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How to make a good offer on a boat for sale?

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Ward H, Oct 12, 2017. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Ward H

    Ward H

    Joined Nov 7, 2011
    1,616 posts, 127 likes
    Catalina 30 Mk II
    US Barnegat, NJ
    I've bought two boats in my short sailing career. Both under $4k in value, no broker, no survey and I believe the sellers and I thought we had fair deals.
    Now I am looking for a Catalina 30 MKII, from1988 to 1993 production year. Asking prices seem to be in the $20k to $30k range. I see a few offered by individuals but most are being sold through a broker.
    Other than paying the asking price, are there any tips on how to present a winning offer?
    Let's say a seller/broker has received two offers of equal value. What in an offer would cause a seller/broker to lean towards one offer and away from the other.
    Speed of closing the sale?
    Larger than requested deposit to show your a serious buyer?
    A very detailed inspection before making an offer to show your a serious buyer?
    Passing on a survey?

  2. py26129


    Joined Oct 25, 2011
    533 posts, 69 likes
    Island Packet IP31
    CA Lake St. Louis, Montreal
    When we bought our last boat, I found that anything that made the broker's life easier got their interest. She really perked up when we told her we did not need to finance the boat and , if the offer was accepted, the cask could be in the seller's account the day after closing the deal.

    BrianRobin likes this.
  3. Justin_NSA


    Joined Jul 7, 2004
    4,286 posts, 574 likes
    Hunter 30T
    US Cheney, KS
    Cash is always king. Contingencies are always an annoyance to a seller, but good for the buyer.

  4. dlochner


    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    1,541 posts, 440 likes
    Sabre 362
    US Fair Haven, NY
    Since you are looking a fairly popular boat, you will have many boats to choose from. That works to your advantage.

    Talk to the broker. Find out why the boat is for sale, how long it has been for sale, if there have been any offers on it, find out something about the prior owners. All of these factors can guide you on how much to deviate from the asking price. The broker can also tell you the range of the actual selling prices. After looking at a few boats, you'll get a sense of the value of the different boats.

    The key factors are condition of the boat, is it clean, does it look cared for, is the survey good. With boats in this price range, you do want to have a survey. You'd be surprised what the survey will find. Take a look at this:

    Remember the broker won't get a commission if the boat doesn't sell. And while the broker represents the seller and not you, you are an important part of the equation. The standard broker commission is 10%, so a small price difference doesn't make that much difference in the commission.

    When you find a boat you like, make an offer. If it is too low but not too unreasonable, the owner will counter. Keep going until you reach agreement or decide to walk away. There are many fish in the sea and catalinas on the market.

    Parsons likes this.
  5. Drew13440


    Joined May 6, 2004
    171 posts, 10 likes
    - -
    US Potomac
    The used boat market has been pretty much dead for a while now. A "winning offer" is any offer, really. Bargain hard...

    Parsons and BarryL like this.
  6. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    2,140 posts, 151 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westborough Westport, MA
    As someone who is selling a boat much like what you seek, I can tell you that I will be much more likely to accept an aggressive offer now that I will in the Spring.

    BarryL likes this.
  7. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    8,077 posts, 1,629 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    In today's market that seems extraordinarily unlikely. I think you're overthinking this.

    Make a bona fide offer, with whatever normal conditionals you feel necessary. That will get any brokers full attention.

    Parsons likes this.
  8. dlochner


    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    1,541 posts, 440 likes
    Sabre 362
    US Fair Haven, NY
    When I sold my 30, I had 2 offers separated by $1K. One was cash, no survey, one was cash with a survey. The guy with the survey was $1K more, but I sold to the guy without the survey. Just wanted the boat sold and didn't want to deal with any surprises in the survey.

    Having 2 offers at the same time is somewhat unlikely. The guy who bought my boat was looking at it for a friend who was interested. After seeing my boat, the guy bought it out from under his friend.

  9. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,279 posts, 1,184 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    I have to ask.. A "CASK" of what? Aged Rum...
    No likely just a typo... But an interesting idea.

