How to Scare Off Boat Buyers

old boat under tarp

Who knows what lurks under that tarp — classic, derelict, or something in between? As a seller, you have to be straightforward in your description and realistic about price.

Maybe it’s the white beard and sunburnt face that encourages people to ask my opinion about boats they are interested in buying. I prefer to think it has been my seagoing experience and myriad jobs in the marine industry that make me qualified. Obviously, I’ve never been bashful about expressing my opinion. I believe there are infinite matches of boats with owners depending on what they want to do and where they want to sail. Whatever the reasons, I have had very few occasions to pan a boat, especially given my attitude that almost any boat can be fixed.

So, I was somewhat surprised to get a call this week from a frustrated and angry owner who tracked me down late one night to express his unhappiness that I had cost him a sale. He claimed that I had written an article, Black Fin in the Rough, that scared away a prospective buyer.

I asked him if he’d actually read the article, which was about the value and work involved with buying a boat neglected for years on the hard, and meant to be a cautionary tale for used boat buyers who could easily bite off more than they bargained for. He admitted that he hadn’t read the article, but spouted “quotes” from the prospective buyer who had read my piece. It turns out that the current owner found a local boatyard to take the boat, clean it, get the engines running without any up-front cost to him, then broker the boat.

I have no idea what was said between the parties, but suffice it to say, someone who was about to buy was suddenly turned off when the history of the boat was revealed. Truth be told, this is the second time someone walked away when I inadvertently revealed the background and maintenance history of a boat. I didn’t do it maliciously, but it is pretty certain that if you are selling a boat, one sure way to kill a deal and scare off that prospective buyer is to misrepresent or not fully disclose what you’re selling. The Blackfin 32 is a good ocean boat, and if a professional yard went through it completely and got those Cat diesel 3208s purring like kittens, it is probably worth 50K. But buyers beware — we have no lemon laws or CarFax equivilents in our industry, which is why most people hire professional marine surveyors before consummating any deal. There are legitimate reasons why people get scared off.

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