Selling Your Boat: How To Get Top Dollar And A Quick Sale

Selling your boat can be a big decision that boat owners inevitably encounter. Typically boat owners decide between trading in the boat (if another boat has already been selected for purchase), listing your boat on your own or listing your boat with a broker. 

Selling your boat is not a trivial process, and as such, you want to ensure you take the appropriate steps to give yourself the best opportunity for a quick and successful transaction. Listing your boat without getting your boat ready or understanding the market dynamics can lead to your boat sitting on the market for an extended period of time. If this occurs, it can have a negative impact on the sale price and result in a frustrating experience. 

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It is possible to quickly and smoothly sell your boat for maximum value. Here are some tips and guidelines to consider when selling your boat.

Preparing The Boat For Sale

Presenting a gorgeous boat that runs extremely well is crucial to quickly sell your boat. Cleaning the inside and outside of the boat is a must. Making the boat spotless in the obvious areas is important, but don’t forget to thoroughly clean even the not-so-obvious areas such as inside storage compartments. If someone is inspecting the boat and opens up various compartments, you will want them to see very neat and clean areas. This will give potential buyers confidence that the boat has been well cared for. Need some specifics to consider? Here are specific tips for cleaning and making the boat presentable:

  • Ensure that exterior gelcoat and paint surfaces and cleaned and waxed. You want to see a nice shine on these surfaces.
  • Polish any metal surfaces and fixtures.
  • Replace any exterior cushions that have visible damage or fading.
  • Have carpets cleaned so that they appear fresh and without stains and odors.
  • Remove all personal items from the boat and declutter the boat (including storage areas) as much as possible.

Buyers will also want to know that the boat runs without problems. Make sure any potential issues or malfunctioning systems are fixed and working properly before listing the boat.

Be sure to keep all maintenance and service records neatly organized, so you can give buyers confidence that the boat has had an experienced and thoughtful owner throughout its lifespan. Organized records is one of the most overlooked aspects of selling a boat. Go above and beyond in this regard to stand out from other sellers.

Lastly, remember that buyers are unique and respond differently to various things. Some buyers are emotional in that they can fall in love with a potential boat based on appearance and features. Others are more analytical and will weigh the detailed pros and cons of a particular vessel. Make sure you’re thinking through the listing process to appeal to all types of buyers. If your boat is extremely clean and looking sharp, emotional buyers might have an immediate response leading them to want to purchase the boat. If you’re detailed in your records and it’s obvious that the boat is well maintained and cared for, the more analytical buyers might jump at the opportunity as well. 

Even more importantly, by making it abundantly clear and obvious that the boat is in great condition and properly serviced, buyers can focus on the emotional positives of boat ownership which tend to increase the perceived value and sale price of a listed boat (rather than a buyer considering how cheap they can get the boat because of the issues that come with it). 

Brokers can be a tremendous help in preparing the boat for sale. An experienced broker has participated in a large number of transactions and even more boat showings. Years of seeing and experiencing how buyers react to various ways boats are presented can be a great resource when attempting to best prepare a boat to receive top dollar. Similarly, a broker can offer insight into what components or elements of the boats are acceptable as-is without the need to invest further money into repairs or cleaning. 

A good broker also knows about potential issues that boaters and industry contacts are discussing with various boats or components. Ask your broker if any of these issues are relevant to the boat being prepared for sale. If so, the broker should be able to advise on how to navigate the issue so that its effect on the sale is minimal.

Understanding The Market

What are similar boats selling for? Researching the market in your area and getting a feel for what boats of similar size, make, model and age are selling for is an important step in helping determine how to price the boat. 

Also, if you have industry contacts or relationships with other boat owners who have experience buying and selling boats, see if you can get a feel for the overall market. Are boats selling quickly? Or, are sellers having to lower prices in order to move listed boats? Of course, if you’re using a broker, he or she will be able to provide this information.

