Project Makes Perfect?

A fixer-upper may be more boat than you thought you could afford. Just be sure you don't get more than you bargained for.


These interesting times have created all manner of opportunity for yacht owners looking to upgrade or make a change. As prices fluctuate and deals loom, the temptation may arise to buy a larger boat than you originally planned. As you are drawn down the docks to the larger yachts, but stay south of your spending limit, you may find yourself looking at a fixer-upper.

"A fixer-upper boat can allow a potential buyer the opportunity to get into a larger boat," says Rex Bettis, vice president of J. Bettis & Co. Yacht Sales in Seabrook, Texas. "He can upgrade the boat and just do a little work on it as his finances allow." As with most deals, money is the clincher.

"They don't have the resources to buy a more expensive boat-and they want more boat," agrees Jeff Erdmann, president of Bollman Yachts in Ft. Lauderdale. "So what they do is they fix it up over a period of time and it's sort of an indirect way of financing more boat over that time."

Fixer-uppers skirt categorization because there is such a range of quality available- and a variety of potential problems. One boat may need an interior refit or an electronics upgrade, while another could have engine problems or structural issues requiring professional help. What should you expect from this possible punch list? Follow the money.

"Whatever you think it's going to cost to fix that boat up, you can practically double it," says Chet Hartshorn, a broker with Little Harbor Yacht Brokers in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. "That's a good rule of thumb; use that formula and then you won't be shocked." Such calculations would not seem to make economic sense, unless the upfront price of the yacht was very low. And people often seek that deal, even to their detriment.

"Right after hurricanes we would get people calling us regularly saying they wanted to buy a boat that has damage and they imagined a highly discounted price," says Erdmann. "In many cases these boats have been sunk or there's severe damage to the boat. They were hoping for one that needed a paint job, that maybe had a few bent stanchions and a few scratches or breaks in the teak trim, and that they could buy that boat for 50 cents on the dollar and fix it up and be further ahead. But if they're really damaged in the hurricane, they may have holes in them or have sunk entirely or have severe structural damage." While not all fixer-uppers are that bad, they do generally have one thing in common.

"I doubt there's hardly ever less work needed than you thought," says Bettis. "There's always something else. Once you start digging in and find something you might say 'I'm already here replacing this turbocharger, I'd better go ahead and pull it off and rebuild the heads while I'm in there.'" And it's even more work if you want to do it right.

But get the lowdown before you decide. "If you're really considering it, find someone that has done it in your area," suggests Hartshorn. "Find out the obstacles they ran into and find out if they would do it again."

Then compare your situation to that one, and decide if you have the stomach, the will, and the resources to buy a fixer-upper.

J. Bettis & Co. Yacht Sales, ****

Bollman Yachts, ****

Little Harbor Yacht Brokers, ****

Editor's Picks

| | |

Classic Cruiser: Built in 1968, Sea Ho II is a 68-foot lantana expedition yacht designed by Hargrave. Powered by a single 225-horse diesel, the aluminumhulled yacht has a huge covered aft deck, two staterooms, and crew quarters. contact J. Bettis & co. Yacht sales at (281) 326-3333 or

| | |

Wind at Your Back: Spray is a 63-foot little Harbor built for performance cruising with a luxurious interior. the boat can be sailed shorthanded and has new teak decks and a new 20 kw generator. contact little Harbor Yacht Brokers at (401) 683-7000 or


| | |

Lady in Waiting: Lady Diana is an 86-foot Hatteras enclosed-bridge convertible built in 2001. this interesting layout is ready to cruise and fish, with an on-deck galley, spacious cockpit, and three staterooms. contact Bollman Yachts at (954) 761-1122 or