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Old 03-27-2004
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Questions about boat buying process...

I have bought 14 boats for myself and been involved in buying literally dozens more with other people. My usual process starts by carefully defining my goals for the boat by thinking through how and where I plan to use the boat. I put together a list of desirable traits that meet the criteria that is necessary to meet my goals.

I then begin to pull together a list of possible boats that meet that needs. That list might be 20 or thirty boats long. I then begin to narrow them down based to perhaps 6 to 8 models. I go through and reseach each on that short list. I typically come away with two or three of boats that meet that narrower criteria with one model surfacing as the one most likely candidate.

I then research the asking and sales price on these models and begin to develop a sense of what one of these should be worth in a variety of conditions and equipage. This step is important in being able to negotiate a fair price and understand where you stand.

With that information I approach a single broker who I believe in and provide the information that I have gathered and we begin our search. Sometimes the search takes a matter of weeks and other times it can take years.

I typically get prequalified if I need a loan by submitting financial documentation to the loan company. I discuss the boat in question with my insurance company to make sure that I am not buying a boat that can''t be easily insured.

If I locate a boat that is far from home, I usually try to get a local surveyor to take a ''first look'' before beginning negotiations. (A first look inspection is cheap but will only give you a very rough sense of the boat''s condition). I may not do that if I feel that timing is short or that I can fly or drive as quickly then I just go myself. I have a ''first look'' checklist that I tend to follow as a reminder. I can often walk aboard and rule out a boat pretty quickly but when I find one that looks like a winner, I will spend a lot of time aboard sitting in all of the seats, lying on the berths, crawling through in all of the lockers, booting up the instruments, checking over deck hardware, and ergonomics, looking at access to engine, valves and electical components and so on.

It is at that point that typically make an offer. The offer is always made contingent on a survey, engine inspection, a sea trial and being able to obtain financing and insurance coverage. You need to put down a deposit with your offer. In many if not most states a radified sales agreement is not binding on the seller unless a deposit has been made along with it and you would hate to go through the expense of a survey without knowing that the seller can''t accept a better offer mid-process.

I have made offers without seeing the boat and that can work out reasonably well although it often means a renegotiation after the boat is seen and a second renegotiation after the survey.

I cannot strongly enough recommend having the boat professionally surveyed. A good professional surveyor is looking at the boat with unjaundiced eyes and will call things as he sees them. Absolutely be present when the survey is taking place as you will learn a huge amount about the boat that you are buying. A surveyor will often find items that you might not see and in most cases these discovered items can be legitimately used to negotiate a price that is lower than you can negotiate without the substantiation of the professional surveyor''s findings. That renegotiation will often cover the cost of the survey.

One more point, you need to have some kind of plan in place that will cover where you will move the boat after you go to closing and where you will keep the boat in your home waters.

Jeff



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