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1. What is the Yacht Buying Process?

 

The yacht buying process is very similar to a residential home search and purchase. The process shares a great deal of common elements including a wealth of resources within a major product database, professional advice and information, inspections, valuations, the arrangement of financing (if needed), closing procedures and legal documentation.

More specific to the marine industry, below you will find a brief yet precise description of what is involved in the yacht buying process:

Dream

The very first step of this unique experience is to start “dreaming” about owning a recreational vessel (named a boat, vessel, yacht, mega-yacht – it really doesn’t matter – it’s the buyer’s dream after all and often, the second or third most important financial investment for the yachting enthusiast).

Hiring a broker

After seeking advice from friends, dock talk and/or internet searching (just to name a few) it is significantly important to contact a florida licensed and bonded yacht broker. Why?  Normally, the yacht broker’s commission is being paid by the seller (not the buyer) therefore, all of the professional advice that the buyer is receiving from the broker is free of charge.  Furthermore, a properly licensed and bonded yacht broker holds a surety bond to cover unforeseen issues such as improper money handling, escrow fraud, unauthorized expenses, etc.  Not to mention the expert training that a professional broker has to offer becomes invaluable when you are making a financial decision of such magnitude. Working with a professional yacht broker can potentially save you time and money.

Search & preview 

Once you have initiated a relationship with a yacht broker, the professional vessel search commences. Using the tools, tips and advice offered by experts, along with the most sophisticated database of vessels available for sale worldwide, a successful outcome is almost guaranteed.  Once a group of vessels are identified as potential options, the buyer and broker schedule a round of private inspections to preview and qualify the vessels (this is usually the most attractive part of the business). The selection usually gets narrowed down to just a few boats in order of importance.  At this point the real ‘‘buying process’’ begins.

Offer 

An initial purchase offer is prepared based on the discussion with the buyer of proper financials (market value vs offered amount), vessel’s equipment list, aesthetic condition, “apparent” mechanical condition, hours of use of the yacht since new, availability of warranties, etc.  This offer will normally be contingent to the buyer’s personal inspection, complete marine survey (hull and mechanical), financing (if the case), sea trial and other few variables; and is usually backed by the buyer’s 10% fully refundable security deposit held in escrow account for the duration of the process.  If the offer is rejected by the seller, the buyer can choose to either increase or re-negotiate his/her initial offer or simply walk away from the deal without penalties.

Yacht survey: once an offer has been accepted in writing by both parties (buyer and seller – never the selling or listing broker) the purchase agreement turns into a binding contract.  At this stage, and if requested by the buyer, the yacht’s inspection (called the marine survey) takes place.  This is the equivalent of a home inspection and where a professional and accredited marine surveyor performs a complete vessel’s inspection including hull aesthetics and structure, seaworthiness, integrity, safety, mechanical condition, equipment, plumbing, electrical, rigging, general deficiencies, recommendations list and fair market value. A sea trial normally accompanies this process on the same day in order for the marine surveyor to make an accurate assessment of the vessel’s estimated condition and seaworthiness. Upon completion, a written report is produced (usually within 2-4 business days) as a legal document upon which the buyer makes his/her decision to proceed or withdraw from the yacht’s purchase.  In case of an extremely negative outcome the buyer has the right to rescind the contract and “reject the vessel” (walk away from the deal without penalties) or, in a better scenario, renegotiates the price to accommodate the cost of the immediate necessary repairs.

Acceptance & closing 

Provided the results of the marine survey and sea trial (if any) are “acceptable to the buyer” (and only the buyer), the buyer then “accepts the vessel” and moves forward with the deal towards closing.  It’s important to understand that, from this point on, if the buyer changes his mind about closing the deal, the security deposit in the selling broker’s escrow bank account is deemed not refundable anymore and forfeited as liquidating damages to the seller and participating brokers.  Assuming the deal is worthy and the buyer is willing to close on the yacht purchase, the buyer will deposit the balance of all monies necessary to complete the purchase “on or before the closing date” and a set of proper “closing documents” are produced either by the buyer’s broker or a yacht closing agent (title company) in order to guarantee proper title ownership of the vessel on behalf of the buyer.

Documentation/registration 

If the vessel is intended to be used in a us state or federal waters, the buyer will receive proper advice (and assistance) in the process of documenting the yacht’s ownership with the united states coast guard (uscg) at a federal level or a state title and/or vessel registration at a us state level (conditions may vary on individual basis and small fees are involved).  Like any other purchase of goods, a local state sales tax must be paid if the vessel will be kept in us waters (some exceptions apply) or a sales tax exemption is granted if the vessel is being exported outside the united states within a specific period of time after closing date.

The above is merely a brief description of a more complex yet, easy to follow process in which the use and guidance of a professional yacht broker becomes a necessity. Considering the variables involved within this process, it will be very difficult to obtain a positive outcome when dealing with private sellers at the time of encountering possible deficiencies either in the inspection/buying process or in the title/ownership of the vessel (liens, encumbrances, improper previous registration and in the most extreme cases, theft or seizures by legal authorities).  

