The case for using a compatible yacht broker

When Arv and I bought our current boat and sold our old one, we were fortunate to work with two fine, upstanding and congenial San Diego yacht brokers.

Dea Allen, now with South Coast Yachts, hung in with us for two years, helping us identify the boat we wanted, locating not-quite-on-the-market boats, setting up cross-country searches and nursing us through two failed offers and one that finally went through. Mike Hallmark of Hallmark Yachts assisted us through a long, painful sales period (during the worst of the Great Recession) and helped us through a plotting strategy, before finally securing a sale. We’re still friends with both and recommend them gladly.

Yacht brokers often get a bad rap because of the misdeeds of a sleazy few. Until we started our boat search, I was a little naïve in assuming that most brokers were like Dea, Mike and the many other reputable professionals I’d known around SoCal.

Then we encountered a few scuzzbags that left me gasping in disbelief at their dishonesty and lack of ethics. There was the Florida broker who, when we called to confirm our appointment, tried to cut Dea out of her commission – not that we would have bought his run-down rust bucket. He was one of several who disapproved of female brokers and seemingly female buyers too. Fortunately the listing broker for the boat we bought was helpful, responsive and professional.

In my last column, I urged boat buyers not to let anyone talk them into buying anything. While we’ve all encountered over-zealous salespeople, that comment was inspired by the scumball behavior of the broker representing the buyer of our old Hatteras. The day we completed the sale, the buyer hesitated signing the documents. His broker stuck his finger in his face, as if hypnotizing him, and ordered him to sign as we watched in shock.

But why bother with a broker in this era of easy internet searches?

A good yacht broker knows and understands the market and can represent your interests while saving you enormous time in identifying boats that meet your needs, yet avoid the duds. Most responsible brokers have tales of discouraging customers from buying a specific boat, because they knew it was the wrong boat and the client would later have buyer’s remorse. Professionals want to ensure the boat is a comfortable fit; their customers remain happy and will return to buy another boat.

Look for a licensed broker; only California and Florida require licensing. Ask friends for recommendations and talk to many brokers when you’re looking for someone to help you make a major purchase. Boat shows offer great opportunities to interview brokers. Find someone who’s compatible and listens to what you say, asks questions, understands your wants, needs and budget and is willing to look beyond their immediate inventory to find you the right boat.

Buying a boat is a complicated purchase with many significant layers beyond the immediate sale. A competent broker can assist you in arranging surveys, repairs, financing, dockage and other marine services.

When selling a boat, a knowledgeable broker can help you price it realistically to sell quickly – and tell you when/if you need to drop the price. Your broker can help you “polish,” stage and photograph your boat for sale, write appealing descriptions as well as list and advertise it in the most appropriate places to attract buyers – plus show it, screen buyers and handle the sales paperwork.

Choosing a competent, honest and compatible broker can save you time, money and grief. But do your research before making your selection – and always watch for red flags.

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