Price Assessment: How Boat Brokers and Surveyors can Help

Most people would prefer to sell their boats without a broker and not have to pay the broker’s fee. For smaller boats, less expensive boats, and common makes and models, it’s possible to zero in on pricing using resources like the NADA Guides. But for larger, more expensive boats that may be powered and equipped differently from one hull to another, it’s a different story. If we all had the time and expertise to manage the pricing, marketing, and paperwork involved in selling a boat, brokers would be in short demand.

marine surveyor
There are good reasons for commissioning an owner’s survey. You can demonstrate condition and value to a prospective buyer as well as use it as a basis for adjusting value for insurance coverage if the boat doesn’t sell.

So, let’s suppose you already have a potential buyer for your boat and what you want is a way to come to a fair price – one that eliminates your emotional high price tag and your prospective buyer’s attempts to get a below market value.

You probably don’t have the time or the tools to evaluate the marketplace as well as a broker. And even if you do, the other party may still think your number is biased. One solution is to hire a broker for a price assessment only.

boat broker
Some brokers will help establish price without actually brokering the deal.

I know a few brokers in the industry, and none of them charges me when I call for a price range on a particular boat. Pricing is something they routinely do, and they have the recent sales data at their fingertips. Even so, the range can be pretty wide depending on condition and the equipment found on a particular boat. Prices are based on comparable listings of recent sales by make, model, and year. If you don’t have a broker friend who will look things up for you, you might offer to pay for this info.

I ran into just such a case this past week. An owner of an offshore passagemaker, a Hylas 49 sailboat, was showing the boat to prospective buyers. The buyers were pushing for a lower price because the boat was not equipped with a life raft, watermaker, and a few other desirable features they felt were essential on boats of this type. The owner bought the boat ten years ago (when the market was higher) and had strong feelings about how well the vessel was maintained, as well as a personal knowledge of how much time, money, and effort that took.

The solution was twofold: hire (or befriend) a broker who can provide the comparables and then hire a surveyor to assess physical condition and provide a written report. Armed with the pricing range versus similarly equipped boats, along with a condition statement, you as the owner have pretty powerful proof that your price is fair. I know that owners don’t usually pay for surveys or other info, but for short money you can avoid the broker’s fee and convince your would-be buyer they’re getting a fair deal.

It may even lead to peace of mind for you if you are unsure of the market and anxious to sell the boat quickly without a broker—at a fair price. The owner in possession of a surveyor’s condition report is also privy to  previously unknown problems, and when price negotiations are delicate s/he is prepared with a just price to make the transaction happen.


Written by: Peter d'Anjou

A USCG licensed captain and former merchant mariner, Peter d'Anjou is now a freelance writer and editor. A one-time executive editor at Sailing World magazine, he writes about his passion for racing and boating. Having managed a large yacht repair facility in the NE U.S. his background in boat construction and repair translate to the practical side of boat ownership.