How not to buy a yacht
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
10 things we wish we knew before buying our sailboat...
We want you all to learn from our mistakes and clever discoveries, and as well give you some gems that we uncovered in our 12 months of laborious research into how to nail this operation.
1. If you’re Australian – get the hell out of Australia
You can expect to pay 40-60% more for the same boat in Australia compared to anywhere else in the world. So it's a good little hack to purchase in Europe and bring her back to Australia and pretty much cover your travel expenses in the re-sale.
We picked Croatia because:
There is such a wide selection of boats to choose from
It's easy to get around as it's not too big a place. Car hire is delightfully cheap.
It's positioned deep in the Med, so when we set off on our trip, we've pretty much got the whole Med at our feet and can stop off at some pretty rad places on our way to the Atlantic.
2. Don’t go to Europe in May
We were complete piffling fools thinking we could arrogantly stroll into Croatia and buy a yacht at the start of summer. We got super lucky and did manage to find one, but it didn't need to be that hard. We saw 13 yachts in total and 12 of them were wretched. And the one we did buy had a broken rudder.
Sellers normarily put their boats up for sale at the end of summer (October), when all the fun has been had and their ready to get rid. If they haven't managed to sell by Spring ( April), they will start accepting charter bookings for the summer and take her off the market. This means you'll generally be left with all the dregs after the October to April window. April to July is a great time to be a seller; buyers will definitely have less power at this time.
3. Expect the Unexpected
That lovely plan you’ve made and that oh so marvellous colour coded spreadsheet you’ve been decorating for the past month, for all the good that’s worth you may as well wipe your bum with it. Brokers will surprise you so try and be cool about a few changes to the plan and don't get too attached to any boats on your prospect list until they're there right in front of you.
It's all part of the fun and if you embrace this part of the process you'll come up roses.
4. Love all, trust few
'Other' countries are likely to have less stringent laws than the country you are from. Croatia and Australia are certainly worlds apart in this department. You can get really royally screwed and lose all your money so it’s really worth doing all your due diligence and enlisting others to help you with this too. Read this story of a guy who learnt it the hard way when he was brutally tricked in Croatia.
We got pretty lucky with the Surveyor we found and he made sure everything was above board in this department. Before we found him, we had planned to pay a solicitor to check all this for us.
5. Ask lots of clever people, lots of stupid questions
We would not have been able to do this without two friends we were lucky to have back in Australia who were basically our lifeline throughout the whole process. Big thanks to Rod Waterhouse from David Bray Yachts who, as a boat broker himself, told us what to look out for and how to best negotiate. He also advised us on re-saleabilty on all the boats we looked at and saved us from making some really silly mistakes. Getting advice from someone local who can tell you what is popular in your local market really helps. Learning stuff like the fact that a teak deck devalues your boat by $10,000 AUD and that 40-42ft was the size sweet spot for re-sale back into the Sydney market.
We were also lucky enough to have Dave Holmes from Holmes Marine Surveying helping us with what to look out for in a good surveyor, and also cross-checking our surveyor's work to an Australian standard.
Sailing forums! Oh how we love the sailing community, everyone is so helpful. We double checked e-ve-ry-thing with other peoples' oppinions. We even cross-checked our surveyor on the forums to see if he had a good rep among users. Our faves are:
6. Use your own eyes
We definitely recommend physically going out and seeing the boat as there are things a photo can’t convey, such as stinky toilets, daggy upholstery and headroom.
It’s also 80% about the vibe too. We saw some boats that were bloomin’ marvellous on paper, but we still wanted to run out of there screaming. I’ll never forget the first time we met Avalon. She was ‘just as good’ as other boats on paper and price, but she sung to us in ways we can’t explain and occupied our minds more than pizza.
7. Don’t rush the sale; and if you are in a rush, act cool in front of the seller
If they know you’re in a hurry to get this closed, they’ve got you by the balls. Making out that you’ve got all the time in the world passes the pressure back onto the owner and they’ll more readily negotiate with you to get rid of the boat faster.
8. Don’t have too small a budget.
We love a bargain as much as the next person, but for flips sake this is your safety and possibly your entire savings you’re playing around with here. Ocean crossings are no joke; make sure you’re getting something that’s going to withstand the adversity. This includes replacing the rigging – if the rigging on the boat is more than 10 years old, rip it out and start again.
I'm happy to accept some people manage to pull this off by spending only $2 on a boat, but as a general guide I would use 45,000 EUR as a minimum baseline spend on your vessel.
If you’re not planning a crossing, I would still maintain this statement as skimping on quality at the start will set you back along the way. Don’t spend your whole experience fixing a falling apart boat. Get a goodie so you can spend more time chasing dolphins.
9. Negotiate the bejeesus out of her
We felt pretty damn cheeky going in at 20% less than the asking price with Avalon. Our broker back in Australia dropped his BBQ tongs when we told him we did that. Then to our bedazzlement, the offer that came back to us wasn’t too far off this… Then we kept going and kept going. In the end it came down to fighting for an extra 1,000 Euros but to us, that money was going to go really far in setting our girl up for global sailing so we had no shame in doing it.
Negotiation isn’t limited to the price itself. Make sure you put forward a list of conditions included in the sale when you send through your offer – things like include all the kitchen equipment, safety gear and a full tank of diesel.
10. Stop dreaming; start doing
Don’t doubt yourself for one second. If you really want to do this you can. Less than two years ago we were just two dudes in our twenties dribbling over the idea of doing this… Then we snapped out of our daydream and pulled together a savings plan and worked out it was actually within our reach. And no, we are not trust fund kids who got a leg up from mum and dad; and by no means did we earn ‘da big bucks’ in our jobs; we just reeeeally wanted to do it so we found a way. I’m not going to say it was easy because it was bloody hard; but when the hard work pays off it makes it all worth it.
We look forward to seeing you out there on your dream boat.