Boat Buying Part 6 The Marine Survey

Boat on Lift for SurveyIn our continuing discussion on used boat buying I’ll assume that you’ve found that next potential boat, you’ve negotiated with the broker or seller and have contracted the services of a marine surveyor. Now the next step is the actual survey itself.

If the boat is on the hard things are somewhat simplified meaning that a haul out does not need to be scheduled and that the boat has likely been out of the water for some time, meaning that all below waterline areas have had time to dry out. This will make the taking of moisture readings much easier for the surveyor.

If the boat in at the dock then a haul out needs to be scheduled and co-ordinated with the surveyor. If it’s in a busy season, the yard will probably not want the lift tied up so an hour or so is all that you may get. This means that if the boat’s bottom has multiple layers of bottom paint the moisture readings will no doubt be in the elevated ranges. This can sometimes be a bit misleading but any competent surveyor should be able to easily get a read on the condition of the hull as it dries out. If there’s a breeze this should happen fairly quickly.Dirty Transom

If the bottom has any amount of bottom growth (which it probably has) then it will need to be pressure washed. It needs to be clean for the inspection. All yards do this routinely as part of the fall haul out process so it should not be an issue. There will be an extra charge however. Bear in mind that that only the below waterline areas and equipment, hull topsides and transom require an out of water inspection and the remainder is easily performed in the water so an hour or so on the lift should suffice.

The next question is should the mast be up or down. Of course down is always better but not always possible. Surveyors such as myself will not usually climb masts so a “from the deck inspection” is in many cases the best that can be accomplished. Binoculars can help but are not really a substitute for a thorough inspection that is possible with the mast de-stepped and on a rack.

Next up are the decks, cabin superstructure and cockpit. Again dry surfaces are the key so any standing water (from recent rain) needs to be removed and the surface dried.          Inside the cabin should be cleared of all non-essential gear. This makes access for easier to lockers which is essential for inspection of the hull interior structure and components. All on-board systems should get power up tests so battery and shore power should be made available.

Any included but not installed equipment such as tenders, outboard motors etc. should be made available for inspection.

Sails are another item that may prove difficult to inspect. I myself usually require that the owner open and re-flake the sails themselves as I will not spread sails out in wet or dirty environments due to possible damage. Bear in mind that in many cases even this will only show that the sails are in one piece and a sea trial on a windy day is usually necessary for a proper evaluation.

Engine evaluations can also sometimes be an issue. Some surveyors can handle this aspect of the process themselves but many will refer you to an experienced service technician. Inspections can be difficult if the boat is in the hard because in order to run the engine for any length of time cooling water will need to be supplied to the engine or damage can occur. This is another aspect of the process that is more easily performed in the water in conjunction with a sea trial.

As for the aforementioned sea trial this is part of the survey and vessel evaluation process that is often overlooked. Remember that a considerable amount of your hard earned cash is on the line here and this is not the place to skimp. In many cases systems and components can only be evaluated while under actual operating conditions. I recommend that if at all possible a proper sea trial be included in the overall evaluation process.

As you can see proper a vessel evaluation and survey can be a complex process and with all the scheduling involved it can take some time. I get calls each year from buyers that have an accepted offer and need the survey completed “by the end of the week”. This can make things very difficult and sometimes impossible. Most surveyors have a turnaround time of 2-4 days for report completion alone. I always recommend to allow for at least 2 weeks to complete a proper evaluation. Remember it’s your money so be patient.

Boat Buying Part 5

More on my thoughts on boat buying. In our sample scenario we have already performed a personal inspection on that potential next boat. We have decided that it meets our needs and we are ready to move forward.

The next step in the process will be to discuss price and make a formal offer to purchase. If a broker is involved they will lead you through these next steps but if this is private sale you are pretty much on your own. In that vein there are a number of items that should be considered. I`ll list a few here.

1-Make the offer conditional on survey. You are going to have the vessel surveyed, right? I’ve talked about this before and each year I get involved in a number of deals where a boat was purchased without survey and after the sale the first thing that occurs is that the insurance company requests that the boat be surveyed. During the survey if a major issue is uncovered it is in most cases the buyer that is on the hook for an expensive repair.

2- Make the offer conditional on financing. If this is going to be a factor get it in black and white as part of the offer.

3-Make sure that storage, launch and transport fees are spelled out as to who pays for what.

4-The boat may need to be hauled and the bottom washed for the survey so make sure that is covered as well.

Now we get to the point where to offer has been accepted and now it time for the survey and the next step is to find and hire a competent surveyor. This may prove to be more difficult that you might think. Here’s why.

