Personally I would love it if someone wanted to survey my boat before putting in an offer. In fact the more they spent looking at my boat the better. Now when they put in an offer that is less than list I can ask to see a copy of the survey, since that is the basis of the reduced amount.
I now have all this time with a recent survey paid by someone else to attempt to sell it to someone else. If my contract avoider and I come to a verbal agreement on the price before that is even better. I now have a floor price I can try to beat.
The fact of the matter is that even if a contract is signed many brokers will still show a boat just in case the deal falls through. I would be interested in hearing from any brokers what percentage of deals fall through. I'll bet it is at least 10%.
I suspect our new lawyer friend is looking for a very limited edition boat so he has to search a large area. After he does everything he can by phone, spending the $500 makes sense. The advantage of not signing a contract is he doesn't have to worry about getting his 5,000 deposit back. If he looses the boat, not likely in this market, oh well.
For those of us who are looking more locally and maybe not spending as much on a boat the contract first approach might work better or at least will not matter much.
There are three risks:
- Getting your money back from the deposit (It should be a no brainier but you never know. Brokers I have talked to say that they return deposits for what they consider trivial reasons all the time because they don't want the hassle of forcing a sale on an unhappy customer.)
- Finding a better deal after you have a contract
- Loosing the deal you have because you don't have a contract
Frankly all three are possible but unlikely.
Folks will do what causes them the least worry.
The bottom line is that that no matter how careful you are buying the boat is just the first of hundreds of decisions you will make to manage risk.
I would find it interesting if our lawyer would read a standard contract and report back to us (no charge of course). I always understood that the contract was binding on the seller. They could not sell the boat I had a contract on even if they were offered more money. The contract was binding on me the buyer in theory only as all I had to do was find something that was not exactly as specified in the listing or found on the survey and I could walk.
I believe the reason why brokers and sellers like the contract is purely physiological not legal. Buyers are 10 times more skittish than sellers and the act of signing a contract and putting down money shows they are serious and emotionally commits them.
Has anyone ever heard of someone not being allowed to walk away from a boat sales contract. I have not. I'm sure some salesman are tougher than others. It's like the federal penalty for ripping of the tag on your mattress.
(Yes I know it does not apply to the end user)