Catamaran Seller's Guide

How to get the best price when selling your yacht!

When the time comes for you to sell your boat it is important for you to realize that the principal objective of the exercise is to get your boat SOLD and anything else that deflects from that objective may at best delay or, at worst, cost you the entire sale. As an example, some Sellers focus on getting the cheapest dockage available instead of getting their vessel the most visibility that they can.

The intention of this guide is to give you some valuable tips and information in order to help you achieve your objective as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Always remember that the longer it takes to sell your boat, the more carrying costs you will have to incur so you need to factor this into your decision-making when your broker presents you with any offer. While it might not be the price you wanted, there can be a significant cost of waiting until you can, if ever, get the selling price that you had in mind.

The likelihood of receiving favorable offers increases when your yacht is exposed to more of the marketplace. The following items are essential to quickly selling your yacht for the best price.

Sales Tips:

  • Access: Always ensure that your broker has access to show your yacht at any time and the keys are accessible. Many showings can be "last-minute" affairs when a client might be intending to look at another yacht and your broker realizes that your yacht might fit the client’s needs.
  • Price: Make sure your vessel is properly price so ask your broker for a report showing comparable yacht prices in the market. If your yacht is not priced competitively in the market, it will generally not sell until after other more competitively priced yachts have been sold or removed from the market.
  • Specialist: Work with a specialist, a broker who knows the product and whose firm specialize in what you are selling.
  • Commission Split: Ask your broker what their commission split is with other brokers and brokerage houses! As in real estate, the commission is split between the Listing Broker (who is representing the Seller) and the Selling Broker (who is representing the Buyer). You want to have your boat exposed to as many brokers and buyers as you possibly can and a Selling Broker is much more likely to bring a Buyer to view your boat if he is getting a higher share of the commission so look for a brokerage house that "rewards" other brokers. A 70/30 split for the Selling Broker will encourage many more brokers to show your listing than a 50/50 split.
  • Exposure: You need your boat to be put in front of as many Buyers and Brokers as possible so that means that you need to confirm the marketing plan for your boat. Which websites will your boat be listed on? How many brokers are there in the brokerage you are listing with? How does that brokerage get your listing in front of other brokers? The market is constantly evolving with more and more MLS’s becoming available so you need to ensure that you are not simply constrained to having your listing appear in only one online location.
  • Social Media: In the old days, your boat needed to be advertised nationally in print media but today Social Media is the new “print media” so confirm with your broker what his plans for this are.
  • Web Presence: Check your Listing Broker's web presence. Ask for their website traffic and rankings to make sure your yacht has the best exposure to Buyers. Today the vast majority of Buyers do their research online so it is critical that your boat shows up in any search they do.
  • Back Up: Does your listing agent have an assistant that can reach him or field calls? Is your broker teamed up with another or other Broker in his office that can cover his business when out of the office? In the brokerage business, successful brokers are most often traveling frequently so back up is very important. Remember that one-man brokerage offices can only handle one client at a time.
  • Contact & Availability: Being in contact is more important to Buyers today than in the past and that means instant contact, not a phone call returned 24 hours later. Today’s technology provides the ability to always receive email and calls anywhere including whilst traveling locally or internationally so check with your broker to confirm that they are up to date on email, WhatsApp, Facebook and any other means of contact.
  • Broker Qualifications: It may sound silly but always verify that your Broker actually is a Broker. Ask how long he has been a broker! In Florida you must be a "salesman" for a minimum of 2 years before you can even apply to become a "licensed broker". Verify what affiliation your Broker has to Yacht Broker organizations. In Florida and California all Brokers required to have a license but in all other states there is no licensing. Licensing means the government regulates the Broker's escrow account and the Broker has had a formal background check and has no criminal record. Ask to see your Broker's license. Look to see if your Broker is CPYB (certified professional yacht broker). A CPYB broker must have been a Broker for three (3) years and have demonstrated knowledge in the yachting industry in areas of business ethics, state and federal laws, and technical knowledge, all of which have been evaluated through extensive examinations..
  • Bonding: Brokers are meant to be professional and that includes having bonding an insurance so make sure that you verify that your broker is "Bonded". Florida requires that all brokers who operate there must carry an insurance bond to protect their clients and their client's funds but this in not enforced in other states so ask your Broker where he is based.

