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This is no time to stand pat. The upcoming boat shows may be the best time to buy ever.

September 16, 2009

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As unpredictable as market conditions have been for yacht owners lately, boat shows still present excellent opportunities to find good value. Brokers understand this-both those selling and those helping buyers. The shows are when deals happen, and in these dark times-brightening, but still shady enough to say “dark”-players in the market jump at opportunities because they’re worried lightning won’t strike twice. Understand what is going through the minds of the buyers and sellers at boat shows and you’ll be equipped when you find the boat you want.

“Basically if you’ve got [a boat for sale] in the boat show, and you’ve spent the money to put it in that show, this is your big chance,” says Jim McLaren of Orange Coast Yachts (www.orangecoastyachts.com) in Newport Beach, California. “If you get an offer in the boat show, generally speaking, an owner will give it incredible amounts of interest and consideration.” An offer at the show may be both expected and unexpected. It’s expected because that’s what we’re all there for. But it could be unexpected because there are so many boats, and so many people, that an actual offer may come later, after a call, after another look, after things calm down a bit.

“As a seller you’ve gotten someone to look at your boat but you have a lot of competition sitting next to you,” says McLaren. “One way to look at it is that an owner knows that there are a lot of other boats there that that guy can be buying and he’s talking to you.” Certain boats will stand out at a show-you’ll know them when you see them, because comparison is so simple.

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“If you go to a boat show with certain criteria in mind and you have some focus, you can get a lot out of it,” says Jon Knowles of East Coast Yacht Sales (www.ecys.com) in Yarmouth, Maine. “Concentrate on the style and size of the boat and look at five, six, seven boats-you get to see a number of boats in one place without traveling.” But beyond convenience, the boat show offers a distilled picture of the boat market. Whether you’re buying or selling, you owe it to yourself to see what’s going on.

“My feeling is that about 70 percent of people at a new boat show are used-boat buyers and 30 percent of them are newboat buyers or are not buyers at all,” says Knowles. “We sell new boats at boat shows, but the majority of people go to the show to get ideas and look at boats…they are really used-boat buyers.” And you can bet most of them have done their research.

There’s no shortage of homework these days. “The Internet has allowed [buyers] to save a lot of time in shopping and traveling,” says Bill Walczak of Walczak Yacht Brokerage Service (www.walczakyacht.com) in Annapolis, Maryland. “And the list of what’s going to be at the show, both new and brokerage boats, is published well ahead of time.” Save time by knowing what’s going to be there, and then you’ll be ready if you happen upon the boat of your dreams.

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“We treat everybody as if they’re wearing a backpack full of cash,” says Walczak. “They have to prove to me they’re not going to buy that boat before we let them out. We engage them as if they’re there to buy it.” And if the homework is done, and the deal is right, the boat show is as good a place as any to make that offer.

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