July 9, 2009

Preparing a boat for sale

(Watch this space every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new Mainly About Boats column by John Vigor.)

IF YOU’VE BEEN TRYING to sell a boat recently you’ll know that you have a lot of competition. The question then, is this: What can I do to make my boat stand out from the herd?

Well, if you’ve put it in the hands of a broker, move your boat as close to the broker’s office as possible. Brokers are human. They like to take the easy way out, too.

But whether you’re selling your boat through a broker or on your own, there are certain things that will make it more attractive to a potential buyer. Perhaps the most important is to clean and scrub the boat to within an inch of its life. Pay a professional detailer to do it if you can’t. It’s money well spent.

And always be aware of what I call the anathema list — things that will send buyers fleeing with muffled screams. These include:

Rust anywhere
Dirty, oily bilges
Leaky, mossy seacocks
Bad smells
Mildew or mold anywhere
Peeling varnish/flaking paint
Frayed wires
Torn sails
Torn or stained upholstery, and
Stiff, dirty running rigging

If you’re including a lot of gear in the sale, get most of it off the boat and present it somewhere else — in your garage, for example — as a bonus. A broker once told me that buyers don’t like to see your stuff on the boat. They want to imagine their own things there. So strip it down to the bare bones.

Another thing that impresses buyers is paperwork. Make up a loose-leaf binder with specs, records, and instructions such as how to tell when the holding tank is getting full, or how to start the engine. Note the kind of oil filter your engine needs and list helpful websites. Get the original owner’s manual. And, if you’ve got them, include records of engine services and repairs; if not, make up something reasonable that can’t be challenged. Buyers like the reassurance even if it guarantees nothing.

If you’re really serious, you might want to have your own survey done before you list the boat for sale. If you tell the surveyor you’re selling the boat, he or she might just be a bit more lenient. If not, you’ll have a good idea of where the trouble spots are, and you can either fix them now or start thinking of good arguments as to why they don’t affect the integrity of the boat.

A simple, basic tool kit and a few spare light bulbs is a nice touch. It gives buyers the impression that you’re a thoughtful owner who has taken good care of the boat. You might have to dirty up the tools a bit, though, to make them look at least a little used.

As for pricing — be reasonable. Go to http://www.yachtworld.com/ and see what other people are actually wanting for comparable boats. Ask for about 10 percent more than you want and let the buyer beat you down. He’ll feel clever and you’ll feel smug. But don’t ever feel hopeful about getting back all the money you’ve spent on your boat. Spending money on a boat is like spending money on a mistress. Kiss it goodbye, be thankful for the enjoyment it gave you, and move on.

Today’s Thought
Inequality of knowledge is the key to a sale.
—Deil O. Gustafson (real estate executive), Newsweek, 20 May 74

A traveling salesman was held up when heavy rains flooded Interstate 5 south of Seattle.
“It looks just like the Great Flood,” he said to the motel receptionist.
“The great what?”
“The great flood. You know … when Noah saved all the animals … you must have read about it?”
“Gee, no, I haven’t read about it. On account of all this rain we haven’t seen a Seattle Times for three days now.”

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