We are in the unique position of having a boatbuilder in our neck of the woods. Knowing that we are looking for a boat he has approached us with an offer. Here are some of the questions I have: Is it "normal" to give somebody $25,000 to start building a 49-foot boat? He says that the boat will cost $250,000. Do you first hire a lawyer to draw up a contract? And how would you check the builder out?
I think you see where I am heading. Obviously, we have been around the block and do not want to get sold a bill of goods. He also says that it would not be finished this summer but next. Any help would be appreciated.
Jon Shattuck responds:
Having a boat built to your personal specifications can be a dream come true, or your worst nightmare. The best way to check out a custom boatbuilder is to talk to some of his previous clients. Were their boats finished on schedule, and on budget? Were there any problems or disagreements during the process? How were they handled?
Is the builder financially viable? Once the process begins, will he run out of money before the project is completed? Or hit you up for more once the project is underway? All of this needs to be clearly understood and mapped-out beforehand.
Each builder operates differently. A 10-percent deposit is generally the standard within the boat-buying process, both with new and used boats. But find out if your builder will require some form of incremental payments, or one final payment? Some marine lenders can provide construction loans, but not all. And what is in included in your purchase? Will you get any electronics, sails, safety gear, sea trials, or warranty? Know just what you are buying?
Also does your builder offer a detailed purchase agreement, or does he operate on a handshake? Should you hire a lawyer? Probably, but performing your due diligence beforehand will help start this project off on the proper tack.