A Guide to Buying Your First Yacht

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Once reserved for the rich and famous, yacht ownership has become a lot easier and accessible to the masses thanks to a thriving international second hand market and mass production of cheaper yachts.
However, buying a boat, especially a yacht, requires special research and other guidelines to be sure the right boat is selected and that it meets the needs of the new yacht owner and does not become an expensive mistake!

Motor or Sailing Yacht

When reviewing yachts for sale, it is important to decide whether a sailing or motorized vessel is the right choice. It is difficult to compare sailing and motorized yachts as they operate differently and provide a completely different type of boating experience. Sailing is a sport, although sailing yachts provide luxury with sport, and offer the ability to take longer boating trips. Motor yachts are designed to take passengers on a ride, with no sport involved. Sailing yachts often require less maintenance than power yachts, and sailing vessels are much easier on fuel than motor yachts.

Semi- or Full Displacement Hull

When looking at boats for sale, keep in mind the pros and cons of semi- and full-displacement hull shapes. Semi-displacement hulls have a faster knot cruising speed and are less fuel efficient than full-displacement hulls. Semi-displacement hulls require specialist engineering due to their high powered engines, while the lower power rating of full-displacement hulls allow crew engineers to perform a large percentage of required maintenance. Full-displacement hulls are generally more comfortable at anchor as they tend to have a slow roll, while semi-displacement hulls often have a hard, fast roll. Semi-displacement hulls are often have louder interiors, mainly due to the desire to have reduced weights for faster water movement, while full-displacement hulls do not require weight restrictions, so noise minimizing additions are available. For those who are buying a boat for transatlantic travel, semi-displacement hulls are more costly with a range of £850 to £1200 per foot each way, while full-displacement hulls are capable of self-powered transatlantic passage with costs from £250 to £600 per foot.

Size Restrictions

For those choosing between the many yachts for sale, size restrictions must be considered. Determine where the yacht will be docked to determine whether the vessel meets size restrictions that may be established by a marina, as well as the bridges in the area where the yacht will travel. The measurements to determine are:

Draft – the draft is the vertical distance between the bottom of the hull, known as the keel, to the waterline. The thickness of the hull is also included as part of the draft.
Beam – the beam is the measurement of the widest point of the vessels nominal waterline. Although the wider the beam, the more stable the vessel, some marinas have limits as to the beam measurement permitted at the dock.
Length and Width – the length of the yacht is the measurement from bow (front) to aft (rear), while the width is the measurement from starboard (right) to port (left).

Guest Carriage Requirements

Probably one of the most important things to consider when buying a yacht is the number of guests expected to travel on the vessel at any time. In addition, it is important to know whether the yacht will be used for overnight travel, as sleeping space will need to be available for all guests. In addition, if there will be a crew operating the vessel, there needs to be enough room for them to have sleeping room and cruising space as well as the guests.

Maintenance and Range

Maintenance is a critical factor to consider when looking at boats for sale, as parts may not be readily available, or the engine may be too complicated for the average crew to maintain. This could require additional expenses for expert yacht repair personnel to perform extensive maintenance and, in some cases routine maintenance as well. In addition, it is important to know where the yacht will travel as some ports are not serviced by yacht transport services, which could require ocean passage making range and the proper hull shape.

Cost Considerations

There are cost considerations to keep in mind when buying a boat beyond the cost of the vessel. There are maintenance and crew costs involved so it is important to understand what costs an owner can expect in the day-to-day operation of the vessel. It is difficult to justify the expense of owning a luxury vessel to the average person, but yacht ownership offers a truly luxury experience. However, it is important to discuss the costs and responsibilities involved in yacht ownership with other owners, professionals and brokers.

Search and Selection

Keeping all of these factors in mine, begin to search for boats for sale in yachting news, boating magazines and other places where yachts are advertised for sale. A yacht broker can help narrow down the selections, and will thoroughly inspect the yacht to be sure that it meets the needs of the buyer. It is also possible to view yachts for sale at boat shows or by special appointment with the current owner, another function a yacht broker can help provide.

Make an Offer

The next step in purchasing a yacht is to make an offer once a suitable vessel is found. A broker may be used to make the offer, or, if conducting the sale without the use of a broker, using a standard industry sales contract. The sales agreement should provide for a sea trial, survey, and a date when the offer is accepted, as well as the date for the closing of the sale. A ten percent deposit is often required with the offer, which may be placed in escrow by an attorney or the broker. One important factor to remember is that an inventory of the vessel be included in the offer so that all items to be sold with the yacht are part of the official sales agreement. It may be best to request a photographic inventory be attached to the offer to be sure there are no surprises once ownership changes hands. It can take a week or two for the seller to accept an offer.

Survey

Depending on how large the yacht for sale is, a survey could take up to two weeks to complete. All mechanical and electrical equipment is tested to be sure it is operating properly. It is recommended that, during the survey, the yacht be removed from the water for a thorough inspection. The cost of the survey is paid by the buyer, but it provides more information on the vessel’s condition and a good idea of possible maintenance costs.

Sea Trial

The prospective buyer should be provided with the ability to take the yacht out for a sea trial to determine how it operates underway. Most sea trials are limited to four hours and the costs are at the seller’s expense. Engines are tested at cruising and maximum speed, and the buyer is able to get a feel for noise levels and vessel motion when out to sea. The sea trial may occur at the convenience of the buyer and seller, and can be scheduled before, during or after the survey.

Acceptance and Closing

Once the buyer is satisfied with the survey and sea trial, they submit a written acceptance of the yacht. Should the sale not close, the initial deposit provided with the offer is at risk should they change their mind. It is not unusual for issues discovered during the survey or sea trial to be added as a conditional acceptance should they not be able to be repaired prior to closing. In some cases, a financial allowance is excluded from the sale until the repairs are completed. At closing, much like a real estate transaction, the buyer is provided a title to the vessel and must present current insurance, as well as registration documentation for the yacht. In some cases, the vessel may be registered, or flagged, offshore after the owner establishes a corporation in their jurisdiction. This helps reduce tax costs and registry expenses for the vessel.

Charter Before Buying

One suggestion many experts make before buying a yacht is to charter a vessel in order to get an idea what owning a yacht would be like. Chartering a yacht similar to one that is for sale will give the buyer an idea of what it will be like to own and operate a vessel on a regular basis. It is also a good way to determine if the potential owner has a good support team that will smooth over any issues that could arise, either in staffing, maintenance issues or other problems that can arise in yachting.

Buying a yacht is one of the ultimate pleasures once someone reaches a certain financial status, but it is critical to follow a few simple guidelines when buying that first vessel. A qualified yacht broker can provide valuable assistance in regard to purchasing the first luxury vessel. However, it is possible to search for, investigate and purchase the first yacht without a broker as long as the costs, maintenance issues and other factors are taken into consideration.

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