Originally Posted by GilHuguley
Ok,make your offer contingent on having the boat in "survey-able" condition
Careful... Any boat, whether it floats or not is "survey-able". A broad statement like this in a purchase agreement may be meaningless unless it is specific to the situation. Many sailboats are built W/O a motor; that does not mean that it cannot be surveyed or sailed in/out of the slip.
If you go the route of making the offer contingent on the engine installed/running; you should put it in the survey as a condition of sale that the engine and drivetrain is installed/operational/serviceable and a closing date for which the work will be completed. That way it is not open-ended in terms of getting the repair complete and the boat sea-trialed (which should also have a closing date).
Ask any prospective surveyor how he conducts his sea-trial survey. Be sure that he is not just going to do normal dockside survey work while aboard; he should be willing and able to work sheets, check sail trim, check the rig while underway, comment on how well it sails and if the helm is balanced, measure the pointing ability, etc.
IMHO a good surveyor will not nitpick on the overall condition of the boat (like minor maintenance items) but definitely will comment on repair items that affect the safe operation and or structural integrity of the boat. You as the purchaser should make yourself aware of the minor repair items and adjust your pre-survey offer according to the "laundry list" and your surveyor should fill in the blanks and so that any adjustment in price reflects those findings (if you decide to go ahead and buy the boat).
Get a survey on the powerplant if the pre-purchase survey shows any problems with operation. Make this a buyer's "option" in your purchase agreement. Usually a diesel engine either runs perfectly or it runs poorly; not much inbetween. Extremely hard starting and heavy smoke when warm are two warning signs. All diesels can be stubborn when dead cold and smoke when first started; but if the engine won't start without starter fluid and if it does not start immediately when coming back in to port after a daysail it is likely that the engine is getting tired; or injectors need replacement; etc.
If the boat is being sold through a broker on the seller's side; you should obtain a broker to represent you. It costs you nothing and it puts someone with boat purchase experience on your side. Let your broker draft the purchase agreement, tell him what you want in the document.
You should definitely see the boat first; if you are on the east coast you should look at a similar boat in bristol condition so you can compare a good apple to a potentially bad apple. Be sure you can obtain insurance for the boat; which includes recent rigging and a survey that is "clean". If you intend to live-aboard be sure you can find an insurance company that will insure you as such and the boat you are considering first. Most marinas in SF Bay area require liability insurance as a minimum; some also require hull insurance (to keep non-seaworthy boats out).