Be A Boat-Show Pro

Take a lesson from Miami and make like a broker to find your next boat at a boat show.

Be a Boat-Show Pro

The Yacht and Brokerage Show at Miami Beach creates opportunities for boat buyers — all those boats in one handy spot, at a time of year when South Florida is hard to beat. But the show can be much more complicated than that if you’re really trying to buy while there. Brokers understand how to work a show — they have a lot to accomplish in those few days. Learn to see like a broker and you may come home with more than a midwinter suntan. Here are three ways to be more savvy at the boat show:

Know the Show: It's best to hit the ground running and see what's there — don't spend all day searching for a boat that didn't get there. "Buyers do their homework in terms of finding the lay of the land, going to www.showmanagement.com, and mapping their choices of boats," says John Booysen, a broker with Ocean Alexander (www.oceanalexander.com). "They also follow up with brokers and ask us what boats are going to be there."

Phil Annunziato, a seasoned broker with Luke Brown Yachts (www.lukebrown.com) agrees. "I review what's supposed to be in the show and get prepared beforehand," he says. "But once there, I avail myself of the list from Yacht Council, for instance, of what's actually there. And as vast as that show is, I still walk it." There may be late entries that turn into delightful surprises.

See Them Early: The key is to establish real targets from the list you've narrowed from your Internet research. If you're able to get on those boats on the first day, or on the first morning, you'll know if they're worth pursuing further. Even better, you may be able to eliminate a few things from contention, effectively narrowing your list and sharpening your focus. "Before the show starts I'll get on a lot of boats," Annunziato says. "I do this before the crowds get there and I get on everything that I have a client interested in, or that is in the niche market that I deal with." That research lets him make connections throughout the show between clients — and potential clients — and boats on site.

Watch and Learn: Brokers spend their days looking at and talking about boats. "An educated broker will sit down with the client and think past the sale and how the client is going to use the boat," says Joel Davidson, a broker with Outer Reef Yachts (www.outerreefyachts.com). "They can help the client figure out how much time they're going to spend on board, what their cruising parameters are, how many guests they might have, what their time frame is. Is this a three- or a five-year plan, and what is their escape strategy?" Certain yachts retain their value, and brokers can provide that information for you. Why not enlist the professionals?

Watch the brokers — they gather information. “The clients teach you as much as you teach them sometimes,” Annunziato says. “You have to listen to the clients and they will educate you — not just about themselves — you get a chance to see a boat through a buyer’s eyes, not a broker’s eyes. One example: Looking at a boat with somebody, I had seen it one way for them. They didn’t see it that way at all — they saw it another way, which didn’t work for them. But it triggered something for me, for another client. It gave me new insight and a different look at the boat.”

Good brokers use the information and insight to try to match clients with boats. You may find the right boat on your own. But perhaps you could improve the odds, with the help of a broker.