It sounds like you are well into the process but here''s my usual procedure. (BTW I generally work with a Broker. I find a good broker will have wider resources to locate boats and extremely helpful during negotiations. I firmly believe that I have paid a similar price on the boat that I have bought with a broker than I would have paid without a broker. Of course, the operative words here are ''good broker'').
For those who have never purchased a boat, I will start by describing my process a little before the point where you happen to be. I usually start out by assembling a list goals for the boat, length, displacement, performance (speed and seaworthiness) range, desirable characteristics, budget and the like. I then put together a list of possible candidate makes and models. I then research those makes and models carefully which generally contracts the list from 15 or models down to maybe 4 or 5 with one model achieving most desirable status.
Its sounds like you''ve done that part. Once I have picked out a particular model(s)I try to find a number of these to look at (including ones that are not on the market to get an idea how these boats might look if not properly maintained or primped for sale.
When looking at a boat that I am not familiar with I will generally start out by simply walking around the deck and interior (and bottom if the boat is out of the water) and try to generally size up how well the boat fits my goals. I make simple notes to myself (such as: ''no headroom in forward cabin'' or ''Nice large sail locker'' and that type of thing.) You may end up looking at a lot of boats and after a while I find they sort of run together. This first look takes maybe 10 to 15 minutes.
If a boat seems like it could work for me I do a detailed initial first look. I have a checklist that I use for this (If you would like a copy please email me and I''ll send you one). A detailed first look takes me an hour or two during which I identify many of the bigger issues that I might expect to come up in survey.
If you are not experienced in owning and buying boats, and there are one or two boats that really appeal to you, you might ask a surveyor to perform an initial consultation. Typically, you will pay for an hour or two of the surveyor''s time and will get a verbal report. If you can spare the time, it is best to be there when the surveyor does this walk through and take notes. (It may also make sense to have the surveyor so an initial consultation without you if the boat is far from your home because this will be far cheaper than the airfare or motel room required to check out a ''turkey''.)
Once you have found the ''right boat'', it is time to submit a contract to purchase the boat and a deposit. The contract should spell out a price, a time schedule, and any stipulations that are relevant. (Again, if you email me, I can send you a sample sales contract that I just used to sell my own boat.)
The big stipulations might be:
1) Contract is subject to Sail trial, Survey, Sail inspection, and engine trial and inspection.
2) Contract is subject to being able to get suitable financing and insurance coverage.
3) Contract should stipulate how problem items discovered in the survey or other inspections will be handled.
4) You might also stipulate that the contract is subject to repairs of items noted during the detailed initial inspection; making the price contingent on correction of these items. If an owner disagrees that an item should be repaired you can either adjust the price downward during negotiations or make a deal that should a surveyor agree that this item needs repairs then the seller will repair it at no cost or split cost to you.
You will submit with the contract a deposit (also called good faith money) which is typically 10% of the offered price of the boat on a used boat and which is refundable should the deal fail because of one of the contingencies.
Only after a price has been finalized and the contract to purchase has been signed by both seller and buyer, do you go to survey. You can expect the survey to turn up a number of categories of items. These would include:
1) Normal wear and tear that would be expected in a boat of the make, model and age of the boat in question and so are already reflected in the price.
2) Items that were noted during the initial walk-through and previously negotiated and agreed to in the contract for purchase and so are already reflected in the sales price.
3) Items that are newly discovered and are fundamental problems that are not minor in nature and which are not typical for the make, model and age of the boat. A contract price change or correction of these items will need to be negotiated according to the terms of the contract to purchase. To develop a fair cost, typically the surveyor or an independent repair yard is asked to provide a price for the repair or a catalog consulted for a fair replacement cost. Negotiations and the contract to purchase may either require the seller to make the item right or have the seller and buyer split the cost up to a prenegotiated maximum.
4) Upgrades that are not consistent with the make, model and age of the boat. (This is a little complicated. For example, on the boat that I just sold the surveyor suggested adding backing plates on all stanchion bases. It''s a good idea but the model boat was constructed without them, the bases are bolted through solid kevlar laminate and show no problems after 15 years of use, so this is not something that should adjust the price. On the other hand, I added a water separator on the fuel vent line that I constructed myself. It does not have a UL certification and so should be upgraded to a rated device or removed from the system. This would be something that is not consistent with the model and if the buyer had insisted, as the seller I would have had to correct this item at my expense. I probably would have removed the water separator at my expense.)
When you have gotten the results of the survey, sea trial, and other inspections, you may decide that the boat has sufficient problems to not proceed with the purchase. Your agreement will set a deadline for notification of the seller. It is important that this date not pass. Notice should spell out that you are going to proceed with the agreement as it, or that you are not going to proceed with the agreement to purchase and stipulate why. (Do not give the Seller a copy of the survey or other report unless your purchase agreement required that you to.)
If you decide that you could proceed with some actions on the part of the seller, the notice that you will not proceed should indicate that you will proceed only if the seller is willing to make the adjustments to price or repairs noted. At this point you will be negotiating a again unless the contract is very specific about seller responsibilities and the problems noted fall clearly within those responsibilities.
If you can''t come to terms, you have two options, bite the bullet and live with the problems or walk away. If you walk away, you are responsible for all costs associated with the surveys and inspections. You actually own the survey. You may try to sell it back to the owner of the boat for a portion (25% to 50%) of the cost that you have incurred. (It will be useful to the seller because if you walk away, he will need to deal with the issues for the next buyer and so can be better prepared.) In my life I have walked away from several boats that I have had surveyed and could not come to terms with an owner on. It is expensive to survey a boat and then walk away but not nearly as expensive as buying the wrong boat.