BROKERS AND MARKETS: one Clients' insight
While looking for the right boat a lot of questions came up. Where should we buy our boat?
What broker should we use and how much could we trust him?
Was one survey sufficient for to be sure we did not buy "a pig in a poke"?
What would it cost us having these people working on our behalf?
Were listing prices realistic or did boats sell under listing prices?
The answers to all of these questions and more were unknown to us and needed sorting out.
We chose to start looking and following the market way before we had our financing in order to get a feel for the market.
Initially we where thinking of buying on the west coast, the literature pointed out San Diego as a particularly interesting market. There where several areas on the west coast that had a lot of interesting listings, but mainly monohulls. It became apparent that the strongest catamaran market by far was found in the Caribbean. Deciding on our search geographically we could now follow specific boats and listings on yachtworld.com, but also at the larger broker sites. This gave us a feel for how fast the boats where moving and what prices where realistic. In today's market (2014) there didn't seem to be a lot of boats being sold with boats being listed for months on end. Eight months before departure to the Caribbean this made us confident we had a bit of time and did not have to move straight away.
Looking into what prices boats typically where sold for compared to listings in the Caribbean market was very difficult. In a buyers market we assumed they where being sold below, but at what percentage? The blog/forum-sphere was providing a lot of different information on the subject and we found examples of anything from 50 % below listing to the actual listing price. This is of course natural since a sellers' expectations might be very different. After looking into this for some time we got a gut feeling that a reasonably priced boat should be possible to get for approx 10% to 20 % below listing price.
So we where starting to get to a feel for the market, and now we needed a broker to work on our behalf. E-mailing a lot of brokers early on, seven months before we where planning to buy was not that helpful related to actually finding a boat, but it gave us important insight into how and how well they communicated. We sent out emails stating that the email was to establish contact and trust, while asking a series of concrete questions to a lot of brokers. Typically they where late in answering, didn't answer the questions, had poor english skills and/or just spammed me with listings. So even though it was not that helpful in actually finding a boat it helped us root out a lot of brokers we did not want to work with. Spending time on this part gave us a couple of forerunners that we felt where trustworthy. Keeping up email contact always replying promptly and giving relevant answers to our questions over a long period of time we started having long skype conversations. After talking to him in person we quickly realized Tony Brewer of "http://www.littleships.com/" in St Martin was the guy for us. After deciding to go with Tony we have not regretted our decision for one second, he has been crucial to our project for providing know how, networking, good advice and impeccable service throughout the purchase and also after. To get an insight into how much faith the forum-sphere had in this turning out well for us you can read this thread. There are important things to keep in mind like the fact that the broker works on a commission off the sales price. So his incentive is not keeping the price down, but in our experience Tony went to great lengths to have both seller and us walking away from the deal smiling.
So if you are in the process of looking for a boat don't loose all faith in humanity there are good honest brokers out there.
The Little Ship Company