We are by no means experts on buying boats. We’ve had a really loose understanding of the boat buying process, Google and some serious determination! What we did was document our experience, cross our fingers that we don’t mess anything up too badly and we made out pretty well! In hopes that it may help someone else through the process, here’s our step-by-step journey through buying our boat.
STEP 0: MAKE SOME LISTS.
We planned to start with Step 1, but, quickly realized that we did ALOT of homework before getting to Step 1. Three years of homework, actually, so Step 0 was pretty important to include. Since we hatched our “get away plan” in 2016, we’ve been list making fools in regards to our boat buying dream. We made a list of our needs, wants and dealbreakers when it comes to boat preferences. We made a list of boats that we’ve researched online and either kept on our radar or nixed. We made a list to track how much money we’ve saved that’s earmarked for purchasing our boat. We even bit the bullet, sat down and made a list of yearly goals that would get us to our end goal of sailing away. All of these lists are works in progress, constantly under construction and regularly updated as things change for us. And these lists have been INVALUABLE so far. With so many irons in so many fires, it’s been hugely important for us to keep things written down and organized in a way that’s quick and easy to access from anywhere when we need to refer to them. “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail,” right?!
At the beginning, we also started to contemplate and put together at least some type of preliminary answer to five really important questions that would have large bearing on our boat buying experience.
Who will be using the boat most of the time? How many guests do we anticipate having at any given time? How much storage space do we really need? What size boat are we looking for?
Where are we planning to take our boat? Rivers, lakes and bays? The ocean? Crossing the ocean?! Are we looking for a protected-water boat, a coastal cruising boat or a blue water boat?
Are we planning on living on the boat at a marina, connected to shore power? Are we planning spend the majority of our time “on the hook”? How will we use the boat?
What type of boat best fits our intended use and budget? Do we want to be able to get around quickly (but at significant financial cost) or are we okay with a slower go (with a significantly less financial impact)? Are we looking for a powerboat or a sailboat?
What’s a good average price to assume for initial purchase price, maintenance, insurance, registration fees, fuel and dockage? What does our budget look like and how much do we want to spend?
STEP 1: CONDUCT RECONNAISSANCE.
That’s right…conduct exploration to gain information! Just so we’re clear, we’re conducting recon, not espionage, so no need to sneak around, hide out or put on blackface. Go to boat shows to get a lay of the land. (We went to TrawlerFest in 2016, the US Power Boat Show in 2016, the US Sailboat Show in 2017 and the US Sailboat Show again in 2018.) Board boats and take a tour. Talk to as many different people on as many different boats as you can. Walk docks at marinas to check things out (and see what’s for sale!). Drive through boatyards, see what’s happening and what boats are stored there. Scour the internet to gain additional information like photos, video walk-throughs of boats on YouTube and owner’s forum posts. Use the information you find to update and adjust the lists that you’ve started in Step 0 and begin to firm up the answers to the five big questions.
STEP 2: FIND A BROKER.
While using a broker may not be everyone’s preference, we wanted someone that would be able to answer all our questions throughout our first boat buying experience. A few years ago, we were at the Annapolis Boat Show, conducting reconnaissance (Step 1, remember?) and drooling over a Hunter 38. The selling broker was on the boat and, despite our clear inability to buy the boat, the broker spent time with us, just hanging out and chatting on a warm, sunshiney day. We took one of his cards and kept it, stuck on the side of our refrigerator, for years. Fast forward a few years and he was the one we called when we were ready to start boat shopping. We felt at ease talking with him years ago and felt just as good when we reached out to him to see if he would be willing to help us find our boat. Introducing Knot 10 Yacht Sales broker Spencer Kent!
STEP 3: SHARE YOUR PLANS.