  10. njlarry


    Joined Sep 23, 2009
    1,267 posts, 104 likes
    O'Day 34-At Last
    US Rock Hall, Md
    I think Ward part of your question is what is a reasonable offer? Asking prices can be all over and some boats listed for sail really aren't seriously for sail while other sellers are desperate to rid themselves of carrying costs.
    Maybe someone knows of a source that lists selling prices that is readily open to consumers. My understanding in part from prior posts here and also limited experience, selling prices may average 20% less that asking prices so that may be a reasonable starting point for a well maintained boat.
    btw I know where you can get a great deal on an 84 O'Day 34 :biggrin:

  11. Benny17441


    Joined May 24, 2004
    5,290 posts, 279 likes
    CC 30
    US South Florida
    Approach the deal with confidence that it is the seller that is in competition with others for your money. I would not pass on getting a survey done for anything above $10K. Boat prices vary by geographical location, look for boats in the Long Island Sound as well as in the Chesapeake Bay. Start a little lower than what you would be willing to pay to have some room for negotiation. Do not become enamored with any particular boat, if a deal does not work move on to another boat. Don't settle for a boat that does not have most of your must have requirements. The market is not as if you may encounter multiple offers in many boats. Do not give the broker any signs or indication that you must have that boat as it will cost you. If you are buying cash you might mention that but do not offer a larger deposit than required nor forego a survey.

  12. Ward H

    Ward H

    Joined Nov 7, 2011
    1,616 posts, 127 likes
    Catalina 30 Mk II
    US Barnegat, NJ
    Follow up question.
    I may expand my search area to include NE states that shipping over land will likely be more practical than sailing it home.
    If shipping by land, is it better to avoid the winter months or is winter not a consideration.
    Any unforeseen issues with purchasing, keeping it up north until spring, then bringing it home?

  13. dlochner


    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    1,541 posts, 440 likes
    Sabre 362
    US Fair Haven, NY
    Truckers don't like driving with empty loads. If you are shipping the opposite way of most loads, then you may get a break on costs. Boats move south in the fall, north in the spring.

    There is more road grit and salt in the winter, so having the boat shrink wrapped before shipping might be worthwhile.

    And don't rule out sailing it back, especially if the boat comes from Long Island Sound or northern NJ. Also look at Upstate NY. The trip down the Erie Canal is an interesting trip through history. Plus, you can find a freshwater boat.

  14. wing15601


    Joined Aug 28, 2015
    88 posts, 11 likes
    Oday 28
    US St Joseph, MI
    First, the broker is just an agent and you don’t need to impress him or get his attention, you have to get the attention of the sellers and the broker is obligated to present all offers to the seller. Don’t be afraid to make a low offer as long as that offer is reasonable. The broker just wants to move boats, he isn’t interested in negotiating with anyone and he wants to help you buy that boat at the price you will pay. The seller’s desire to get rid of the boat is directly proportional to the time it’s on the marker. You can always increase your offer but you can’t decrease it. Dont be afraid the seller will reject your offer. If he does, increase it or walk away. There are thousands of boats for sale. Understand that the purchase price is just the start. You’ll easily spend another several thousand over the next 3 - 4 years improving or personalizing your boat.

