have a service history file at your disposal. Make sure you know what repairs, if any, have been undertaken. Know what’s original and what’s been added and organise any receipts for the purchase and installation of upgrades. A written document affirming that your boat is free of financial encumbrance is very reassuring and, while you’re certainly not required to volunteer information about your boat’s shortcomings, neither should you misrepresent the facts if directly asked about an issue. It can certainly be a labour intensive-operation getting everything in order, but when a serious buyer steps on board, wanting to feel good about your boat, you need to make sure you give him no reason to feel otherwise.
TEN KEY YACHT SELLING TIPS:
- A boat is not just a piece of hardware. It’s the embodiment of a lifestyle, so present it at its best – clean, fresh and ready to use, on a sunny day, in a desirable location, entirely empty except for wine on the table, cushions on the seats and flowers in the vase.
- Be as fastidious as you can with the documents and package them in a dedicated folder. Even if it’s not in your nature, appearing to be impeccably organised is very confidence-inspiring for a buyer.
- Approach your boat as a potential buyer might. Look for anything that might give them cause to have doubts or lose confidence and take proactive steps to remedy it.
- Set aside a budget to help smarten and market your boat – but think coolly and dispassionately. Only spend it on the things that are likely to bring a return at the point of sale.
- Take care over the words and pictures in your ad. In a market awash with choice, your boat needs to be more appealing than its direct competition.
- Be discriminating with your media outlets. There’s no value in paying good money to show off your boat to the wrong audience.
- Don’t under-price your boat, because when the negotiations begin, you need sufficient leeway to be flexible without abandoning your bottom line.
- Draw up a Bill of Sale that confirms the agreed price, the nature of the sale and the change in ownership – and ensure that it stipulates your good faith in respect of the particulars at the time of sale and the buyer’s satisfaction that he is in possession of all the relevant facts.
- A serious buyer will usually want a sea trial and pre-purchase survey – but don’t reject interest from other buyers until the Bill of Sale is signed and the funds exchanged.
- If your boat is large or valuable, why not consider a broker? Just make sure you pick one with a proven track record in the type, size and calibre of yacht you’re looking to sell.