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Go Back   SailNet Community > Contributing Authors > Buying a Boat Articles
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Old 07-14-1999
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Sue & Larry is on a distinguished road
The Selling of Safari

It has been two years now since we quit our jobs and headed off into the carefree life of cruising. We've enjoyed this life so much, in fact, that we want to stay out here. Part of the decision to continue cruising has moved us to put Safari up for sale and buy an older boat to replace her.

I guess if Sue and I were to have a motto, it would be: Change is good. A few years back we surprised many of our friends by selling our beautiful home that we had just finished building ourselves. Now many of these same people are surprised again that we have sold Safari, after fitting her out exactly as we had wanted, and are buying another boat.

Why are we doing this? To be honest, the answer is for the most selfish reason of all: We want to enjoy life to the fullest. Although our method may seem mad, it's part of our plan to best manage our assets. Selling Safari now allows us to put some money back in the bank, and that's always a good feeling.

We've been asked if we're sad to sell Safari. Of course we'll miss her, but it would be sadder to leave the cruising life. For us right now that is out of the question. For these past few years Safari has been a great boat for us. If we had to point out Safari's biggest drawback, it would be that she is too new, and too nice. To a degree, this played into our decisions when choosing sailing destinations. For instance, while "way downeast" in Maine, we wanted to sail over to the intriguing island of Grand Manan (just off Canada). But when we learned you couldn't anchor there and had to tie up at the town pier against a raft of working fishing boats that were apt to leave in the middle of the night, we were concerned. We worried that our beautiful new Safari might get scraped and banged up. So we made the decision not to go there.

For weeks we discussed the idea and weighed the pros and cons of changing boats. But once we finally decided that selling Safari was the smart thing for us to do, it was surprisingly easy to move on in our minds, and we quickly grew excited about our next boat. We knew that a lot of compromises would have to be made with an older boat, but we were both okay with that, in fact sort of looking forward to the challenge. But before we could move forward completely, we had to first get serious about how best to sell the boat we had.

Inspection

Talk to anyone in the boat business and they'll tell you, "You'd be crazy not to list it and let a broker handle everything for you." And for a measly 10 percent commission that can be an easy way to handle it. But we never seem to choose the easy solutions.

After a few experiences with brokers who showed us boats, we became a little concerned about relying solely on them. Although there are certainly reliable professional brokers, we also encountered some suspect ones-ones we didn't think had our needs strictly in mind. As we were driving to look at one listing, for example, the salesman blurted out, "It's a good job for a lazy person." Just the kind of person you want working for you, we thought.

We analyzed our options and decided we would open list Safari with lots of different brokers. In this set-up, we retained the right to sell the boat ourselves. This meant that any broker who sold the boat would receive the full 10 percent commission, rather than split it with the central-listing broker, who would receive three to five percent on any account. It also meant that if we found our own buyer, we would save the broker's fee.

Although all the brokers we spoke to told us that they would not be able to advertise Safari unless we gave them the central listing, we found that to be anything but the case. Many brokers advertised our boat vigorously. Clearly working in our favor was the reported shortage of good used boats.

On top of the open listings we gave out, we placed ads in a local sailboat trader mag, in the national tabloid Soundings and on numerous Internet boats-for-sale sites. In just a few days we started getting responses, and even got one e-mail offer of a straight trade for "a 31-room Georgian mansion with a huge clock tower" somewhere in Pennsylvania. What do you think? Should we've gone for it?

In the next few weeks we had fairly steady interest in the boat. Meanwhile, we became busy with our own search for a boat. There was one particularly low-point day for us when we had to reject a boat we'd wanted to buy after the survey revealed major problems. We checked our phone messages from the motel that night. Among them was a serious offer from the very first couple that had come to see Safari. How common, it seems, that the highs and lows of life arrive together.