Come prepared with answers to questions in Step 0, as well as your lists of needs, wants, dealbreakers, and have an open and honest conversation with your broker. The best way to ensure that your broker helps you the best that they can is to be completely honest about what you’re trying to do. Crazy, half-baked scheme or not. Be brutally honest! I was a bit anxious to tell Spencer that we were planning to sell everything, quit our jobs and move onto a boat. But, much to my surprise, Spencer didn’t seem at all shocked or concerned about our plan. Instead, Spencer immediately began tossing out ideas and support. I had to do a bit of a reality check because most people think it’s a cool plan but are quite concerned about how we’re going to make it work. Spencer was not one of them. Chalk it up to Spencer just wanting to sell boats, or that Spencer really wasn’t phased by our master scheme, I’m not sure. Either way, Spencer was all in from day one!
STEP 4: GO BOAT SHOPPING.
Get with your broker to develop a list of boats you’d like to get on and check out. This was really important because we got to check things out at our own pace, without a bunch of other people also trying to check things out. We carved out two days with our broker to spend all day checking out boats and we’re glad we did! Boat Shopping Day 1 for us helped us make some serious decisions about what we actually wanted. Boat Shopping Day 2 really sealed the deal for us between what we wanted, what our budget was and how much work we wanted to put into our prospective new boat. We were blessed to have found “the one” during Boat Shopping Day 1, but, if we wouldn’t have, we would have set up more boat shopping dates with Spencer to check out more options until we found “the one,” no matter how long that may have taken.
STEP 5: DEBRIEF.
We found it to be really helpful to quickly write down some thoughts immediately after we got off each of the boats we looked at. Things we liked, things we didn’t like, things that were concerns. Debriefing helped us hone our search and keep our list of prospective boats in check. We kept a running list of the boats we saw and our reflections. And we talked about it. A LOT. What were the pros and cons? How much work would be involved? How much did we like this boat compared to others that we’ve seen? We were constantly evaluating and judging every boat we had been on. And we found it super helpful to write things down to keep them straight.
STEP 6: MAKE YOUR PICK.
Make a decision about what you want. Weigh the pros and cons. Double check the finances. Make sure to consider any cost of moving the boat from where it is to where it needs to be. Check out cost of insurance, registration, dockage, fuel, etc. and make sure all are well within your financial comfort zone. We crunched the numbers again and again, just making sure that we didn’t miss something that may surprise us down the road. Once we were confident, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s buy the damn boat! Wait, are we really getting ready to FINALLY buy the damn boat?!”
STEP 7: SUBMIT THE OFFER.
Let your broker know that you’ve found “the one” and would like to make her yours. Our broker pulled some historical sales data for boats similar to ours and worked with us to determine what a reasonable offer looked like. This is where we found Spencer’s experience and knowledge exceptionally helpful. While we didn’t want to submit a dirtball low, offensive offer to the owner, we did want to get the price down some in order to be able to more comfortably afford some of the upgrades we’d like to make. We really didn’t know what might be considered an offensive offer to the seller, we just knew we didn’t want to make that mistake. Spencer was fantastic help with nailing down what he felt was an appropriate offer, given historical sales data and the specific boat we were interested in purchasing. Once we were confident with the price of our offer, our broker sent us the offer to review and sign electronically. Once we signed our life away (and took a huge, anxious breath!), Spencer contacted the seller (or in our case, the seller’s broker) with our offer.
STEP 8: WAIT FOR THE RESPONSE.
Our offer provided the sellers with a window of time (until the close of business the next day) to consider and respond to the offer. Just knowing that it make take a whole day to find out the response was enough to give me anxiety! But, lucky for us, the response came only a few short hours after we had submitted the offer. The seller had returned a counteroffer. Since we had already discussed our maximum price with our broker, he was able to respond, right away, on our behalf. The seller’s counteroffer was only $5,000 more than our original offer so that made things pretty simple for us to say “yes” to the seller’s counteroffer.
STEP 9: SIGN THE CONTRACT.
