July 12, 2011

On brokers and surveyors

ONCE AGAIN, Old Wotsisname is threatening to sell his boat. This happens on a regular basis, usually after he has spent an afternoon waiting for the tide to float him off a sandbank, or when the crews of three overtaking boats in a row have given him the finger.

But this time he might be more serious than usual. He’s asking whether he should get a yacht broker or surveyor involved. I didn’t like to say I didn’t think any reputable broker would want to get mixed up with his old concrete barge, so I simply informed him of his options.

I told him the broker deals only with the sale of the boat and won’t survey it for use or condition. That’s the job of the surveyor, who won’t get involved in selling it in any way.

Once you realize that, you also realize that you cannot rely on the word of the broker about the condition of a boat, nor can you rely on the surveyor’s estimate of its worth, although he or she can give you a ballpark figure based on the sales of similar boats in similar condition.

Ordinarily, the broker represents the seller, not the buyer. His or her loyalty and obligation is to the person from whom he or she hopes to extract money, namely the seller. No matter how sweetly he or she represents the boat to you, the broker is thinking of the seller. You can, however, hire a buyer’s broker to look after your interests.

The surveyor, in similar fashion, represents only the person who pays him, and if you’re buying a boat you should choose your own surveyor, otherwise you may be subject to the less-than-honest blandishments of a surveyor suggested or provided by the seller or his agent. Pay for your own surveyor; it’s money well spent. Surveyors, incidentally, are paid by fee, usually an hourly or daily rate, plus expenses such as travel. And you have to pay whether the survey report is good or bad, and whether you buy the boat or not.

Brokers, on the other hand, receive a percentage of the final sale price, a commission. So the more money they can get for the boat, the more money they earn for themselves, and this money comes from the seller, not the buyer. So, if you’re the prospective buyer, beware when the broker spins a little tale about the wonderful condition of the boat. Depend on the surveyor for that knowledge.

As for Old Wotsisname, I don’t think he can bring himself to give money away to a broker, and I don’t think that any prospective buyer is going to spend good money on a surveyor when dilapidation and decay is so obvious. So I guess he’s stuck with her for a while.

Today’s Thought
I find it easy to portray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me.
— John Cleese

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #221
Battling with weather helm? Tank testing has shown that a small amount of weather helm, about 2 or 3 degrees, helps to lift a sailboat to windward. But if you have apply 4 degrees or more, the rudder starts acting like a brake.

If more than one mouse are mice,
Why aren’t two houses two hice?
If more than one goose are geese,
Why aren’t two mooses two meece?
If wagons are pulled by oxen,
Why don’t the English chase foxen?
If a man can be cooled by a fan,
Why can’t fans cool a whole lot of mans?

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Aaron Headly said...

Sometimes people decide to sell a boat because they can't summon the energy to fix it up the way they wanted to.

Then they look at their boat, and realize that they'll have to fix it up a little before it'll get the price they want. So they finally fix it up.

Seller's remorse is just around the corner.

Richard said...


I didn't know you had a blog, cool man. From an insider perspective, you are right about brokers and surveyors. When only one broker is involved, really his/her loyalty is to the seller. The buyer's agent is the surveyor. Things hopefully change when two brokers are involved. But life is full of all types of characters.

I always have clients / friends referencing your "Twenty Small Sailboats..." book - definitely a must read for anyone looking for a sailboat along with Henry Mustin's "Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats," Spurr's "Heart of Glass," etc.

Take care, RJ
Jordan Yacht & Ship Co.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida