Used Yacht Buying Guide and Tips

What to look for, and avoid, when buying a used yacht

In some ways, the idea of buying a fixer-upper or a used yacht makes perfect sense. You end up with just the boat you want: a yacht with good bones and some history to it, but finished to your tastes and needs. Because of the boat's condition, you pay a bit less up front. Instead, your investment comes as you put your own stamp on her, getting to know the boat intimately over the course of the refit. Consider the possibilities and repercussions of a used yacht before you begin your boat search, lest you get all heated up at the sight of her. Here are four points to consider:

Spending Time: Plenty of boats on the market right now have motivated sellers. That motivation to sell a used yacht can work against you, though. "The buyers are in the driver's seat unless the people that own the boat are upside- down," says Jeff Oliver, a broker with Yacht Direct. "Boats have dropped in value so much, the owners can't sell even if they wanted to because they'd have to come to the table with $200,000 or $300,000 to sell their boat." Here's where the fixer-upper comes in. A used yacht of a certain age kept in a certain condition is probably owned free and clear — no loans or strings attached.

Search and Research: Be honest with your broker about what you're looking for. "There are definitely some attractively priced boats out there, so your initial cost will be more attractive than in better times," says John Osetek, a broker for David Walters Yachts in Newport, Rhode Island (www.davidwaltersyachts.com). "That said, you still have to do the same due diligence in estimating the cost of the rehab. A consideration should be how much of the refurbishing you can do yourself and how much you are going to sub out." Good brokers will know trustworthy surveyors and mechanics to help you sort out what's needed.
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Scoping the Project:** Decisions will also need to be made while the used yacht is in the yard. The key to controlling costs is to make decisions before the boat goes on the hard. "When you go to fix these boats up, you get a case of what's called the_ might as wells_," Oliver says. "They pull things apart and they find other issues. What you thought was going to be, let's say, $50,000 to redo the galley and put in stainless appliances and maybe some nicer countertops begins to take on a life of its own. Then you end up with 'Well you're in the yard and your electronics are kind of old, and you have some blisters on the bottom so ...' What was going to be $50,000 has now turned into $150,000."

Even if you stick to your plan, you probably won’t recoup your investment, but dividends from your used yacht come in other ways. “You will have a nice boat,” Oliver says. “And if you do sell, yours will be at the top of the list.”

The Final Condition: Choosing the yard and determining the level of work has another aspect — and more questions. "Another consideration is the finish level you are shooting for," Osetek says. "I have some clients who would only be happy with a museum piece, while others are content with simply a functional yacht. Time and expense will be affected accordingly." The best route? Call your broker to discuss your needs. The sooner you begin, the sooner the boat will be ready to enjoy.

Editor's Pick: Minnie Kay III is a 2005 Sea Ray 55 sedan bridge with updated electronics. Contact Jeff Oliver with YachtDirect at 954-303-4525.

Summer of 68: Check out Borealis, a 1988 Hatteras 68 motoryacht with a spacious layout. An updated interior includes three staterooms, headliner lighting and new cabinetry, a leather settee and a custom-built bar for entertaining. Contact Jeff Oliver with YachtDirect at 954-303-4525.

Divine Intervention: Divine is a Cruisers 560 Express built in 2006. Loaded with options, she's ready to welcome owners and guests to her versatile two-stateroom layout. Please contact Jeff Oliver with YachtDirect at 954-303-4525.

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Champ at the Bit: Elysian is an 84-foot Bowman schooner built in 1982, refi t in 2004, and ready to cruise. Contact John Osetek at David Walters Yachts at 401- 465-8634 or visit www.davidwaltersyachts.com.