How to make Your Boat more sellable:

Whilst different in many respects, selling your boat is not dissimilar to selling your home. Some Buyers will have similar tastes to you but also remember that many will not. Do not forget that the #1 selling point is VALUE and that is what will sell your boat. Remember that value was probably what made you buy that boat in the first place. Here are a number of factors you need to keep in mind that will affect the value and the ability to get the best price as quickly as possible.

Upgrades to your Boat: One area where many sellers frequently miscalculate is in the realization that upgrades rarely, if ever, have a 100% rate of return reflected in the selling price of the boat. In fact in many cases, "upgrades" have very little value to a potential buyer. When you were buying your current home, how many other houses did you look at before you decided on the one you bought? Do you remember that one with the awful yellow wallpaper in the bathrooms that the Owner had spent a fortune on and felt it made his house unique and that everyone would want to buy it?

There are numerous types of "upgrade" you need to consider:

1. “Personal Taste" Upgrades

Adding a new cabinet in the salon to safely house your photographic equipment and cameras that requires hiring a carpenter and having the manufacturer supply matching wood is usually a very expensive exercise. All you need to do though is find a Buyer who appreciates cameras and photography as much as you do but unfortunately that now reduces the pool of potential Buyers by around 99% so unless you can find a Buyer who simply MUST have that cabinet then your selling price will reflect little, if any, value for the money you spent on that cabinet. In actuality many Buyers will mentally reduce their offer by the amount they feel they will have to spend to remove the Seller's "upgrade" .

2. “Cosmetic" Upgrades

If you want to put the maximum number of US $ dollars into your pocket when you sell your vessel, try to limit your ‘upgrades’ to "cosmetic" improvements, ones that will appeal to a majority of potential Buyers, not just one individual with similar tastes to yourself. A custom wine cabinet in the salon is much more likely to attract interest than your unique camera cabinet. Any good real estate broker will tell you that painting a room white will always attract more buyers then painting it bright red so please try to bear that in mind when outfitting your boat with expensive, personal upgrades!

3. Equipment Upgrades

Again this can be broken down into different categories, generally movable and fixed.

(Re)Movable Equipment

If you decide that you want to purchase a $10,000 life-raft and $5,000 EPIRB, you will not be increasing the sales price of your vessel by $15,000. However these are items you will definitely want for your next boat so do not list them as equipment on your boat. In addition please ensure that these items are not on your boat when you show it to a potential Buyer as he will expect them to be part of the deal and included in the purchase price. Once he sees them, he automatically assumes they are going to be part of the deal, no matter how many times his broker advises him otherwise. Followong these rules will get you the full value for your equipment by not having to repurchase new equipment for your new boat and you can sell your current boat at the correct price for the Buyer.

Fixed/Permanent Upgrades

As an example, many owners decide to install a second large-screen, multi-function chart-plotter at the Nav station, in addition to the main one in the cockpit at the steering station. You need to be very careful therefore in how you install this second screen, especially if you intend to remove it and take it with you to your next boat! While you might physically be able to remove the screen itself, you will probably not be able to remove the wiring and removing the screen will leave a large hole in the woodwork that will need to be covered over. This rarely looks professional and usually reduces the attractiveness of your boat to the Buyer. Try to remember this when installing equipment like this initially so that you can retain the appearance later of it you do decide to remove it.

What we have found is that while installing this type of equipment does not generally tend to get you a much higher price for your boat, it does tend to help you achieve your # 1 objective of selling your boat. If a Buyer is shopping around and comparing other similar boats, it is more likely that he will lean towards the boat with the most equipment.

Presentation of your Boat

Do you remember when you were first looking to buy a boat? What affected your decision? What made you choose your current boat over the others you looked at?

Always try to put yourself back into a Buyer's shoes!

Address the Exterior elements that are seen first.

How many times have you been told that how important first impressions are in life and that they can make or break any deal? The exact same rule applies to the sale of your boat. Spending the money to do a proper buff and wax on your boat will be some of the best money you will spend. Give your yacht a thorough cleaning from stem to stern. Make sure that you clean and varnish brightwork as needed. Paint the bottom and keep it clean with a professional bottom cleaning service. Black anti-foul bottom paint shows best. And don’t forget to tidy up your dock lines, sheets, and halyards!

