Some sellers will not accept the current market reality. The owners are in la-la land. Don't even bother with them if they are asking 3x average NADA retail.
You can narrow down the field by asking the sellers to answer in writing a series of condition disclosure questions and provide comprehensive photographs before you travel to inspect the boat or hire a surveyor. You should also ask the seller for his or her survey if the boat was purchased relatively recently.
By asking for a written disclosure and detailed photos, you will eliminate the flippers, the liars, and the con artists, who will either refuse to answer the questions at all, or will tell you the boat is perfect beyond belief in a cursory manner. You will also eliminate the sellers who are just testing the market, or who are not really motivated, or who think you should jump through a number of hoops for the privilege of buying their one-of-a-kind boat.
If the written responses, combined with your experience and knowledge, raise concerns about particular areas, ask more questions about those areas, and ask for more photos. An honest disclosure by a motivated seller of a passagemaker in the <35K price should reveal some defects you can correct or accept.
Finally, submit your proposed written contract to the seller and ask for his or her acceptance of the basic form before you inspect the boat, so the seller knows that he or she will not be selling the boat "as is", with you taking the entire risk of the condition of the boat and spending money on a survey and haul out without any recourse against the seller if it turns out the seller was misrepresenting the condition of the boat. Do not use the standard broker's contract which shifts all the risk to the buyer.
Last edited by jameswilson29; 12-17-2011 at 06:54 AM.