It's an understatement to say that to buy or sell a
houseboat is to participate in a major transaction. Houseboats can be
expensive, and the investment put forth in both time and money is significant.
If you are new to the houseboat market, a broker can help alleviate some of the
risk through careful research and finding the right boat to fit your needs. If
you need to sell your houseboat, a broker can help you be sure you get the most
money for your craft in the shortest amount of time. Here are some points to
consider when looking for a broker:
The Right Time
Whatever your interest level, a broker may be able to help
guide your decision-making process to find a boat that matches your
specifications. Wes Wise, from Middle Tennessee Houseboats & Yacht Sales,
says you should start looking for a broker as soon as you have determined that
you would like to spend time with your friends and family on the lake. "We can
help you not only decide what you need but when and how to begin the search."
You should contact a broker even if you're not sure what
kind of boat you're looking for. The quicker you are able to provide the broker
with a list of options, the sooner the search can begin for that perfect boat.
Travis Keller from Your New Boat agrees. "Once I get a good
understanding of what options or `must haves' a person is looking for, I can
help narrow down their search and save them a lot of time."
Questions prospective buyers should ask themselves are
things like: What are you going to use the houseboat for? How many bedrooms do
you need? And what kind of water will the boat be used in?
"If it's going to be used for a river system, we would
recommend twin engines," says Theresa Mazzoli of Elite Boat Sales. "And if it's
going to be used in a river it would need a deeper hull."
Even if you're interested in making a purchase more than a
year in the future, contacting a broker will ensure you're on the right path. Terry
Miller, from Houseboats Buy Terry, says, "Even if someone calls me and tells me
they'll be in the market five years from now, I will help answer their
"Considering the small upside cost and the large downside
risk, it would be most unwise to consider a houseboat deal without the
professional assistance of a qualified houseboat broker," says Mark O'Neill from
Center Hill Marine Brokerage.
Selecting A Surveyor
Not all marine surveyors are accredited, so research is
everything to ensure that the surveyor you contact is honest. There are several
different organizations which offer accreditations such as: The Society of
Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), United States Surveyors Association (USSA),
International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS), and Association of
Certified Marine Surveyors (ACMS), among many others. Researching the surveyor
and his membership to these societies and associations will give you a feel for
how reputable the surveyor is.
"Your broker should have several licensed boat surveyors to
recommend to you," says Marny Schlundt of BuyaBoat.net. "Always call them all
and make your own decision as to whom you think is the best."
Surveyors will check the condition of the boat and determine
a fair market price for the craft. They perform four different types of
surveys: a pre-purchase survey, which is the most thorough check of all systems
and structural integrity; an insurance survey, which is done for insurance
companies to determine risk, safety, use, and fair market price; an appraisal
survey, which is for financing, estate settlements, donations and legal cases;
and a damage inspection appraisal to check the extent of damages, recommend
repairs, estimate repair costs, and if requested, investigate a possible cause
for the damage.
Mazzoli from Elite Boat Sales says that beyond
accreditation, one could also talk to other experienced boaters about what
surveyors they've had a good experience with. "Surveys are required by most
insurance companies on all boats over 10 years old, but we'd recommend them on
every boat you're interested in purchasing," she says.
Keller also suggests that you be sure the surveyor has the
right equipment and is thorough.
"Make sure that the surveyor has the proper equipment to
inspect a boat, most importantly a moisture meter," says the owner of Your New
Boat. "Don't be afraid to ask for sample surveys so that you can see how
thorough they are. The survey should be more thorough than your broker's spec
sheet; it's not just a list of equipment and pictures of the boat."
Right For You
Brokers are as diverse as people are. Some brokerages offer
special services such as driving help, and others may offer in-house financing.
But most hang their hats on their reputation of experience and service.
"Middle Tennessee Houseboats & Yacht Sales is a full-service
houseboat brokerage operation," explains Wise. "We not only help find or sell
your boat, but we also assist with finding professional services including:
surveyors, finance institutions, insurance companies, transportation and repair
professionals. If the boat is being moved, we work hand-in-hand with boat
movers to ensure the utmost care of your new investment."
