Maine - generally I agree with you. I followed this advice and focused on condition over price. However, you are absolutely right that it's extremely difficult as a new buyer to NOT focus on price over condition - thinking that initial $6K savings for a beater is worth it. It's just too tempting. What kept me focused was remembering the fact that I like to sail - I do not like to work on boats. Period.
However, in this market, you don't necessarily need to pay a premium for good condition. The pressure of SO many boats being on the market gives the buyer quite a bit of power. The problem is that many buyers won't even try
to bring those premium prices down. I'm proof that it can be done.
So, a few of your statements I don't think are quite on. For example, this:
Boats maintained in tip top shape, or what I call "2 percenters", (the top 2% of boats) often sell in hours or days for top value but this is still a steal! I know this is tough to grasp but it is the truth. There are always buyers who know boats and only want that pristine well maintained immaculate vessel because they know it is a steal and tremendous value even at a solid premium.
I have a customer with cash trying to buy a boat right now and he has looked at over 60 boats, all JUNK. There is just too much poorly maintained junk on the market. He is willing to pay well over Soldboats.com avg because he knows that when he finds it, this boat it will represent a bargain over the same sister-ship that sells at the bottom or middle of the heap.
I think as a buyer if you're immediately willing to "pay well over Soldboats.com avg" for a well-maintained boat, you're making a mistake. Again, in this market, you have WAY more leverage than that as a buyer. You should absolutely use it.
As I mentioned in the write up of my boat. NADA valued my very-well maintained and equipped H40 at $55K (without having the all the boat's actual equipment in that price). $55K was the asking price. Furthermore, there were other very well-maintained and equipped H40s on the market for $65K-$90K.
I ended up paying $42K for my boat. And it was virtually ready to sail away. Even so, I am choosing to put some significant work into it (e.g. - new standing rigging) to bring it up to my standards - but I used that and everything else I could possibly find for strength in negotiating.
So, let's say that those boats in the $65K-$90K range were in even better shape. Would an additional $23K-$48K been a "bargain"?
All-in, I will likely have about $55K into my boat with the standing-rigging and other repairs and upgrades I'm making. This puts my boat's "value" right at the NADA value and still below the surveyor-appraised value.
This is precisely where I wanted to be.
One customer went for the least expensive of his preferred model that he could find, a HUGE mistake that I see novice buyers make ALL THE TIME..
The one I tried to talk him into, same model, two years newer and it had a re-built engine, new sails, new canvas, re-wired, brand new electronics (three months old including radar), Espar heat, high output alternator, new interior cushions & foam, recent cockpit cushions, windlass, beautifully shiny gelcoat, new standing rigging and all bright work professionally stripped and re-finished. This done in preparation just for selling it. Boat was owned by a wealthy couple with a fat check book who used one of the best yards in the area. Deck hardware had also been recently re-bedded and it had bone dry decks.. The bottom had been fully stripped and barrier coated three years prior. You could eat out of the bilge. The price "premium" for all this was going to cost him 6K more upfront. Just 6K more..... Doh'......
He opted for the beater "value boat" at an agreed price of 28k and now has approx 75K into a boat that is still worth maybe 32-34k on a good day... Very, very, very poor decision. This is a net loss to him, over the other boat, of nearly 50k. His mistake was that he got caught up in the "purchase price" and refused to acknowledge the "value" the other boat represented and he "felt" the other sellers were just being greedy selling at the top of the market for that boat. They were not greedy at all they just knew what they had.. His boat is still not anywhere as nice as the one he did not buy and I doubt if it ever could or will be.
Your scenario works very well for boats that are typically passed around within a sailing community. As you say, people generally know each other and the boats and would rather do business that way. However, that's pretty rare for newer boat buyers.
We are not yet part of that kind of community - so we have to look around. Yachtworld was my addiction for 3 years. The key to doing well there is to set a strict budget, have that money ready, and WAIT. The right boat will come along, but it might take a couple of years.
As for the guy that paid $28K for a boat, then put in another $75K
???? I'd say there was nothing smart about that purchase or the work he's done thereafter. That's insane. Unless that boat was ready for the chainsaw it's a stretch to think about how someone could dump that much money into an already floating boat.
What in the world took that much money? And why didn't he sue the surveyor?