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School Me on Surveyors

Old 02-10-2019, 12:53 PM
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Default School Me on Surveyors

I'm a West coaster (Washington state) shopping for small sportfishers on the east coast. Specifically I am targeting B31s. Our local selection sucks and our prices are stupid.

so I am trying to decide what the best way to pursue prespective boats from a distance. I figure to call and get as much details from the owner/broker via phone and if it checks the boxes, find a local surveyor and send them out to check it out. Then, if it checks out I may or may not fly out to see it in person.

my concerns and questions are:

1. I worry that if I send a surveyor out on their own, is there a chance of foul play with the owner paying off the surveyor to give a positive review.

2. What are the typical responsibilities and liabilities of the surveyor to accurately inspect the boat?

3. What are they expected to inspect, find and catch?

4. What is a typical price?

5. What's the best way to find a reputable surveyor remotely? I plan to check out multiple boats and pick the best one, assuming there is "the one".

6. Do they do sea trials?

7. How do you east coast guys sell boats in the winter given the weather?

I have done a long distance purchase before, but I flew down to check it out and did not survey that boat or any of my previous boats so I don't have any experience here.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by clockwork View Post
I'm a West coaster (Washington state) shopping for small sportfishers on the east coast. Specifically I am targeting B31s. Our local selection sucks and our prices are stupid.

so I am trying to decide what the best way to pursue prespective boats from a distance. I figure to call and get as much details from the owner/broker via phone and if it checks the boxes, find a local surveyor and send them out to check it out. Then, if it checks out I may or may not fly out to see it in person.

my concerns and questions are:

1. I worry that if I send a surveyor out on their own, is there a chance of foul play with the owner paying off the surveyor to give a positive review.

2. What are the typical responsibilities and liabilities of the surveyor to accurately inspect the boat?

3. What are they expected to inspect, find and catch?

4. What is a typical price?

5. What's the best way to find a reputable surveyor remotely? I plan to check out multiple boats and pick the best one, assuming there is "the one".

6. Do they do sea trials?

7. How do you east coast guys sell boats in the winter given the weather?

I have done a long distance purchase before, but I flew down to check it out and did not survey that boat or any of my previous boats so I don't have any experience here.
most of your questions have been asked many times before

1. sure, i would ask who the owner recommends and pick someone that he did not name. i also would want to be present for a survey. they miss things and can point out things to you on the spot. i would not be scheduling a flight, survey, sea trial, or engine inspection until about a dozen things are done including negotiations, purchase and sale agreement, deposit, and a TON of due diligence, etc

2. ask the surveyors you are considering what they look at (ask for a sample report). most will say they are not liable should they miss. of course negligence can override. personally, i would NEVER put my full faith and decision behind what a surveyor's report says. they miss things, they may not know quirks of a particular make/model boat, etc. i come with my own list of stuff to check or have them check on top of their normal list.

3. ask them for sample reports, compare and contrast

4. ask for estimates. you can call or email surveyors. prices will vary by location, size boat, complexities, travel, etc

5. google "marine surveyor" and there are directories for NAMS, SAMS, etc. i would do due diligence. google their names, search their names on THT, read reviews, etc

6. sure surveyors would attend a sea trial but i would want to hire a mechanic that is trained/certified for the particular engines/genset and make sure that mechanic is present for the sea trial

7. boats work in cold temps... and there have been so many mild days/weeks... you as the buyer will be paying for re-winterizing at the conclusion of sea trial...

