This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

“Two are the happiest moments in a ship-owner: the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it”.

Eventually, for many ship-owners will come the time to change their yacht for a different model or dimension. It does not matter how much love and dedication they have dedicated to their boats. As much as they love their boats, desires and needs change over time and most of the ship-owners will inevitably find themselves selling their boats.

Sometimes they do it to switch for something bigger, other times to follow the wish of having something newer or to switch to a different sailing style. Sometimes they sell it because the maintenance costs are no longer compatible with economic possibilities, and finally, other times it is because age and health conditions suggest to close the sailor-life circle.

Be as it is the moment has come, and you might as well face it with greater awareness and act in the most efficient and rational way possible. In simple terms, let’s organize the sale so that you do not have problems before, during and after.

The first crossroad we have to face is: do I turn to a broker or do I sell it myself?

Let’s suppose in the first place that we are turning to a broker: this is a wise choice if the boat is far from where we usually live and we have no time (and will) to engage in visits, meetings, discussions and negotiations. In this case the main suggestion is to turn to a broker with proven sales experience of your or similar boat model; as I said, if you are not willing to or not capable of personally conducting negotiations, you must choose a broker near the location the boat is located.

Who has been there will agree on the importance to choose a broker operating to high professional standards, selecting based on good reputation, proven sales portfolios, as well as the commission price and the broker’s position regarding the yacht. This usually leads to customers happy with this decision and who had a regular sale at a price they were satisfied with.

It is important to ensure adherence to clear and transparent sales protocols, the presence of professional requirements, the insurance of civil liability and – when necessary – the use of contracts written by good lawyers in the maritime sector, guarantee of a process and a sale transaction without interruptions.

Selling a boat usually implies a series of checks and processes, the definition of a clear and free title, the periodic safety visit, checking documents and in some cases the pre-sale expertise (or pre-purchase depending on the side from which you look at it). Sometimes it is about dealing with registration of other countries that, therefore, may include foreign formats and languages.

We must treat all this constructively and comprehensively; sometimes you will need to manage the customer’s money safely, to offer assistance during the process and apply general “common sense” in case of sensitive sales.

Of course, I do not want to exclude the possibility to sell the boat privately but, in general, if someone makes mistakes one or both parts may pay for it. In addition to that, choosing to sell privately or turn to a broker could be influenced by the value of the boat: if the worth is high, buyers might feel a little more comfortable in dealing with an established brokerage company rather than with a stranger.

Generally, the main reason why some people choose the private option is the cost. Nobody is happy with giving away thousands of euros for something that – rightly or wrongly – you could do yourself.  

My friend F.B. chose this way after a bad start, since the broker missed the first appointment to see and take pictures of the boat. Six months after, there was not a single visit, so the ship-owner removed the broker from the job and he sell successfully his boat himself in a few weeks.

Certainly, the option “private sale” goes for more when talking about watercrafts that – right or wrong – you could sell as you would with a bicycle. In case of a bigger watercraft (for example if we enter the category of yachts) things can get sensitive and even though there is nothing wrong in sailing a boat privately, the risks for the buyer and the seller can be significant. Therefore, it is wise to trust a professional and trained at operation hand, to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

Anyways, whether the sale is direct or managed by a broker, to choose out boats, the potential buyers have to be able to find the ad and it has to be so appealing that they make an appointment. That’s where marketing comes in

In case of private sale, it is fundamental to understand the importance of this step for a successful sale. Good pictures, a detailed description and a complete list of the specifics are imperative.

Normally, those who are looking for a boat, after examining a significant number of ads, is attracted by those who show the boat completely; those ads allow to pre-figure if that is the boat, with which they can do what they had planned.

As important as a good quality picture, detailed videos and 3D images are vital when promoting a yacht: buyers are often running out of time and the possibility to go online and get a really clear idea of the boat, of its layout and conditions, before asking for further information, can make a difference.

The most successful listings are those in which you can find a clear panorama picture or video, both internally and externally. Pictures taken in landscape format rather than portrait are more suitable for websites. Then, making sure that pictures are clear, with good lightning and portraying the boat in the cleanest and most organized way is crucial.

I have seen pictures of very expensive boats for sale countless times, with objects left on the kitchen shelves, purses on the couches and people standing during the shooting. That can be very, very daunting.

A very detailed and well-structured presentation gives the potential buyer a good feeling towards the boat in terms of conditions, layout both above and below deck and acts as a helpful qualifier before a personal visit that – sometimes – assumes a journey of hundreds of kilometres.

The majority of the brokers will post the boat on their social media and brokerage websites, and the privates should advertise online too. It is also worth using social media, where you can find pages and groups dedicated to the purchase and sale of boats. If you already have a consolidated presence on internet, this could make the sale much easier.

There are enthusiasts and sailors who have a YouTube channel, and when it comes the time to sell their boat they choose – successfully – to advertise it simply on their own platforms. Creating maybe a video introduction on their YouTube channel, saying that the boat is for sale and giving a link with all the boat’s information and a series of pictures on a website.

Developing and maintaining trust is vital: letting the buyer’s expert find out a flaw they did not know about before, won’t help the sale process. At worst, it may cause the buyer to withdraw; at best, they would leave the broker to rebuild the buyer’s trust.

A regular process is important for both the buyer and the seller. You must make sure that the buyer is fully and well in advance aware of eventual problems that the expertise may reveal. Try being as transparent as possible on every element that need updating or repair right from the start and keep the lines of communication open at every moment of the process.

This applies, of course, in both marketing options: even if you turn to a broker, I still recommend you to call for (impose) a full disclosure and transparency policy.

Also, check if you have the whole documentation in order, review and eventually update documents. If you receive an offer and find out a vital link in the “paper chain” is missing, it could hinder the progress of the sale.

Therefore, the general rule to seal the deal is to have three factors that combine correctly: price, position and conditions.

Your yacht should have a price broadly in line with other comparable markets. It is essential that the buyers can view your boat with a reasonable effort in terms of time and distance: if you want to sell it, you should take it on the market and not wait for the market to come.

Make sure that it is clean, dry and tidy. The money invested in its presentation is rarely wasted. If you are receiving views and not offers, it is probably because of one or more of the three conditions mentioned above.

Another important aspect is to combine the sale with your future purchase plans: planning the next navigation when not sure of when you will sell a boat is embarrassing. If you proceed with the purchase of the next boat way too soon before selling, it will put a huge pressure on you to sell your boat as quickly as possible. This is obviously a priority for those who live on boat, and the risk of being left without a boat and without a roof should not be underestimated.

If you belong to the happy ranks of digital nomads or full-time navigators, we could bypass the problem by choosing to temporarily settle where the cost of living is low, the weather is warm and maybe you can stay not too far from the sea.

Last advice is: stay patient.

Do not accept a low initial offer. If you sell the boat at a fair price, at the end it will be the price you are satisfied with.

Fair wind, see you at sea.

Renzo Crovo