"BuyaBoat.net has many years of experience in listing and
selling boats," says Schlundt. "We share our knowledge, try to educate our
buyers, and we are proud of our record of happy buyers and sellers."
Your New Boat is a member of the Yacht Brokers Association
of America (YBAA).YBAA has a professional code of ethics and business practices
that all of their brokers adhere to and they utilize standardized forms and
procedures that ensure a fair and impartial boat buying experience for all
"Our brokers have years of experience on houseboats. I grew
up with one," says Mazzoli. "People come from all over the country and the
world to buy from us. We're located in the houseboat capital of the world here
in Jamestown, Ky., so we have a large selection of
houseboats and cruisers to choose from."
Honesty and integrity is important to Houseboats Buy Terry.
"I will tell them what they need to know, even if it doesn't make them happy,"
explains Miller. "If it's a project boat and it needs repairs x, y and z, and
they don't want a project boat, I will suggest to them not to buy it."
O'Neill adds, "Center Hill Marine Brokerage has a lot of
repeat customers because of our focus on service after the sale. For example,
we're available to give our customers driving lessons and help them get
comfortable in operating their new boat."
Don't Go Along
Connections are everything, and brokers can exploit contacts
that you may not have access to. Many have contacts across the country as well
as around the world.
Your New Boat is a member of a boat multiple listing service
and participates in co-brokerages. What
this means for its sellers is that their boat is being marketed not only by
YourNewBoat.com brokers, but by thousands of brokers around the world."
"There are a lot of
boats that are for sale which don't have signs in the windows, so you may be
walking by the perfect boat for your family and not even know it," adds O'Neill.
A broker can also make sure your boat has the correct
documentation, which could save you a time-consuming hassle.
"We handle all the paperwork to ensure the boat is properly
documented with respect to taxes, liens, insurance, registration and even Coast
Guard documentation if necessary," says Wise.
A broker can protect you from shady business practices and
weed out lemons which aren't worthy of your investment.
"We've heard of `for sale by owner' boat sellers who have
agreed to sell their boat to someone, turned down other offers, and then never
heard from the buyer again," says Keller. "The same thing has also happened
that a buyer had agreed to buy a boat but the seller ended up selling to
If you do not have a YBAA broker, you do not have the
advantage of having the transaction safeguarded through the use of an escrow
account. A buyer could end up with a boat that has a lien on it and a seller
could end up letting their boat go and not receiving payment due to fraudulent
O'Neill agrees, "One customer decided to go on his own and
purchased a for-sale-by-owner vessel and did not get a marine survey. The
result was a very unhappy experience in that the roof was rotten and there were
major electrical issues with the boat that cost the gentleman well over $10,000
to repair. A $400 marine survey recommended by our brokerage would have saved
him money and aggravation."
Finally, a brokerage is an institution which is enduring,
and will not leave town the minute you buy the houseboat.
"A reputable broker is going to be around in the future,"
says Miller. "When I see a boat buyer on the docks years later, I want them to
offer me an iced tea, not throw me overboard."
Case in Point: Houseboat Brokering
Selling a houseboat without the services of a broker can be
frustrating. You alone are responsible for advertising the boat, screening
prospective buyers, negotiating a fair price, and completing the transaction.
Although one might expect that another party being involved might cost more
than it's worth, a broker can actually increase the amount of money you get
from the sale.
David Evans, from Okeechobee,
Fla., recently needed to sell his
houseboat. He was moving to Moore Haven, Fla.,
and due to market conditions, he kept going down on his price. Finally he was
going to sell it to a marina manager for a bargain.
"Lo and behold, Terry [Miller from Houseboats Buy Terry] and
her husband walked by and saw my boat. After talking for awhile, they found out
I was selling it and asked me what the price was. I told her what I had been
asking for it and she told me it was worth double," Evans said.
The difference in price was a staggering $22,000. Evans says
that although he didn't get to make the sale immediately, the amount of money
is worth waiting for.
"I'm retired now, and I'm not desperate for the money," he
When asked why he didn't go through a broker to begin with
he said, "I was a marine surveyor in the past, and I'm familiar with the
industry. We are in a depressed market so I thought the price was fair. Terry
now has the boat on the market for a better price. I'm really pleased with her
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