This is the penultimate post in my series on how to buy a used sailboat. Last week we covered how to narrow down your list. At this point you have narrowed down from the thousands of boats on the market down to a few models. You have one model at the top of your list, now how to find THE boat you want to make an offer on.
1. Creating a Cost of Ownership Framework: By now you should have 5-10 boats on the market that you are interested in. In our case we had narrowed it down to either a Mk1 or a Mk2 Sabre 38. There were 6 on the market that were within our budget and on the East Coast. We created a spreadsheet that itemized details about the boat, asking price and best guesses at a high and low price of what we thought we might be able to buy each one for. We assumed that 10% off the asking price would be the highest we would pay and 20% below asking price would be the lowest.
Then came the fun bit. We examined the listing on each boat in great detail and reviewed our notes from the 30-minute inspections. For each boat, we added an estimate for all the work we needed to do including work on the engine, sails, electronics, cosmetic work, biminis, etc. We loaded up everything we could think of.
The output from this was staggering. The lowest priced boat would $20-30K in additional costs. The highest priced boat needed very little work and suddenly seemed a comparatively good deal.
Here is an example of what that might look like.
I can't stress the importance of this analysis. It was laborious and required a lot of additional research but was probably the single-most step in finding the right boat for us.
Two boats came to the top: A 1987 Mk1 Sabre 38 that had been on the hard for several years but had a lot of additional equipment that added significant value to the boat. We also felt she should sell for a low price. The second boat was among the lowest priced Mk2 Sabre 38s but had new electronics and fairly new sails.
We almost made an offer on the wrong boat but we had some nagging doubts and they were significant enough to make us pause. We visited our top 2 boats, twice before making an offer.
3. "You're Buying the Previous Owner": One of the best pieces wisdom I received throughout the process was that when you buy a used boat, you are buying a relationship with the previous owner. It's an odd relationship in that you may never see the person again but every piece of work they did or avoided, every extra mile or corner cut become yours. You are buying whatever they brought to the boat. You will also have to negotiate with them and this played a big part in our decision.
In one case, the owner was clearly someone who woud be tough to negotaite with. The guy was irrationally hard-headed about HIS boat. We came close to making an offer but decided that it would be too hard to get a reasonable deal with this guy and walked away.
In the end we made an offer on the Mk2 Sabre 38. We never met the owner but the brokers were highly professional and they had also kept her in their yard. The owner had clearly not skimped on anything, had kept good records, replaced anything needed replacing.
Once we eliminated all other boats, the decision on which boat to buy was simple. We made an offer on the Mk2 Sabre 38. Now for the exciting bit - Closing the Deal. That's next week's post.