In most countries marine surveying is an unregulated profession and as a result marine surveyors come in all shapes, sizes and in varying degrees of knowledge and expertise. So how do you find a good one? Here are a few tips.

1-Look for surveyor with recognised credentials or accreditations. There are many supposed certifications out there but in my opinion (and the opinion of many insurance companies) there are only two. The Society of Accredited marine Surveyors ® (SAMS®) and The National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS Global). Also look for a surveyor that is a member of, or better yet standards certified by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). This important because the ABYC have re-searched and written almost all of the marine construction and safety standards currently in use today. Boat manufacturers, Transport Canada and the United States Coast Guard listen to these people and any surveyor worth his or her salt needs to be current on all of this. ABYC affiliation is the only way.

2-Ask to see a sample of their work. Examine it and decide if it will provide all of the information that you will require.

3-Compare pricing. Surveyors of quality and integrity will show similar pricing. Any significantly lower or higher should be held in question. Cheaper is not always better.

4-Last but not least consult your insurance company about the surveyor that you plan to hire. If they won’t accept the surveyor’s work there’s not much point now is there?

I can’t stress enough how important this aspect of the process is. I come across survey reports every year that are an absolute joke. Chances are that by now this endeavour is getting expensive and this is not the time to cheap out on a surveyor with inferior skills and expertise.

Here’s a point to keep in mind if this all takes place during the winter months.

When ambient temperatures are below freezing any moisture contained in fiberglass structures, such as boat hulls and decks freezes as well. During the freezing process crystallization of the substance will occur. This adds small air pockets which make electronic moisture detection virtually impossible. Also because the substance is frozen it becomes very hard rendering percussive sounding tests useless as well. It is for these reasons that I do not recommend the surveying of fiberglass boats when the ambient temperatures are below freezing.

Next time we’ll take a look at the survey report and what it should include.

Boat Buying Part 2

Last time we began a discussion on boat buying and how search out and locate that first or next boat. This time we’re going to continue and also look at some ideas on preparing your boat for sale.

Ok so now let’s assume that you’ve selected a model that meets your needs and found a candidate worth viewing. Let’s also assume that it’s listed with a broker and you have an appointment set up. It’s also mid-season and the boat is in the water and docked. While it’s not always possible, viewing a boat this way is usually a good thing. This way you get to see the finished product so to speak, boat with the mast up, canvas installed and power available. We’ll talk about bottom and rig inspections later. At this point you shouldn’t be worried about offers or surveys. You’re just at the looking stage for now.

Walking down the dock you get your first glimpse and this is where you experience the boat’s “curb appeal” and first impressions are formed. In many instances this can either make or break the sale. Remember that sellers.     At this point I’m going to go off on a tangent for a bit and talk to any potential sellers about preparing your boat to sell. I’m continually amazed at the condition of many boats that I board for pre-purchase inspections and the condition that they’ve been left in. I’ve seen dirty clothes left in lockers, bilges black with mildew, dirty dishes left aboard, and other things that I have literally tried to forget.        In real estate houses are staged prior to viewing and in the used car business cars are detailed in preparation for sale. This can make all the difference in the world to a potential buyer so why not do the same with your boat. I’m not saying that you have to give the boat a complete overhaul but simply remove any on board clutter that’s not needed, oil the wood, clean the bilges etc. On the exterior clean and polish the gel coat, clean the anti-skid, remove the black streaks on the hull. What this does is give the buyer (and the surveyor) the impression that the boat has been well care for and shows what we call “pride of ownership”. Yes it takes some time and effort but it will definitely pay off. In real estate they often take about a house’s “curb appeal” and trust me it’s no different with your boat. I head a saying years ago that goes like this. “You only have one chance to make a first impression”, so why not take full advantage. Whether it’s that first walk down the dock or in the boat yard that first impression can go a long way towards inspiring a potential buyer’s confidence.

I mentioned earlier about cleaning the bilges. I know that this is not a really nice job but here’s where you can get a lot of bang for your buck so to speak. Dirty bilges can produce bad odors especially if the boat has been closed up for a few days in warn weather and since our sense of smell is one of our strongest senses it’s the first thing that people notice when going below. Again it’s all about first impressions.

Most general purpose household cleaners, a rag, scrub brush or Scotchbrite and a little effort will easily do the job. Gloves are highly recommended. Rinse with clean water and pump it all out with the bilge pump or suck it up with a water vac. If you’re concerned about the watery mess that a garden hose can make down below, here’s a tip. Get one of those plastic sprayers generally used for garden pesticides (the ones with the hand pump) and use it to rinse out the bilges. They make great low pressure sprayers and will work anytime pressurized water is not available.

