A “yacht investment” is an oxymoron unless your investment is in lifestyle, entertainment, or pleasure. Yachts do not appreciate except in rare circumstances. However, just like real estate, you make your money when you buy, not when you sell. There are ways to avoid bad investments in yachts and they are easy to follow if you follow well established purchasing criteria. Here is what to look for and what to avoid:
1. ...quality in options & accessories
2. .. low hours (<150/year)
3. ...recent refit (< 3 years)
4. ...new electronics
5. ...new paint
6. ...crew maintained
7. ...respected brand
8. ...spotless engine room
9. ...complete maintenance and repair records
10. ...conventional layout
11. ...currently in class
12. ...wealthy owner afflicted by OCD
What to avoid...
1. ...fire sales
2. ...absentee owner
3. ...crewless yacht with > 70’ LOA
4. ...one off custom built
5. ...bank repo (unless you own shipyard)
6. ...estate or charity sale
7. ...destitute owner
8. ... live-aboard owners
9. ...built in unknown shipyard
10. ...soft or thin teak
11. ...dirty or smelly bilges
12. ...dirty bottom or running gear
13. ...On market => 12 months
14. ...Sold recently and back on market
15. ...Missing or depleted sacrificial anodes or loose/disconnected grounding wires in engine room
16. ...Many scratches or dents on hull or rub rails
17. ...Sun damage on wooden cap rails
18. ...Dirty Racor filters
19. ...Diesel odor in engine room
20. ...Faded wood or fabrics in salon
21. ...12+ year old gel coat not painted
22. ...Paint older than 8 years
23. ...Crustaceans under sea strainer basket
24. ...Fuel tanks less than half full (unless yacht has fuel polishing system)
25. ...blue or gray black smoke from engines or generators
26. ...last haul out > 2 years
In the last 25 years of yacht brokerage, I learned what to look for and what to avoid buying a yacht. You might want to use my check list above before you buy your next yacht. An average boater keeps a yacht 3 to 5 years, so it is important for us (since we enjoy repeat business) to make sure that our buyers are not disappointed when they are ready for their next yacht.
The two lists above will help you avoid buying a “yacht money pit.” All yacht buyers want a great deal buying a yacht, however, great deals are often hidden and usually a factor of how well the yacht was maintained over its lifetime. The asking price on a yacht is the least important factor when looking for a good deal. The reason is obvious if you think about the logic. If the price is too low, you should follow the adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true.” If the asking price is too high, it does not mean that it cannot be sold at a much lower price, it means that the seller is either proud of his yacht or that he knows he’s better off to negotiate from a higher price. Like all luxury products, higher list prices are used to reflect high quality, but since you are not buying a new flawless 4 carat diamond or a Dior handbag, you need to do your homework to determine quality. In summary, price levels do not mean anything. Look instead at the details in full specifications to determine if it is worth your time to look further at a listing. It is like digging for gold...you rarely find gold nuggets lying on the surface.
To use the two lists above, add 1 point for each positive attribute (first list) and subtract one point for each observation in second list. Based on the number of positive negatives in these two lists, it’s much easier to score in the negative range. In fact, if you can find a yacht that has a score in the positive range, you need to look at it very closely because it’s probably a keeper. These yachts are often priced too high, but if that is the case you need to negotiate to get it at a reasonable price (when buying you make your money negotiating). If it’s priced below the level of the market, don’t wait too long to make an offer, because someone else is going to figure out the same thing as you and it will be off the market quickly. Early bird gets the worm.
I am sure that an analytical buyer will critique my approach and say “how can you equate a new paint job just worth 1 point to just taking off only 1 point for dirty racors?” True, a new paint job on a 120’ yacht is worth $300,000 and cleaning dirty racors costs peanuts. But dirty racors could cost you hundreds of thousands in engine repair, cleaning fuel tanks, etc., and just be the tip of the iceberg pointing to the lack of proper maintenance. So one point per variable it is!
In summary, if you can find a yacht that scores 10 points on my scales, don’t wait to make an offer. In fact, anything above plus 5 is awesome. If you find a yacht with a total in the negative points, unless you own a shipyard, you should pass...plenty of fish in the sea. Refitting a yacht costs real money whereas buying someone else’s refit can only cost 10 cents on the dollar with good negotiations. And if you consider your time as valuable, you certainly don’t want to buy a fixer upper because you will lose both time and money.