Address the Interior

  • How does your boat smell? Have you ever walked into a restaurant that had a strange smell and wanted to stay and eat there? The same applies to your home and to your boat so please make sure the heads are spotless, that they smell good and have no visible signs of mildew or mold
  • My Boat: Make sure that you store away any personal items that make it difficult for Buyers to imagine their items in your yacht. Buyers need to be able to see themselves in your salon with their possessions, not yours.
  • Clutter: Kill the clutter" by cleaning out over-stuffed lockers and removing any inventory that you do not intend to sell with the boat.
  • Personal Books: Everyone’s taste is different so do not assume that your library will be the same as a buyer’s. Remove all your personal books and take the "junk" out of the chart table.
  • Photos Just like with your home, cover up any holes in the bulkheads remaining after your personal pictures were removed.
  • Under the Floors Please make sure that you clean the bilges and ensure that they are dry, clean and odor-free. Buyer’s always check and they love to find a clean bilge and assume that applies to the rest of the boat.

Perform Basic Maintenance

  • Change your oil!
  • Replace all of your oil and fuel filters.
  • Top off all of your fluids.
  • Check and top up your batteries
  • Check for any leaks and repair them in advance
  • Repair anything you already know is broken or defective as a surveyor will probably find it during the survey
  • Check and repair inoperative equipment or alternatively, just remove it from the equipment list. This is very important. There is no greater disappointment to a buyer than to find that equipment onboard is not in working order but do remember that the fact that you may not necessarily get much additional value for an upgrade on your boat does not mean that the Buyer won’t put a value on it and expect it to be functional. Time and time again we have witnessed a deal fall apart because a piece of equipment did not work and the Seller knew that in advance but did not tell his broker. If your water-maker does not work then do not put the water-maker on your equipment list. This means that the surveyor does not need to test it and the Buyer cannot ask for a price reduction or complain that it does not work when a working unit was never included in the sale in the first place.
  • Check if your dinghy is stored onboard and position it so it drains properly. Make sure it does not have to be removed or inhibit looking into lockers.

Be Transparent and Honest!

  • Try not to embellish the condition as the vessel will be surveyed and sailed on a sea trial and it may cause you to lose a sale when any details are verified.
  • Have your paperwork in order. If your yacht was built in 1993 but wasn't launched until 1994, it is still a 1993 and should be listed as such. However a boat built in 2007 may be either a 2007 or a 2008 model so ensure you get this correct in your listing agreement. Many deals have been lost at the last hurdle when a buyer suddenly thinks that his new boat is actually a year older than he thought.
  • Remember, your dinghy needs ownership paperwork too or you should exclude it from the sale as you cannot legally transfer it!
  • Be accurate! Accuracy is important and builds credibility so an engine that has a new alternator and injection pump is not a "completely rebuilt engine". Be honest with your listing and the Broker representing you and always try to remember that your Listing broker is on your side. You and he have exactly the same objective, namely to SELL your yacht. If it does not sell, he does not get paid so be upfront about what you know about your yacht.
  • Check for liens on the boat as buyers hate to discover this after they have decided to buy your boat.
  • If your ownership is corporately held, ensure your company is in good standing and you have approval in writing from the company to sell the vessel.
  • Keep all of your repair and purchase receipts and maintenance records. Buyers love to see good records to increase confidence in the yacht they are planning to own.

Location of your Boat for sale

Just like in real estate, never forget the motto of location, location, location! A boat docked behind an owner's home in West Palm Beach will not sell nearly as quickly as a boat docked in Ft. Lauderdale, even though they might only be a 45 drive away. Similarly, a boat sitting behind a home in downtown Ft. Lauderdale will not sell as quickly as a boat sitting at a dealer's location where there are 10 or more other cats for sale. A broker with a buyer in tow will go to the location where there are the most boats to show at the same time. He is very unlikely to take a buyer on a 1 hour drive out of town to see one specific boat until he has taken him to the local location where the buyer can see a broad selection of what is available. In addition, if your boat is the value that you think it is, what better scenario than having it close to it's competition and attracting those potential buyers.

Ex-Charter Yachts for Sale

If your yacht is in a charter management program, list your yacht for sale between 6 and 9 months before your phase-out date. This will mean that you will not have to pay dockage, insurance, maintenance and mortgage payment while your yacht is listed for sale.

Do verify with your charter company what will happen on "phase out" of your vessel. In most guaranteed management programs, the charter company will pay for defects that are determined in the buyer's survey but in some cases the charter company may apply the "fair wear and tear" rules and therefore you will be responsible to pay for the repair.

If you keep all these points in mind and price your yacht at a realistic figure then it will only be a matter of time before you have a buyer ready to purchase.