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Buying a boat? Here's how to navigate process

By Lorraine Graves

Published 3:56 PDT, Tue April 16, 2019

Richmond’s Mike Storey loves his new boat.

“When you get out on the water, being a Prairie guy, that moment those sails go up and you shut off the motor, it’s wonderful,” says the former Calgarian.

When he made the decision to buy a boat, his first hunt was for a good broker.

After interviewing many, Storey settled on broker Richard Hargreaves of Yacht Sales West, a B.C. Yacht Brokers Association member.

“He helped me discover what I wanted to buy,” Storey says.

For instance, Hargreaves asked Storey if he wanted a rugged boat to traverse the open ocean or one that sailed better in the lighter winds found in the Salish Sea. It turned out the best boat for Storey’s needs wasn’t actually one of Hargreaves’ listings.

Cameron Williams, an ethics committee member for the brokers association, advises anyone buying or selling a boat to turn to Google.

“Do a Google search for the broker before signing. See their reputation. Look for a company that’s been around for a while,” Williams says.

Williams says prospective buyers should ask other boaters for the names of trustworthy brokers.

“A good start is having a bricks and mortar office. We don’t offer membership to anyone without a real office,” he says. “Also, bells should go off if a broker asks you for extra fees, especially non-refundable fees, when listing or making an offer on a boat.”

He says all deposits are refundable, in full, if the deal doesn’t go through.

He also warns against brokers who say their insurance doesn’t cover certain kinds of inspections. The broker doesn’t own the boat the seller does, and they must maintain liability and boat insurance until it’s sold.

While there is no true multiple listing process for boats, there is yachtworld.com

“If it’s a fly-by-night broker who can’t afford to advertise on there, that would be a red flag as well,” says Williams.

Buyers can opt to have their own broker to help them shop, he says.

“That way you can have a broker in your corner,” says Williams. For instance, they can ask questions to spot ancient glamour shots rather than ones showing the current condition.

The seller pays the 10-per-cent commission. If there are both buyer’s and seller’s agents, Williams says, the agents usually split it 50:50.

Williams says a good broker can “explain the systems on the vessel, demonstrate the vessel in a simple manner to help you understand it, and, if acting as your buying broker, be able to ethically help through the initial paperwork and negotiating process and ensure all paperwork is done properly, which is a big one.”

The association members must all use the same thorough paperwork for all contracts.

“If you see a purchase document that looks kind of questionable, that could be a red flag. Our association’s purchase document is five pages long,” Williams says.

Storey says his broker brought him to see all kinds of boats.

“It was a really a good process. I learned a lot so made good decisions.”

For his commission on Storey’s new boat from Germany, Hargreaves helped at every stage of the way, from shipping to customs paperwork.

Association president Rom Van Stolk of Cedar Grove Marina says: “In BCYBA we handle any boat, not just yachts—typically anything bigger than a dingy.”

Both boat brokers advise buyers get a good boat survey, one to spot the structural and the mechanical issues with any boat you want to buy. Don’t rely on an older insurance survey.

Also, be sure to do a sea trial where the boat goes out for a run to see how it handles. Make sure to have someone who knows marine systems aboard.

The prospective buyer pays for any surveys, whether they end up buying the boat or not.

While it’s advisable to show it to the seller’s agent, do not give them a copy, because, Van Stolk says: “Some unethical brokers have taken the survey and Photoshopped out negative information.”

“There are some bad apples. We kicked one out last year. It was very, very clear his description of the boat he listed did not match the condition of the boat in any way,” Van Stolk says.

Williams says BCYBA is a good community.

One of the ways the community works together is the BC Boat Show, May 2 to 5 at Port Sidney Marina. This association fundraiser sees many people from Richmond and the Lower Mainland trek to see the hundreds boats of all sizes in the water as well as many marine-related businesses.

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