Choosing a Boat Broker

Posted by Melanie Neale at 10:09PM - Comments: (3)

Melanie Neale
Melanie Neale

John Curles tried to sell his 43-foot Bruce Roberts design on his own, but then decided to list it with a broker.

In the upcoming December issue of Practical Sailor, we look at how a do-it-yourself boat sale can save thousands of dollars that would ordinarily go to a broker. However, for those who are looking to get the best price for their boat with minimal effort, a broker is usually a more sensible choice.

Before you choose a broker, here are some things to consider.

• A broker’s fee is always 10 percent upon the sale of the boat, but some offer more services than others for the same price. Brokers asking you for funds up front should be immediately discounted.

• Responsiveness. How quickly a broker responds to your inquiry is indicative of how they will respond to potential buyers. Give them 24 hours, and move on if they don’t respond or if they make excuses as to why they didn’t respond promptly. Most, if they miss the initial phone call, will call or email you back within minutes.

• Marketing. All brokers have access to YachtWorld. Ask where else the broker will advertise your boat and expect to receive a written list of websites and print publications and social media. Good brokers also use SailboatListings, BoatTrader,, and other sites. Ask whether they offer “Enhanced Listings” on YachtWorld.

• Look at other listings. Ask a potential broker for links to some of their listings. If you don’t like the write-up, think the photos are shoddy, or if there isn’t enough information, move on.

• Comps. The average buyer and seller, despite what they might find perusing ads and looking at resources like BUC, do not have access to actual comps. Your broker does. In addition to knowing what is currently on the market, your broker should offer you information on how many similar boats have sold in your region recently, what they were listed at, how long they took to sell, and exactly what they sold for.

• Track record. Ask your broker what he/she has sold recently. A good broker will be ready with the answer.

• Paperwork, escrow, and protection during the closing process. A broker will have an escrow account and will ask that all deposits be submitted to the account. The broker will have all the forms you need, and some even use programs like YachtCloser which simplify the process through e-signing. The broker works with a title/documentation company, and the buyer pays for all expenses associated with closing.

• Import duty. If you have purchased a foreign-built boat and plan to sell it in the US to a US citizen (regardless of your citizenship), import duty must be paid. Your yacht broker will help you find a customs broker. Be wary of brokers who suggest ways to get around paying the import duty, such as closing offshore. If you are selling the boat yourself and fail to comply, both you and the buyer are liable for huge fines down the road.

• Social Media. If this is something that the broker claims to do, ask where they post, what kinds of accounts they have, and how many followers they have. Posting on a personal Facebook page to 200 of the broker’s closest friends is not enough. The post needs to be publicly shared on various forums.

• Personality. You and your broker are forming a relationship, and chances are that you are already somewhat emotional about the sale of your boat. Your broker needs to understand this and be open and honest with you. Why work with someone you don’t like?

Melanie Neale is a lifelong cruising sailor, author, and mother. She works for Edwards Yacht Sales.

Comments (3)

Another thing to remember is that most brokers are independent contractors--they may work for a company, but they have to pay all their own expenses. Asking for a lesser commission is literally asking them to do their job for less when their expenses don't change. I put about 30,000 miles a year on my truck, for example. And that's my financial responsibility, which I gladly accept. But asking me to do my job for less is taking food out of my kid's mouth. No other way to explain it!

Posted by: MelanieN | November 9, 2017 1:06 PM    Report this comment

@montverde thanks for your input! And you are correct--while 10% is the industry standard, there is sometimes flexibility, and you should talk to your broker about it. It's certainly not a fixed fee. However, I do firmly believe that "you get what you pay for," and I'm wary of cut-rate brokers for this reason. For example, I charge 10%, but of that my company takes half and they use it to pay for advertising, etc. Listing a boat on 50+ websites and in print comes with a price, as does "Enhanced Listings" on YachtWorld and other sites. I truly appreciate your input!!!

Posted by: MelanieN | November 9, 2017 1:02 PM    Report this comment

With the broker fee "always 10 per cent" is that not contrary to competition regulations in various countries and states, and basically price fixing? I get that the broker and client can agree to a rate and what services the client receives and does not receive for that rate. And the broker can decline a listing if the client is not prepared to pay the broker fee, the same as the client can decline and go elsewhere. What if the broker lists the boat, and also brings the buyer? Does the rate change? Do brokers really charge 10% on a $10,000,000 sale?I'm a Realtor in Canada and competition regulations are a HUGE issue here.

Posted by: Montverde | November 9, 2017 9:54 AM    Report this comment

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