most of my recent boat/yacht purchases have been long distance. here is a list of what i do before booking a flight, surveyor, mechanic, etc:
- answer from seller in writing that there are no known issues, mechanical, cosmetic, etc. i'd even have them sign a statement saying such including no known accidents, sinkings, etc.
- thorough pictures of everything, no weird angles, look for rust, water lines inside, neglect, etc
- title search (abstract of title if documented with uscg, ucc searches otherwise)
- if existing note, pay-off amount, instructions confirmed with bank directly
- misc due diligence on seller, google searches, court searches, social media searches
- due diligence on specific boat make/model/year for known issues, make sure its not a lemon, and add to list of things to check during survey
- price negotiated assuming condition as described
- full maintenance records supplied, reviewed for boat, engines, genset
- HIN, engine, genset serial numbers obtained and run at an independent dealer for past warranty history. get pictures of existing registrations/title.
- escrow agent selected (attorney, yacht closer, or licensed and bonded broker)
- purchase and sale agreement negotiated with all necessary contingencies, deposit refund terms, etc. have an attorney look it over if you are not one or do not have contract experience. the purchase and sale agreement should specify delivery/closing details (how it takes place, where, when, etc).
- consideration of tax implications for where you would take delivery
- if financing, pre-approval for the specific boat/amount
- insurance quote for specific boat
- deposit sent to escrow agent with executed purchase and sale agreement
- surveyor recommendations, selection, scheduling (do not use someone recommended by seller/seller broker)
- mechanic recommendations, selection, scheduling (do not use someone recommended by seller/seller broker)
- haul out marina selected, scheduled

only once all that is done, would i book a flight. i have purchased several boats at great distances, and doing the above has yielded a successful deal every single time. some very minor stuff comes up on all boats but because of due diligence i think each time the re-negotiation has been $5k off at most.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:16 PM
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Get a THT’r to take a look before you hire anybody.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:58 PM
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1) LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE ENGINE ROOM.
If too small for an average person to "comfortably" work around, just walk away from the boat. Do not think. Repeat: Do Not have any thoughts enter your brain regarding this boat. Walk away.

2)Thoroughly research (YOURSELF, not the surveyor, not the broker, not the boat's owners) all major mechanical issues typical for this boat's engines, transmissions, electronics, hull - and, in your case, geographical location (all associated with correctly maintaining a boat in winter). With the exception of the hull, all these parts are used on other types and models of boats. Hit as many boat forums as you can find and search there. Your take from your searches should be: What caused those major issues? Make a list. Example: manifolds, sensors, bad gas, the engine's dressings (the parts attaching to the block) like oil or transmission coolers, pumps, shaft seals, etc. Get a "sense" for the trouble spot areas - you "will" be encountering some of them, if you keep the boat long enough and drive it.
3) Re: Surveying a used boat: This is an oxymoron. It's designed for people who know nothing about boats and have owned no boats and are buying a warranty-less product. Which is one of the major, humbling handicaps in itself when buying a boat. ALL used boats, IF used regularly, will fall under the general "10-15% annual cost in maintenance of the boat's value". ESPECIALLY if it's a salt water boat. If not salt water, you can probably get away with 7%. So inspecting the major mechanical issues from 2) is most important. Some surveyors may list major issues, but they will group them in the same breath practically with other, smaller deficiencies in the same paragraph, such as a rail screw missing, that, if you are not educated about that particular major issue, you will think it's not too big of a deal probably.
The more elaborate the boat build, the more things to maintain. Sport fishing boats are probably not too bad, especially if they're outboards. Buy cheap, re-power.
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Last edited by RufusNapkin; 02-10-2019 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:17 PM
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Another route to go is use THT and other forums to find a good buyer's broker (or two, with assigned geography) to put eyes on boats for you as well as find them for you. When I was shopping for my old Hatteras, I was living in Dallas and this was invaluable. Didn't need to get a surveyor involved until we had made an offer on a boat. Oh, and don't use a broker to find you a surveyor, again come back here and other forums for that.
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Old 02-10-2019, 05:06 PM
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If you dont use a buyer's broker, some times you can get the price down an extra 5% (icing on the cake) as the listing broker doesnt have to share the 10% commission.
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Old 02-10-2019, 07:16 PM
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Good Surveyors are invaluable. I just hired one to look at an otherwise clean, name brand 2015 30 footer and he found a good size crack (5 foot long) in stringer. Boat had under 400 hours. Cost was 1,650 but included moisture tests and thermal readings. My Surveyor came highly recommended by my local boat yard and when I googled his name, reviews were all positive, including many here on THT.
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Old 02-10-2019, 07:26 PM
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You'll spend at least 10 grand on shipping the boat cross country, I'd spend an extra 4 or 5 hundred to look at it in person.

