Adventures in Boat Selling

Matt's Musings
When we decided to put our catamaran up for sale, we knew it would be a drawn out and painful process from start to finish, and it didn’t really disappoint.

We thought long and hard about exactly how we wanted to do it, the timeframe we had, and what our goals were. Below are just some of the decisions we made and how we made them.

Timeframe. One broker told us that the average time a boat is listed for sale on Yachtworld is 310 days. 310 days! This of course includes all boats of every type, and anyone who has looked for a used boat to buy can attest that almost everything listed for sale is terrible. We knew that catamarans were more in demand and should move faster, but there are still many that languish on the market for far longer than they should. Our number one goal for our selling endeavour: to get back to the Bahamas on a new-to-us boat this season, thereby making the pain as minimal as possible! 
This is where we want to be! Hoffmans Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Placement. When we decided to sell, we were in North Carolina. Having a catamaran for sale anywhere outside of Florida hurts your chances of a quick sale. Catamaran shoppers are going to go to Florida at one point or another. The chances they ever make it to North Carolina? Poor.

Most buyers want to hop on board and set off for the islands, and they want to leave from Florida. The problem for us was insurance; our company required us to be outside of Florida until November 1. So we wasted a lot of time from August to November bumbling around the Carolinas getting hit by hurricanes. Oh, the irony. 

Staging. Look at most boats for sale on Yachtworld and they have one thing in common: Terrible photography. People’s junk clutters up the counters, photos are clearly from brochures, or they are clearly very old. We’ve even seen one boat listed that had timestamped photos showing they were taken in 2006. Umm, it’s 2019? 
Absolutely gorgeous Pacific Seacraft 37, our #2 boat. It's hard to see how pretty it is with all this junk! It had been on the market for 15 months with 0 offers. 
No matter what you are selling, you must show it in the best possible light. That means great photos, but it also means staging it and setting it up so that absolutely anyone would immediately feel at home and see themselves living there comfortably. Put away the family photos, clean up your tools, and unclutter the counters. If you don’t have a good, wide-angle lens, make sure your broker does. And if he doesn’t, then consider hiring a photographer or even getting a better broker. Make sure it is clean and spotless, and even bake some cookies if you have to!
Wide angle lens & great lighting
Pricing. We did our own market analysis and came up with the price that our boat should sell for, and therefore what we should ask for it. We came up with this number analytically, and we used the same process that we used when we went shopping for our boat.  The boat's market value is what people are going to pay for it, and it’s based on the amount of demand in the market and the condition of the boat. The condition of the boat is very simply how it compares to a boat that has just come off the factory line. Most of the time “upgrades” make it less like factory new, and therefore add no value. The exceptions are big items like air conditioning and watermakers, but only if they were professionally installed and working like new. 

Of course, it’s complicated. Since we are now looking from both the selling and buying perspective, we can certainly attest that boat pricing is a messy business. In our experience, you are going to get 80-90% of your asking price, depending upon the condition of the vessel. Whether or not we listed with a broker, or what options or upgrades we had made did not matter in the end.

We knew most of this from previous dealing with boats. When I spoke to our broker he was very much not looking forward to telling us how much money we were going to get for the boat. The numbers he mentioned matched mine exactly, and he was surprised to hear me say, “Yeah, that’s what we figured."

Representation. Friends of ours have had amazing success selling their boats on their own. As a buyer I can tell you that anyone looking at Yachtworld is also looking at Sailboatlistings, so chances are you can easily market a boat yourself. Sharing your listing on Facebook sailing and owners groups is also a winning strategy.

We decided to go with a broker because neither one of us is a salesman. Our boat dog is also no help. We knew that the buyer for our catamaran would most likely be a first time boat buyer, and they would most likely have a buyer's broker. In this situation, having a broker to handle the other broker and arrange the sea trial and survey for us seemed like the right choice.

So was it the right choice? In the end it cost us 10% and a lot of aggravation, but it was the right choice for several reasons. We knew our broker and trusted him, which made the process much easier. We knew (because he sold the boat to us 4 years ago) that he would follow up on leads and reply to messages, which is way more than we can say about some brokers we have met in the industry. 

Picking a broker is a big problem. If we hadn’t had previous experience with our broker, I have no idea how we would’ve found one that we were happy with.

If we ever sell our monohull, chances are we will do it on our own. But it’s a different boat and a whole different ball game.

So how did it all shake out? We sold our boat just over 60 days after it was listed on Yachtworld. We also sold the boat for the amount of money we felt it was worth, that is, the amount of money we would’ve gone out and paid for it. 

As soon as Independence had been sold, we began looking for the next boat in earnest. And so began the adventures in boat buying...

Have you ever sold a boat or a home? What was the process like for you? 

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  1. We sold our first boat ourselves listing it on New Zealand's equivalent of eBay. It was a small, relatively inexpensive boat so that made sense for us and fortunately it sold for a reasonable price. We found our current boat on Sailboat Listings but used a broker for the closing.

    1. We sold our 1981 Islander on eBay (many years ago!). That's interesting that you were able to use a broker for a FSBO boat.

  2. Interesting summary of your selling process. 60 days and at a price you were comfortable with. That’s well done! Our first sailboat, an Islander Freeport 36 was a success story. We sold it on the west coast in 2005 by ourselves and for asking price within five weeks.

    Our last boat Irie, a 35’ Fountaine Pajot catamaran, we sold in Tahiti (of all places) with a broker. It took months (I forgot how many, since we didn’t get serious until we dropped the price enough the last few months) and we got much less than we hoped for. This was about the price we had paid for her, before putting quite a bit of money in her over the years.

    1. Unfortunately, I think it's really hard to recoup upgrades. We got what we paid for the boat, less depreciation. We'd put on new sails, new standing rigging, new hard top, new electronics - but its really hard to recoup any improvement or maintenance cost. Boats will always be a buyer's market I think.


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