The reality is that due to the abundance of listings and resources available online, potential buyers will have a good idea of what your boat is worth. Knowing this will help you be more realistic about expectations. Not only do you need to understand the overall market so that you can price your boat appropriately, but you also need to understand the market because your buyers will understand the market. Don’t be caught off guard by buyers who know the landscape better than you.

Brokers can add additional detail to the market context that a typical boat owner can’t get simply by browsing the web. While you can get a feel for similar prices via boat and yacht listing websites, an experienced broker with his or her finger on the pulse of boat sales can give a much more detailed and nuanced understanding of the market and perhaps find ways to eek out additional dollars from a potential sale. Moreover, brokers know that asking price for published boat listings isn’t the only way to consider the health of the overall market. How long boats are sitting on the market and what trends are affecting the sale of various boat types are two important additional factors that brokers can bring to the table.

Advertising The Boat For Sale

Creating a great listing can be just as important as preparing the actual boat for sale. Great listings start with excellent photography and even video assets depending on the potential sale price. Ensuring all the details are included in the listing is important as well. This includes things such as specifications, dimensions and all the features you believe will be crucial to communicate to possible buyers. Other things to consider are things such as services completed, upgrades done on the boat and any warranty information that might be relevant.

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Brokers have a great deal of experience creating listings to sell boats. A good broker can guide and take care of all the important elements of preparing and creating a quality listing that will attract buyers. This includes getting appropriate photography done and knowing what information should be included. 

Showing The Boat and Reaching an Agreement

Perhaps the most difficult aspects of selling a boat without the aid of a broker are the showings, negotiations and paperwork involved in closing the transaction. If you haven’t sold a boat before, it’s really a good idea to use a broker to ensure a smooth process and transaction. 

To say that showing the boat to potential buyers can be a time consuming process is an understatement. It can involve working around the schedules of potential buyers and frequently include multiple sea trials. Because of the time involved, simply handling the showing of the boat is often the most common reason that sellers use brokers. However, the negotiations and closing of the sale are perhaps even more important reasons to consider the use of a broker.

Knowing when to give and when to stand firm can be difficult decisions for sellers without experience of selling a boat. Often times, a buyer may be using a broker who is experienced at negotiating boat transactions, and without a broker, the seller might be at a disadvantage. 

Lastly, ensuring the legally necessary paperwork is being done correctly can also be difficult without the experience of previous transactions. A broker can handle all of this for you and ensure that all the details are handled appropriately. Different states often have different requirements for boat transactions, and your broker can advise and handle such particulars.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I sell my boat quickly?

Selling the boat quickly almost entirely comes down to pricing the boat right. While it’s common for sellers to be overly optimistic with respect to what they can and should receive for their boat, sellers that are realistic about market conditions and the value of the boat (and then price the boat accordingly) are most likely to sell the boat quickly. Using a broker tends to result in a faster sale as well.

Do you need a broker to sell a boat?

While “for sale by owner” might make sense at times in the real estate world, the reality is that selling a boat is often more complex and much more time consuming than selling a home. Showing the boat and handling sea trials can be extremely time consuming. Additionally, selling your boat through a broker is much more likely to result in a quicker sale than by yourself. Ask potential brokers about their experience before selecting one to handle your sale. How many transactions have they been involved with? How quickly do they typically sell? Are they willing to show the boat any day of the week? How hungry are they to sell your boat?

What paperwork do I need to sell my boat?

You will need the title, registration and any relevant Coast Guard documentation for your boat. Also, make sure you have title and registration documentation for any associated trailers. A bill of sale is typically used to document the transaction and includes things such as hull or vessel identification number, description of the boat, purchase price and transaction date. If a licensed broker is involved, there is typically additional paperwork that serves to protect the buyers and sellers involved in the transaction. Other paperwork you should have includes insurance documentation, maintenance and service records and any warranty information.

Tom George Yacht Group

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Do you have any questions about listing a boat? The Tom George Yacht Group team of brokers has decades of experience buying and selling boats and yachts of all sizes. Our goal is to ensure a smooth process with a quick sale that results in top dollar for all of our clients. Please contact us today if you are seeking to list your boat or if you have any questions about buying or selling a boat.