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Regrets and boat sales

One way to get it done. Photo (c) Yachtworld

"That's simply ridiculous when man with minimum education tells me that he's market expert (for example). Rip-off expert - I would believe so."
The above quote is from a recent Cruiser's Forum post in which an individual objected to being "pestered" by a broker with high-ball offers he judged, possessing the infinite wisdom of these sort of internet forum participants, unrealistic. There is a case to be made that apple polishing exists at the offshore end of the boat-selling spectrum, the potential passagemaking boat buyer needs to exercise some common sense about how worn boats at sea for years obviously can get.

You'd have to have been confined to a brig or live under a bridge not to realize how collapsed the market is for used boats, save at the nosebleed altitude of mega-yachts, and even those aren't commanding "oligarch" prices these days. Why would they? They are too numerous and it's cheaper to impress the people you want to have sex with on land.

I did find the obtuseness of the poster, however, interesting. He was simultaneously complaining that a broker he had approached for advice was pitching him boats, because he knew the prices were too high and resented the pitches. His contempt for the brokerage trade was not confined.

Brokers have a legitimate job in the ecosystem of the acquisition of boats, and, like used car sales folk, they are widely despised for it. But I'm not sure why the hate exists. The onus is on the buyer to ask for recent surveys, or, if the money involved or the lack of expertise on the buyer's side suggest it, to hire a purchase survey. The opportunities for getting ripped off are limited when reasonable boats in reasonable condition outnumber potential buyers. The broker, however, can be a useful filter in this process, but, in the era of Craigslist, Kijiji and other DIY operations, not a necessary one. But that is not their fault nor their concern.

The potential buyer can be correct about not needing a broker but can also be indifferent to their existence. And there is more than one way to sell or buy a boat, with variable levels of formality and agency. As an example, we just sold our house. I worked in concert with the realtor to show the place to ONLY developers, renovators, investment property buyers, and people who already owned houses in the area: in other words, to people who saw the place in context, didn't care that the paint was old and the floors needed sanding and that some of the improvements were visible through holes cut in the ceiling. That doesn't matter when you already know you are going to gut the place. It would be like putting on full makeup prior to having plastic surgery. So we didn't. I kept my old boat clean and gave it a cursory topsides buff, but I didn't, by a similar logic, pretend it wasn't 43 years old.

We avoided a general listing with the house. We showed it about a dozen times over five months. No "fluffing", no $25K "staging" or "white boxing": just a sign out front with the "Exclusive" label on it.

We named a fair price. We got that fair price. We paid a fraction of the usual commission. The tactic and the price was based on my extensive research of the 20 nearby houses that had changed hands in the last 36 months.

I mention these aspects because houses and boats sell according to similar agent/broker models, but those models are variable...if you, the buyer or seller, so request. If you don't like the game, change the rules. If you don't like the game with changed rules, don't play the game. I see non-garbage boats on Kijiji I would jump on, if I didn't already have a boat and if I knew anyone who wanted a boat...but, of course, I don't. If you're not paying a broker's cut because you resent broker's cuts, you can keep a surveyor on speed dial. Apart from the price used boats command, selling and buying one outside of the former paradigm is, like so many other fiscal activities in our brave new world, largely frictionless. That said, I can't blame a hungry and probably depressed broker for trolling any name they have. Neither should any buyer or potential buyer. After all, you may want to sell your boat someday, and, unlike an algorithm, a broker may not be interested in your custom at any price.

I had my first boat with a broker for 18 months. We showed it about 25 times. Not a single offer. A guy in my club offered me half of what I'd listed it for, no survey, all cash. I see my good old boat sailing off the mooring regularly. I have no regrets, save I'll never get those 25 showings' worth of time back. And that includes the hard and generally (in my experience) honest work brokers supply.

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