    Parsons likes this.
  15. capta


    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,220 posts, 476 likes
    Pearson 530
    XX Sailing in the Windward or Leeward Islands where ever we are anchored
    Research can be the key to getting a good deal on a boat. Find out all you can about the buyer, the marina the boat is in, and always check the market prices for that sort of boat.
    For instance, if the owner or someone in the family has medical problems and he needs cash fast he may cut the price radically for a quick, hassle free sale. Or perhaps the marina is raising rates more than the owner can afford or the marina is closing so a condo can be built. All these things can determine the eventual sale price of your next boat. Talk to folks around the marina on the weekend.
    Things like electronics have no real value in a sale, because even if the electronics are barely a year old, they are already nearing being outdated. Use this when negotiating, even if you love the electronics package.
    I know this sounds harsh, but a boat is a big investment and due diligence can save you thousands. I'm also a fan of a buyer's broker if I need help searching for boats outside my area. A boat ad can have pictures that are from years ago. There are no laws in the US to protect the boat buyer, as there are when buying a house (full disclosure), so one can waste a lot of time and money checking out boats that your buyer's agent can save you, and best of all, he gets his share from the seller.
    Also, many owners have an emotional attachment to their boat which can radically increase it's value in their mind. This is the hardest one to get around and quite often it will put 'the right' boat out of reach. Move on. There are plenty of boats for sale out there.
    Lastly, do not ever let your emotions get in this. If you have your heart set on one particular boat, you will probably spend a great deal more than you need to, to get the same experience, sailing. There are so many comparable boats out there that picking one and heading into such a big financial outlay can be disastrous. After all, until she's yours, she is just a boat.

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
  16. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,279 posts, 1,184 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    While initially reading this statement it seems to make sense, but from a negotiations strategy it is not true.

    Yes make a first offer you are ready and willing to pay now.

    If not accepted and the seller counteroffers now you are in negotiations. Both parties are seeking an agreement.

    Negotiations are a give and take process. Money is not the only element of this process.
    You can explore:
    1. time to process the deal,
    2. cash or financed offer,
    3. extras on the boat (either accept all the things offered or reject some),
    4. Inspections
    5. Surveys
    6. Sea trials
    7. Repairs
    These may include increasing or reducing the offered value till all parties find an agreement.

  17. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,279 posts, 1,184 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Research to develop a knowledge base about the boat and the seller is the key to getting a good deal on a boat.
    Defining a "GOOD DEAL" is also important.
    • Do you want a steal that you can brag about during sundowners?
    • Or a deal where you and the seller are happy and should a problem arise you know you can reach out to the previous owner and get answers.
    • Or are you flush with money and you want to do the seller a solid in hopes of getting to ride on the sellers next World Class racing yacht.

    :plus: Electronics are really nice, but they are just bling like the instruments on your car dash.

  18. capta


    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,220 posts, 476 likes
    Pearson 530
    XX Sailing in the Windward or Leeward Islands where ever we are anchored
    For me it is all about acquiring the vessel at the price I want to pay for her. I really do not enjoy haggling price, so I guess I'm kinda a bull in a china shop sorta purchaser. Like I said above, there are a lot of good boats on the market at any particular time, but many fewer cash buyers, which is the real secret to getting the very best deal.
    And until she's mine, I'm pretty unemotional about the whole thing. She is just another boat out of a gazillion or two that I've encountered. She's also likely to be a whole lot of work for me before I get to the fun stuff. Oh bother. Now that I think about all that work, I'll lower my offer ten percent.

    jssailem likes this.
  19. agprice22


    Joined Aug 3, 2012
    1,862 posts, 302 likes
    Performance Cruising Telstar 28
    US Upstate New York Watkins Glen
    More important than the offer: buying the boat in the best condition you can find. Do not buy boats needing work. They are more expensive than boats in great condition.
    If you want to buy a boat in less than the best condition, start with the price of the boat in the best condition and reduce the price by everything that is in need of repair on the boat you want to buy to see if the price is good.
    Boats lose 1/4 value in the first 4 years and stabilize after, losing less each year as time passes.
    Be ready to justify your offer. If you do, the broker will know you are serious.

  20. Scott T-Bird

    Scott T-Bird

    Joined Oct 26, 2008
    3,166 posts, 330 likes
    Starwind 27
    US Allamuchy Barnegat, NJ
    It seems that Ward found a boat in seemingly excellent condition and made an acceptable, competing offer (another buyer was already bidding) subject to survey, only to find that the seller accepted a lesser offer of cash with no survey contingency. Following an earlier transaction that went awry based on the sellers decision-making process, I don't think Ward is over-thinking ... just having bad luck with sellers so far. I think part of the question is, to what extent are you willing to pass on a survey in order to close on a seemingly good deal? I think it is a tough question to answer. How much are you willing to risk?

    capta likes this.

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