Even if the Surveyor was my best friend, I'd still need to see what I'm buying in person before I fork the cash over.
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Old 02-10-2019, 07:30 PM
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Old 02-11-2019, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by mystery View Post
If you dont use a buyer's broker, some times you can get the price down an extra 5% (icing on the cake) as the listing broker doesnt have to share the 10% commission.
And pay that money to a surveyor for pre--offer checks? Plus extra trips to the east coast to screen boats for yourself?
And, of course, the operative word in there is "sometimes".
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Old 02-11-2019, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
And pay that money to a surveyor for pre--offer checks? Plus extra trips to the east coast to screen boats for yourself?
And, of course, the operative word in there is "sometimes".
When I buy a boat I dont even think about the surveyor, mechanic, haul fees. Its just a part of the boat buying process and a sunk cost. I have never had one go to waste or have I backed out of a deal because of the immense amount of upfront due diligence I do. The last boat I bought, I flew 2,000 miles. Can usually take an early flight, see boat, survey, sea trial, haul, etc, and make it on a flight home all in the same day. If going further (i.e. coast-to-coast), you might have to travel the night before to get an early start and make it to the airport for a flight home in the evening. There shouldn't be extra trips. I only fly to see a boat where everything is in order and I plan to buy it unless there is a major issue discovered. One time I did return to pick up the boat myself but usually I have a transporter or captain go get it for me so one trip should be plenty.

As for "sometimes" my experience has been more often than not a broker willing to cut their fee if I dont involve my own broker. One time a broker got nasty when I nicely suggested it. Then got even more pissy when I said OK if you won't cut your fee then I will in fact use a buyer's broker. Was trying to help him make the sale and get his commission. Was such an easy deal, I knew what I wanted, knew the history of the boat, etc. Turned out he never even shared my offer with the seller, it sat on the market for an extra 6 months, and sold for $40k less than what I offered. I ended up meeting the seller by chance later down the road and he was pretty pissed he never got my offer and said he would've taken it.
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Old 02-11-2019, 02:15 PM
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Lots of excellent advice above. I start with lots of photographs, including details. If the broker or seller won't do the photos where I want them--that is the end of that negotiation. I have found that NAMS surveyors are generally better qualified. I also like to see ABYC certifications. You can get many surveyors to do a quick cursory, survey if they are close to the boat for a few hundred dollars. Then you can do the formal survey--if it goes that far--the day you fly out to see the boat.

Another way to go, is with the buyer's broker, set up appointments to see several boats. I sent a week with a buyer's broker saw every decent boat in Fl. with the specs I wanted, and did not find a boat which was up to my standards.

A boat is often a big chunk of change, and thinking of how you will sell it often is furthest from your mind. But it helps if you say--"what makes this boat outstanding, that I want to buy it--and others will also, when I am ready to sell? What will I get for it when I sell"

I figure 25% of the purchase price is going for upgrades, repairs, new electronics etc after I buy any boat. It may be more or less. But if I am buying a $100,000 boat, I budget $25,000 for those "extras"....

For a. boat with inboard diesels, I want the engine surveyor to be set up before we leave the dock--the hull surveyor to also be aboard. The owner or a hired skipper will run the boat--and I will only take the helm. I spend time with the engine and hull surveyors looking for defects/repairs.

The average distance I have been from the last one 6 boats I have purchased was over 1200 miles. They all involved visiting the boats and personally being aboard for sea trials.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:26 AM
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I am a marine surveyor (but don't do pre-purchase surveys). All the suggestions you have received about finding and choosing a surveyor are good ones. If he/she isn't a member of NAMS or SAMS then make sure the report will be acceptable to your insurance company/bank. There are good surveyors and there are bad surveyors. Just like in every other profession.... With a little research you can be reasonably sure of getting a good job.

My business just celebrated our 32nd anniversary. I know surveyors all over the eastern half of the country and will always respond to a PM asking if I know a certain surveyor or can recommend a surveyor in a certain area.

Have your surveyor (or a friend or a THT volunteer) put eyeballs on the boat before you make the trip. Most surveyors will charge you an hourly rate to make a quick look and take pictures.

Good luck in your quest.
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