What Brokers Ask When Looking For Your Boat

May 2013 News Jocelyn O'Bryant

When it comes time to find the right houseboat for you and your family, it never hurts to be prepared. Below are some great tips to know and consider before you meet with your boat broker. You can help make the process as simple as possible by making sure you're prepared as a potential buyer. By knowing the top questions a boat broker may ask, you'll already be ready with your answers.

Home Marina

Travis Keller, with YourNewBoat.com shared some great information. "For someone who is just starting to get excited about buying a houseboat and is not sure where to start, I always check to see where they want to use their boat-what body of water, marina, etc."

If they have not researched this yet, Keller recommends they do so, as this can determine several limiting criteria from size of the boat to the price. As a potential buyer, you need to confirm what slips are available at the marina you wish to dock at, as well as find out what size of slips are available. Some marinas have restrictions on the length of the boat as well as the width they will accommodate.

Slip Fees

According to Keller, the customer needs to know how much the marina's slip fees are. Different areas of the country and different marinas can vary greatly. "If you find out your marina fees are going to be $1,000/month, what you can afford for your monthly boat payment may need to be adjusted," explains Keller. "Or perhaps you can find a slip that you would be happy with for much less than you had anticipated so you might be able to spend a little more on the boat. Once this is known then we can begin to explore other options that are available in your price and size range."

Best Builder

As far as what manufacturers are best, YourNewBoat.com prides itself on not pushing any one particular manufacturer, as it has been their experience that all of the manufacturers can build a quality boat. However, the one variable that is most important when purchasing a used houseboat, especially when you're talking about a 10- or 20-year-old boat, is the level of care that the boat has received by the previous owner.

Service Costs

When it comes to maintenance costs, most houseboats are going to have close to the same costs including annual servicing of your engines and generator. If you're using your houseboat more than 50 to 100 hours/season then perhaps you would service it more than annually. With houseboats, there are so many variables like size and location that affect your maintenance costs.

Keller recommends planning for the unexpected. "The biggest thing is to plan for big maintenance costs that are known and purchase a boat that you can be comfortable in financially-speaking so that when unexpected items come up they are not a burden."


Terry Miller at Houseboats Buy Terry has some great input as well. "When a new boater comes into my office one of the first questions I ask is what their budget is. As any shopper knows, you need to have a budget. I inform them that the boat purchase price is only one piece of the puzzle. There is insurance and slip fee and sometimes moving costs." 


Miller always wants her customers to go into the buying process with eyes wide open. After that, she finds out how many are in their family. If they have two kids then she always tells them they will have four kids on the boat because kids love to bring friends. She also asks if they have looked at their website and what colors and engines they think they want and if they are planning on the boat being a floating condo or a traveling and exploring kind of home. 

"Most people can easily answer these questions and then we can go shopping, so I can learn more about their likes and dislikes," says Miller. I tell them you will know which boat is best for you when you walk in and it feels just like home."

Beyond Maintenance

As far as maintenance fees, according to Miller it all depends on where the boat is being used, if it needs to be winterized, or if it needs to be hauled out of the water due to the lake freezing. Oil changes on engines typically run around $100 in the Conley Bottom area in Kentucky

Wants And Needs

Scott Evans with Coast to Coast Yacht Sales says, "I usually try to find out what their overall wants and overall needs are. For example, I find out what would be the perfect boat for them in their eyes and why. This gives me something to work with. It is also nice to know what price range they would like to stay in."

Water Choice

Adds Marie Tucker from HouseboatsPlus.com: "We have a nation-wide sales team so it is important for us to know where the buyer's boat will be utilized, whether it's salt, brackish or fresh water, so we can move them in the best direction as far as the type of hull they will need."

Tucker goes on to say she is flabbergasted to know just how many people are unaware that a standard aluminum hull should not be put into salt water without the correct preparation on the hull. Some other questions she asks are what price range they want to stay in, what they will be utilizing the boat for (liveaboard or just as a getaway), what is the largest size boat they would want, how many bedrooms, and lastly where it's going. "This is imperative because a lot of people will start the hunt for a houseboat before they realize there are size limits on many lakes," Tucker says.

All In The Details

Ken Vance with Elite Boat Sales goes into great detail with his customers. He asks them every question you can possibly think of. He doesn't leave his customers hanging or want them to leave with uncertainty. Vance likes to dig in and get to know exactly what the customer is looking for including price range, size of boat, width, number of bedrooms, and whether or not they require a flybridge. After getting the basics, he can determine whether they need a canvas or a fiberglass party top and how many engines and what thrusters are needed.

"Once the nuts and bolts are covered, customers get to make the fun decisions including: décor, slide, jet ski ramp, bar on top of the deck, etc," says Vance. "The more critical points of buying a boat that are discussed are the different finance options, transportation, insurance, sales tax and slip price. On our website, we have a link called related info where you can find information regarding insurance quotes, transporters if they need to be relocated, surveyors and other general information."

And if a first-time boater is unfamiliar with the Lake Cumberland area, he is more than happy to assist them in knowing where, how and what to expect out on the lake. 

"If they need a mooring location, I am more than happy to answer questions on what to expect lake life at a marina to be," adds Vance.

Rooms Needed

Robin Brown at BuyABoat.net is new to selling houseboats, but had some great basic questions that she asks potential houseboat buyers. She starts out asking how many people are in their family and how many bedrooms they need. She mentions that it is good to ask them the size of power package they need, whether it's a single or twin engine.

"I then move into their budget and their price range they are shopping in," says Brown. "I obviously want them to rent a slip from Lee's Ford marina on Lake Cumberland so I talk about the marina and perks, etc. Many of our customers are people who have been boating for years and are just moving up in size and they tend to know the costs associated with doing so. So of course that makes my job easy which is always a good thing."

Buying a houseboat can be one of the best decisions you ever make for you and your family and it all starts by finding the right boat. By knowing in advance what questions a boat broker may ask you, you'll be that much closer to your dream boat.

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