Fortunately for all, there is a clear path forward; every boat comes with a work list and it’s a surveyor’s job to define what’s on that list as objectively as possible. It’s not the surveyor’s role to tell the buyer whether or not to buy, and overemphasizing minor problems could mislead the buyer just as much as ignoring them would. Experienced brokers know, too, that they don’t want to sell a boat that has problems. They want the new owner to be happy with the purchase, because a happy owner is more likely to become a repeat customer. And owners are rarely surprised by survey findings – generally, they know their boat better than anyone.
The Scope of a Pre-Purchase Survey
While a client is free to make any arrangements with a surveyor acting as his consultant, market forces have created a “normal” pre-purchase “condition and value” survey. It’s a nondestructive inspection of the boat to check its condition, check its systems for basic operation and adherence to applicable regulations and standards, look for any warning signs that might recommend a follow-on inspection by a specialist, and determine its overall value. In many ways, the process is analogous to a doctor giving a patient a physical—except for the appraisal.
The result of the surveying process will be a written report with:
Any air leak issues on tubes of the boat
Findings and recommendations, divided into levels of importance.
A statement of the boat’s overall condition.
Fair market and replacement values for the boat, based on comparable sales or industry data.
General Condition of the tubes and an expectation on the life left in the tube.
What does all this cost?
We can carry out survey reports on site at your home or the home of the vendor. If you can bring the boat to the workshop it will save you money.
A tube inspection only will cost onsite $185. In the workshop $125.
A Mechanical inspection will depend on the size of the motor charges will be approx $175.
Getting the Most out of a Survey
Whether you’re buying or selling, you want to make sure you get the most value out of a survey.
As the Buyer:
- Let the surveyor know about any red flags for you: moisture, blisters, engine mounts—your experience and research are a key part of the process.
- If there’s some deficiency that would absolutely disqualify the boat in your mind, let the surveyor know to check that first. Surveys sometimes end abruptly, and it’s common for the surveyor and client to agree on some partial payment if a clear defect convinces the buyer that there’s no need to continue.
- Be there for at least part of the survey so the surveyor can show you findings in person.
- Help if you can, perhaps by pulling gear and cushions out of areas to be inspected.
- Write down questions to be asked when a good time arises—don’t distract the surveyor every time you see something to ask about.
As the Seller:
- Your preparation starts long before the survey. In the ideal world we should all be preparing to sell our boats as soon as we buy them.
- Keep a log with all invoices for maintenance and service work performed on the boat throughout its life. It’s hugely impressive for a surveyor to find this on a boat.
- Be careful about doing work on the boat yourself if it goes beyond cosmetics. As a surveyor, when you hear “the owner is very handy, and he’s done a lot of work on the boat himself,” it’s a red flag.
- Prior to the survey, clean the boat and remove any clutter.
- Be there or be available. Your broker may be the one to attend the survey, but make sure you’re available to answer questions—you know your boat better than anyone, and you may be able to clear up issues before they become misconceptions.
For everyone involved, the most important thing is to hold onto perspective and your sense of humor. At some level, it’s just a boat. If we’re able to concern ourselves with boats, chances are we’re doing pretty well in life—we’re not starving or living in a war zone, and there are more boats and buyers out there if the one involved with this survey isn’t the right fit.