Hi...we're somewhat new to this process but have spent 1 year looking, made a few offers and are about to close on our boat. With that disclaimer...I agree that you need to see the boat before spending the $$ on the survey. But I don't see the advantage to surveying prior to an offer, as you have no idea if you can even reach agreement on price at this point, or if you even like the condition of the boat, etc. Plus, once you've invested in the survey you're in a bit of a weaker negotiating position, I think (i.e. from a seller's perspective you've already invested some $$ in the boat, and are a bit more inclined to make the deal happen??). I'd negotiate the purchase price based upon the condition & equipment listed; see if you can come to agreement, and then arrange a surveyor for a few days after you arrive. That way you can still cancel the survey (if that works for the surveyor) if the boat is not to your liking, and not be out significant $$. (You'd be flying there anyway for the survey, right?) And, it's standard for the price to be renegotiated if anything major comes up in survey anyway.
Re: the survey, we bought our boat in the Caribbean and used Henry Mustin, Mustin Marine Surveys, Miami, Florida, USA
from Florida. It cost a bit more than using the local surveyor as we had to pay his flight, etc. but it was actually cheaper than flying someone from a neighboring island. And, he was excellent, thorough (went aloft & inspected rigging..many don't) very knowledgable, (he wrote a book on the subject) and gave us a fair price for his services.
As an aside, I thought it helped a lot to have a knowledgable broker that we trusted making the initial inquiries as they'll tend to get a bit more of a straight answer on boat condition, etc. And the help with the search and advice/experience, etc. could save you $$, time, hassle, etc. The disadvantage we experienced is that an unethical listing broker may favor a buyer he/she is representing, so if there's activity on the boat you could be at a disadvantage. We talked with a lot of brokers before finding two we liked - Mark Davenport at San Pedro Yachts 310-547-4415 and Bernie at RogueWave Yacht Sales & Services, LLC. (Annapolis, MD)
. (We went with Mark). What he suggested on one remote boat we offered on was to hire a surveyor to do a walk through and give us an unbiased verbal report on the condition, etc. It would save us the flight/trip if the report wasn't too our liking, and the cost was nominal, so that might be a good alternative? It didn't end up working for us as we really needed to see the boat & make that personal connection regardless, but it might be a good alternative for you?
Anyway, hope that's helpful. Good luck in your search!