With a few clicks of a computer mouse, we signed the contract that included the offer both parties have agreed upon and we were officially “under contract” with the seller regarding our new-to-us boat! At this point, we were given the anticipated closing date of approximately 30 days from the date we signed the contract. While 30 days seemed like a long time, there was much to do in those 30 days! Here’s a little more commentary about making the offer and signing the contract, if you’re interested.
STEP 10: PROVIDE THE DEPOSIT.
Immediately following the signing of the contract, we needed to provide the deposit for the boat. For us, this meant setting up a wire transfer from our high-yield savings account to our broker’s escrow account, to be held in escrow until closing. For us, this amount was 10% of the contract amount. The wire transfer cost us a fee of $20 and was completed the very next business day.
After this step, things ramped up to SUPER speed! We were a bit unprepared for the pace at which things would begin happening and need to be taken care of. We’re a pretty efficient couple, but, we found ourselves spinning a bit by everything that needed done pretty quickly. We asked our broker for recommendations for a loan broker, an insurance broker and a surveyor so that we’d at least be reaching out to people that our broker knew and had relationships with.
STEP 11: APPLY FOR A LOAN.
After receiving the recommendation from our broker, applying for a loan was a pretty simple phone call and a pretty simple loan application to complete and submit. At the recommendation of our broker, we used Harris Marine Financing for our financing and the ladies there (Lisa and Robin) were FANTASTIC to work with! The application process was a super simple, two page form that we completed and sent back via e-mail. Approval was given in less than 24 hours after we applied and we learned that we had successfully secured a loan with an interest rate of 5.62% for 15 years, with 20% down and pretty good credit scores.
STEP 12: SCHEDULE SURVEY & SEA TRIAL.
After receiving the recommendation from our broker, scheduling a survey and sea trial was a pretty simple phone call. The complicated part came in when we tried to coordinate everyone’s schedules, between three states, to connect the dots on the survey and sea trial, in the middle of the week. Our broker recommended Alan Gaidelis with Bayside Marine Surveying, Inc. and after a few phone calls, we were set to pay Alan $1250 for the survey which would occur just a few days later.
Don’t forget to start talking about what your plan will be after the survey and sea trial! If the boat was stored on the hard and put in the water for the survey and sea trial, are you going to plan to let it in the water after those things are done? Or, are you going to plan to have it pulled back out and stored? Either way, if you’re planning to keep it at it’s current marina, you will need to (at some point) make arrangements with the marina about what needs to happen after the survey and sea trial.
STEP 13: DECIDE ON A BOAT NAME.
Part of Knot 10 Yacht Sales services included registering our new boat with the US Coast Guard. But, to be able to do that, we had to be able to provide the name that we intended to give the boat, which we hadn’t decided on. We had been kicking around a few ideas, but, hadn’t committed to anything, thinking we might just wait and see what kind of feeling we got from the boat to help us pick her name. What we didn’t realize was that we had to provide the name BEFORE we actually took possession of the boat (and after only having been on her once). We weren’t quite prepared for having to pick a name so quickly, but, after a few hours of batting around ideas, we came up with the perfect name!
STEP 14: DECIDE ON A HAILING PORT.
Part of getting the boat registered with the US Coast Guard was declaring a hailing port, which we also weren’t prepared to do. Again, we had discussed it but hadn’t come up with a solid answer. So, when we had to provide an answer pretty directly, we got down to it and made a decision pretty quickly. We decided that although we’ve both been “from” a number of different locations, the place that we’re “from” together is where our home currently is, in Marysville, PA. While we wanted to declare the whole, backwards, ridiculous county as our hailing port, we figured if we actually met anyone from Marysville, PA, they’d already know that everyone in our county just describes where they live by the county name.
STEP 15: SUBMIT DOCUMENTS FOR CLOSING.
This step was pretty easy, as it only required providing copies of identifications, a completed information sheet with information about the financing company, ourselves for the title and registration and the US Coast Guard documentation. A quick e-mail crossed this one off our list.
