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Advice for Sellers

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Selling your boat - Our Best Advice

It's time to sell your boat. Maybe you're getting out of boating, or hopefully planning to acquire a different vessel, continuing your adventures on the water in a new way. In any case, the process of selling a boat can go fairly quickly - or take longer than you'd planned. Fortunately, you the Seller, have a significant amount of control over this. Here's our advice on how to make this process go quickly and more smoothly.

1) Make your boat as presentable as possible

Meaning CLEAN and UNCLUTTERED. Seems simple enough, but it's amazing how many sellers fudge on this most important ingredient. In a word, it's all about CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN. Remember that old expression "you only get one chance to make a first impression?" That is exactly the story here. When a buyer first approaches a boat whose exterior is dirty, with green growth around the deck or lines that look as though they should be part of a biology science fair project, with non-essential gear cluttering the deck or other unnecessary items strewn about, the immediate thoughts are:

a) This owner doesn't take good care of this boat

b) If this is what I can see, just imagine the neglect in areas I can't see.

c) This isn't the ideal boat for me, unless I can get it for much less than Asking Price.

d) Even if the price is great and the functional stuff checks out, I'm going to have a heckuva time cleaning this boat up - before I ever get to use it.

Make sense? Put yourself in the prospective buyer's shoes - wouldn't you have a bad initial reaction to a boat that's dirty and messy? If you aren't able to do the clean-up work, that's fine - we have people who will clean it for you. But first, remove your "stuff". Get all that isn't necessary off the boat. You might even remove some boat gear (e.g. extra bags of sails, non-essential bedding, or zipped bags full of lifejackets), then list those as additional items that go with the boat but are being stored ashore. That "extras" list can be shown to the prospective buyer when they come aboard to view your boat - a pleasant additional surprise - a true "extra".

2) The Sniff Test

Part of that first impression when a buyer steps aboard your boat is the smell. Let's face it - boats usually smell. It's hard, particularly with a boat that isn't getting aired out and used regularly, to completely eliminate a musty boat smell. But buyers have all their sensors on full alert for anything that might indicate a problem or be perceived as a negative. Smelling a dirty bilge, a leaky holding tank, or an oily engine room are all subconscious red flags. Smart sellers make a critical assessment of this important factor and again take action to reduce or eliminate the problem. Clean the bilge (and pour a little Joy detergent in there); buy a $2 air freshener or two and hang them in a few key spots in the boat; clean the upholstery; clean or replace that dirty foot rug just in side the companionway door. Again, imagine yourself as the potential buyer and do the little things that both eliminate a potential negative and make a good first impression.

3) Fix the Broken Parts ("Survey says.....")

Odds are 99% or greater that the Buyer will have the boat surveyed to conclude the deal (his/her insurance company will demand it). There are some things in plain, obvious view that you may elect to not fix, preferring to clearly recognize them as needing repair/replacement. But if you know a switch is balky or the windshield wipers don't work, think about doing the repairs now. Why? Because a surveyor's job is to not just alert the buyer to an initial finding but to also point out what it could lead to. For example, a broken fitting could be a way for moisture to get in under the surface and lead to much more extensive damage than the cost to replace the fitting, which is what the surveyor will write up. Remember the old FRAM oil filter commercial on TV in the 1990's where the mechanic is holding a low-cost oil filter as he stands in front of a completely overhauled engine that blew because of an old failing filter? The mechanic finishes the commercial by saying "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later" - i.e. a cheap filter bought now and installed is a lot less costly than replacing the whole engine. You can wait until the surveyor finds the problem and suggests a potentially high repair cost that becomes the negotiating tool of the Buyer, or you can take it upon yourself to get those things fixed now.

If you have a recent survey (within 5 years), by all means make that available to your broker and potential buyers. Hopefully, you'll be able to honestly say that all items cited by the surveyor were fixed, hopefully very soon after you acquired the boat.

If you have a maintenance log and/or receipts for work done, be sure to collect all of the that and have it easily viewed by anyone coming aboard your boat.

4) Staging - They sell houses this way!

You've got your boat clean, uncluttered, and smelling like a fresh daisy. You've fixed the nagging, annoying things you always intended to get fixed. You've removed your shaving cream, the family photos or the "artistic" item on the bulkhead that somebody gave you that some may find funny but others could view as offensive, and your boat is looking like it hasn't looked since...you bought her. Ahh...yes, that's the goal. Get her looking the best you've ever seen her look, including borrowing techniques from the world of real estate. "Staging" a house involves bringing in appropriate furniture and furnishings to give the house a certain look that fits or appeals to the target buyers. On a boat, take a look at the magazine ads and how they show the interior of a new boat. The table is usually set (plates, cups, utensils), with pillows on the settee that actually match, a heater that is set to keep the interior dry and reasonably warm, and perhaps an extra touch or two, like a review of your boat set out with a small collection of terrific photos you've collected of your boat underway or at anchor. If the interior is a bit drab, get a couple colorful cushions or a new throw rug on the cabin sole that say "this is a boat we care about and take pride in."

Preparing your boat for sale need not be laborious or excessively expensive (unless you've really let things slide for a long time). But doing a solid job on the items discussed here will go a long way towards making the final goal of signing that Purchase/Sale Agreement happen sooner, rather than later, at a price level higher than you'd otherwise achieve. Doing the little things a Buyer appreciates can make your boat stand out from others they're considering - and help you move on to your next adventure sooner rather than later.


Port Gardner Yacht Brokerage

607 11th Street Port of Everett Marina
On the Water at the North Yacht Basin
Everett, WA 98201, United States

Tel (800) 781-9917
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