Back to that first viewing. I always recommend that you bring along a pen and note pad as well as a digital or cell phone camera. Take pictures of everything and I mean everything. Make notes of any issues and questions that you deem important. Let the broker or sales agent go over the boat with you. After this I always suggest that you ask the broker to let you examine the boat on your own for a while. Again take pictures and make notes. This way after you leave the boat you can load up the pictures on your PC or tablet and re-visit the boat after you emotions have settled down a bit. Notes and questions can be discussed with the broker or surveyor if you like the boat and get to that point in the process.

Next time we’ll discuss some of the specifics of that first inspection.

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®

Boat Buying, A Few Thoughts on That Next Boat Purchase Part1

As a Marine Surveyor, for me this has been a busy season. Lots of boat buying going on. It’s been pretty much a buyers market these past few years. It’s not so hot if you’re selling but if you’re in a position to buy the timing couldn’t be better. For the next few posts I’m going to go over the process of purchasing that first or next boat.

In my position as a surveyor, and being in the middle of the whole process I have usually have a front row seat to all this so I thought it might be prudent to review some of the common mistakes buyers make and discuss ways of avoiding them.

The first common mistake is that people make is that they get in a hurry, their emotions take over and this usually winds up costing them money. My advise here is to go slow, think things through and solicit professional assistance if necessary.

The next mistake commonly made is to purchase a vessel without having it surveyed. Believe it or not this happens more often than you might think. After the deal is closed the next step for the purchaser is to obtain insurance. On application one of the first comments made by the insurance company is “send us your survey.” The buyer is then sent scrambling to get the vessel surveyed and hopefully nothing major is uncovered. If it is then it’s up to the buyer to either try and re-negotiate with the seller or cover the repair cost themselves. I have to admit this happens more often on private sales as brokers usually press to have vessels surveyed as part of the process. I get involved in these deals every season and it’s tough to see people waste their hard earned money but its reality. Make the offer to purchase “conditional on survey” and allow enough time in closing for this to take place.

The next step in the boat buying process is to find a competent marine surveyor and arrange for the inspection of your potential purchase. This can be quite a chore in itself as surveyors come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of expertise. I could spend all day on this subject but I’ll try and stick to the most important points. Compile a list of the surveyors in your area. Your broker can usually supply you with this or simply look in the classifieds of local marine publications such as this one. Shop and compare pricing. Surveyors of quality and integrity will usually show similar pricing structures. Be wary of any quotes that are substantially higher or lower. With surveyors you usually get what you pay for. Ask top see a sample of their work. No reputable surveyor should have any problem with this request. As you read various survey reports you’ll soon become aware of the differences. Some will be three to four page inventory lists and some will be comprehensive twenty five page documentaries commenting on everything from the tasteful salon décor to the choice of hull color. A good survey report is usually somewhere in between. If the broker or marina states that they have their own “in house surveyor” be very cautious. There is the potential for a huge conflict of interest with this one. Ask if the surveyor carries liability insurance. Any surveyor should and if they don’t move on. Many marinas and yacht clubs will not allow un-insured surveyors to work on the grounds so this needs to be carefully considered. Finally be sure to contact your insurance company and verify if the surveyor you have selected will be accepted by the company. I often get called to re-survey boats that have just been surveyed and the insurance company would not accept the surveyor’s report.

This brings to the next mistake that is commonly made. The buyer does not to allow enough time have the vessel, hauled, surveyed, the report completed and the deal closed. This can vary depending upon the season but a time span of ten days to two weeks is not unreasonable. A boat purchase is usually an emotional experience and everyone’s in a hurry (the broker included) but remember, a considerable amount of money is being spent so try not to get carried away and let the process unfold as it should. You wouldn’t buy a house and expect the deal to close in three days. A boat purchase is no different. The process takes time. Marinas are busy and haul outs can be difficult to schedule. Surveyors are busy and since they have to co-ordinate their schedules around haul out times this can also be difficult. Once the survey inspection is completed it will usually take a couple of days for the surveyor to complete the written report.

Read the survey report carefully and question the surveyor on any issues that you deem important. Review the surveyor’s findings and recommendations with the broker or seller and ensure that you’re satisfied with the terms and conditions of the deal before closing.

Doing it this way can help you avoid many of the pitfalls and traps boat buyers can fall into as they try to rush the process and potentially save a few bucks in the process.