STEP 16: COMPLETE SURVEY AND SEA TRIAL.
We had scheduled the survey and sea trial with Alan Gaidelis with Bayside Marine Surveying, Inc. for the next available time Alan could fit us in. That just so happened to be a Tuesday, in Deltaville, VA, 5 hours away from home. We took the day off work in order to be present for both the survey and the sea trial and were really happy we did! The survey and sea trial cost us $1,250 but we feel like it was worth every penny, as it provided a solid piece of mind about the big purchase we were preparing to make.
STEP 17: REVIEW SURVEY REPORT.
Less than two days after the extensive survey and sea trial, we received the official, 23-page survey report from Alan, via e-mail. We waded through every line on every page as soon as we received the report, just to make sure we hadn’t overlooked something or missed something Alan pointed out. The report was just as we expected it, with the issues and concerns that we had discussed on the day of the survey clearly called out. Satisfied that we hadn’t missed anything Alan said during the survey, we agreed that we wanted to move forward with the purchase.
At this point, we spoke with our broker and decided that we would go back to the seller and request and adjustment of the purchase price as a result of some of the items found in the survey. Nothing was a dealbreaker for us, but, we figured it was worth a try to get some financial assistance from the seller in correcting some of the minor problem areas that were clearly documented in Alan’s survey. Ultimately, the seller agreed to a $1,500 adjustment in our favor in regards to the purchase price.
STEP 18: SECURE A SLIP.
Once we knew that we were going to move ahead with closing on our new-to-us boat, it was time to find a home for her. We had already done some research on the area we wanted to keep her (for at least the foreseeable future) and the marinas in the area. The marina research was pretty lengthy, considering the fact that we were getting ready to make a year-long commitment to whichever marina we chose. After making our final selection, we called the marina and made arrangements to secure a slip that would accommodate our boat. It was a pretty simple process and handled entirely over the phone, including the payment. We wrote an entire post about picking the right marina that’s available via the linked image below.
STEP 19: SECURE INSURANCE.
After securing our slip at the marina, our next mission was to secure insurance for our boat. We wanted to ensure that the boat was covered, by our own insurance, as soon as we had closed on the boat, just in case. We thought securing the insurance was going to be a quick, online exercise and we were VERY wrong about that. While the initial quote for the insurance premium was a quick online form with an instant response, the process of obtaining the insurance binder took a considerable amount of back and forth. We chose to go with Geico BoatUS for insurance and they were absolutely fantastic to deal with. But, we ended up having to submit our survey (which was fine, but we’re really thankful we chose to get one or we’d be in serious trouble!) and a written list of how and when the issues identified in our survey would be rectified. We were pleased to find that our yearly insurance premium only came to $1,200, which included our BoatUS membership. After receiving our insurance binder and temporary insurance cards, we submitted them to our broker as our final piece of documentation necessary to get closed on our boat.
STEP 20: GO TO CLOSING.
We expected closing on our boat to be very similar to closing on a house – a handful of people go into a room and sit down for a few hours to sign a couple hundred documents. Much to our surprise (and delight!), closing on our boat was nothing like closing on a house. In fact, we really didn’t do anything when it came to closing. Closing was really about the brokers on both sides of the transaction getting their documents in order and finalized. We’re not really sure about what happened behind the scenes when it came to “closing,” but, it took some time and patience on our end. We got a phone call at 5pm on a Friday evening to let us know we were the new owner’s of our boat. Just like that…the entire process of buying a boat culminated in a 30-second phone call. A bit anticlimactic, but, a huge sigh of relief and a whole lot of excitement!
STEP 21: TAKE POSSESSION OF THE BOAT.
Step 21. Take possession of the boat. Somewhere we had often dreamed of, but were in a bit of disbelief when it actually came to be. We packed our bags immediately after getting the final “she’s all yours” phone call and headed to step on our boat for the first time. Check out the linked image below for the experience.