How to Pick a Marine Surveyor

Know the ins and outs of that "proven" yacht, before you buy.


In this market, yacht prices are in a state of flux. Buyers may find bargains that, in the recent past, would have made them wonder what could be wrong with the boat. "Too good to be true" may have become today's good deal, but buyers still need to protect themselves. That's where surveyors come in. Marine surveyors are the industry professionals that look over boats and identify areas with problems or potential issues-things that buyers and sellers want to know about before the transaction is completed. So what are the most important things that surveyors look for? "Hidden things," laughs Tom Price of Price Marine Services [(800) 546-0928] in Hobe Sound, Florida. "When we survey boats, keep in mind that we survey what's accessible. We don't disassemble the boat, and we don't do any destructive testing." That means that surveyors are limited in their inspection to the same things you are able to look at, were you to take your boat for a sea trial and haul it out of the water. But they're tuned in on what to look for, and check out pretty much everything, from the hull structure to the engines to the electrical system to helm electronics. If a surveyor has cause for concern about the engines, he can call in a specialist. "The engines may be worn out, but they will run okay during a sea trial, thanks to products like STP or Motor Medic," says Price. "You may need a separate engine surveyor to really test the engines." Price has plenty of tales, ranging from icemakers filled with store-bought ice to pulling a spare shaft from its receptacle only to find it was just a foot long. Buying from a reputable broker helps you avoid such private-sale shenanigans. "I have my brokers suggest three or four different surveyors to a potential buyer," says Steve Gale, general manager of MarineMax in Stuart, Florida, and vice president of Hatteras Yacht sales there. "The broker can be there for the buyer, to facilitate the survey and negotiate the issues that come up with the seller." The broker knows which surveyors specialize in certain aspects of yachts. If a yacht was built overseas or has mechanical concerns, or a complex electronics array, there is a surveyor with that specific skill set. The broker can point the buyer in the right direction to get an accurate survey. A wise buyer will always have a survey done. Get references for each surveyor-and check them all. Good brokers will also encourage the seller to get a boat surveyed. "Prior to listing a boat for sale, a seller can have a survey done," says Gale. "It's a good practice to find problems and either fix them or disclose them-get it all out on the table. The seller can take care of issues and it also speeds the sales process." And when the deals are this good, that's good for everyone.

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