By the next day we had come to an agreement on price and Safari was sold, subject to the survey and the sea trial. All of this was in just six weeks from the time when we put her up for sale. Not bad! That lifted our spirits. Now with renewed energy-and just the tiniest sense of urgency-we continued our quest for the new boat so we wouldn't inadvertently join the ranks of beached sailors.

For some inexplicable reason, interest in things for sale always seems to come in waves. In the days after accepting the offer for Safari, there was a tidal wave of calls about our boat. We soon had a check in hand with the back-up offer should the sale not go through. Three other parties were also ready to buy if she became available again. We couldn't believe our luck. Then we started second-guessing ourselves and wondered if we'd sold her too cheap-naw.

We weren't at all concerned about the sea trial. We felt anyone would be hard pressed to find a better sailing boat. But the survey was another matter. You never know what might turn up and the buyer was leaving nothing to chance. They hired both an engine surveyor and a boat surveyor to inspect Safari and check her out in every way possible. The results? We're happy to say, terrific. We found ourselves beaming like little kids who'd been given a gold star when the surveyors reported that we had an extremely well-maintained boat.

We have just taken our final voyage on Safari. We delivered her to the new owners in Miami, enjoying a fascinating trip weaving up the Miami River. Auspiciously at the river mouth, a large manatee and her cub greeted us, and they both wagged their huge tails-as if to say good-bye. Then around the first bend, we ran into old cruising friends whom we hadn't seen for two years. They were tied up along the bank, getting new canvas made at a local shop. Suddenly it dawned on us that for a while no one would recognize us on our new boat.

Safari is keeping her name in the hands of her new owners. And she'll have a great many wonderful sailing days ahead. As for us, watch for the next article when we'll introduce you to our new boat, her new name, and the joys and tribulations of shopping for that ever-elusive perfect boat for cruising out there.

How to Sell Your Boat

For most people, buying a boat is a very emotional experience, not a rational one. Whether your boat is as old as the hills or relatively new, you want the prospective buyer's first reaction to be "Wow"! But how do you make this happen?

  • Remove all personal gear from the boat in advance. Leave aboard only the items that are included with the vessel. Remove all food and any clothing. Empty lockers will make the buyer think there's much more storage space than those bulging with stuff. (It's hard to get really excited when you open a drawer and find dirty socks that are crammed inside.)

  • Ensure that the inside and outside are spotless. Really spotless. Clean all cupboards, under floorboards, ports and hatches, inside the engine room, and the bilge-basically everything. Outside, clean and wax the hull, polish the stainless, re-do the teak, repair gelcoat cracks, and detail every nook and cranny. If you don't have time to clean, pay someone. You'll get your money back several times over.

  • Have all manuals and information regarding the boat's systems neatly kept in a binder or series of binders. The prospective buyer will be more comfortable knowing he'll have references should a problem arise. This also denotes a meticulous owner and a well-maintained vessel.

  • If you've made improvements to the boat or added gear, keep your receipts to show the buyer.

  • It's the boat that sells the boat, not all that extra gear. If there are things you know you'll use on your next boat, you may want to consider taking these off before you put your boat on the market. If you do take things off, be prepared to do what's necessary to make it look as if they were never there, e.g., don't leave holes in your nav panel or other places.

  • Have photos and specification sheets for your boat prepared in advance. Keep these in envelopes to hand to prospective buyers.

  • Once your boat is under contract, be prepared for the sea trial and survey. Check out all systems and ensure that they function correctly. Check all lights, instruments, pumps, engine, etc. If you find a problem, correct it in advance. It will show up on the survey, and may be a negative to your buyer.

  • If you want to sell your boat yourself, plan on investing lots of time and money in advertising, marketing and showing your boat. Be prepared to do some work.

  • Everyone thinks that his or her own boat is special. The reality is that there are always lots of boats for sale, and yours will probably bring the current market price. Try to price it correctly from the start by researching what similar boats have sold for. If you're unrealistic in your asking price, you may get lucky. But it's more likely that you'll eventually wind up reducing your asking price to what your local market will bear.

    - - L.H. and S.H.



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