Please make sure to read the other FAQ’s to get more detailed information of the yacht surveying process, how the buyer’s monies are handled, financing, insurance, sales tax, the real cost of yacht ownership, etc.

2. Why Survey a Yacht? Is it Mandatory?

Usually, when an individual has to deal with a health issue, he/she consults with a doctor. If making a considerable financial investment, an individual hires or consults with his/her financial advisor or cpa.  If divorcing, it would certainly be under the guidance of a proper attorney.  In any case, the individual seeks, obtains and takes advantage of the paid advice of a professional within the respective field to protect the client’s interest.

The yacht survey is no exception to that.  While is not mandatory, it’s extremely recommended to perform this professional service as it represents a minimal investment compared to the total yacht purchase (usually calculated as a range between $20-$30 a foot as per the length of the vessel + haul-out for the surveyor to inspect the yacht’s bottom out of the water + specific engine or rigging mechanical inspections using a separate marine mechanic as deemed necessary depending on each individual case).  In total, a cost range can be assumed of between approximately $1,000 to $4,000 depending on a variety of factors like boat’s size, difficulty of the job, location, multiple sea trials if needed, laboratory fuel and oil samples, etc.   In addition, with equal importance, is the fact that the vast majority of insurance companies will not issue a coverage binder in the absence of an out-of-the-water pre-purchase survey report (not older than 3-6 months) that includes a valuation page.  Furthermore, if financing the yacht purchase, the lending institution will likely require a pre-purchase survey.

As opposed to real property, an “avoidable mistake” when buying a yacht can sometimes represent more than 50% of the vessel’s value in unexpected deficiencies. Repairs that could possibly cost a fortune to the new owner in comparison to the affordable cost of a professional marine survey make the survey a worthy investment. The survey cost is not determined by the price of the vessel but, mostly by its size and the machinery and equipment aboard. There’s no comparison of this small expense to the expense of the investment. Normally, a complete marine hull and engine survey, haul-out and sea trial is performed in one work day.

While each vessel is a world on its own, a standard marine survey normally comprehends the following:

                        • exterior and interior hull inspection

                        • assessment of bottom paint condition (if the case)

                        • aesthetics and appearance

                        • propulsion, running gear and mechanical inspection

                        • mast, sails and rigging inspection (in case of sailboats)

                        • engine mechanical inspection (as an addition to the standard hull survey)

                        • engine compression test and oil samples (as an addition to the standard hull survey - only if recommended by hull surveyor)

                        • sea trial to confront manufacturer’s performance data against the actual yacht’s performance as equipped and maintained by the seller

                        • condition of upholstery, covers, headliners and soft fabrics

                        • general electrical and electronics inspection

                        • marine communication equipment inspection

                        • general tankage (fuel, water and sewer) inspection

                        • engine room condition and general upkeep inspection

                        • general plumbing inspection

                        • deck hardware inspection

                        • safety gear test and inspection

                        • interior equipment and amenities inspection

                        • air conditioning and refrigeration inspection

                        • stove, oven toilets, showers, water heater, audio, entertainment equipment inspection

                        • performance data

                        • general equipment list

                        • uscg compliance (if the case)

                        • market value report

                        • deficiencies list (also known as “recommendations list”)

                        • general surveyor’s opinion of condition and intended use of the vessel

As the vessel increases in size, the survey process becomes more extensive as it covers more items and equipment therefore, the fee will be higher.  The above is solely an indication of the most common areas of inspection of a yacht but, in no way is limited to that extent as each vessel is different and offers less or more variables to cover.  The final survey report is a printed or electronic document properly signed in original and executed by the surveyor that usually contains a combination of the hull, mechanical and machinery inspection with the sea trial results and a valuation page.  This report is normally available to the buyer within 2-4 days after the inspection date and is paid by the buyer at the time when the service is rendered.  However, the buyer will have a snapshot of the vessel’s value and condition (and the opportunity to review the possible deficiencies list) at the end of the same survey day in an informal meeting with the marine surveyor and the selling broker.

Nonetheless, a professional marine survey report not only conveys the real approximate market value and condition of a vessel but, also serves as an important negotiating tool when the buyer encounters a substantial amount of deficiencies by helping to support a properly backed price reduction request.  Finally, in the case of financing, the lending institution will most likely use the survey’s market value to condition the loan-to-value (ltv) mortgage amount allowed to the buyer; a determining factor in setting the initial loan’s down payment.

In other words, even if not legally required, the marine survey is as mandatory as the willingness of the buyer to avoid, as much as possible, future problems or the inability to obtain financing/marine insurance at the time of purchase.

3. How Do I Select and Hire a Professional Marine Surveyor?

Mare blue yachts can provide a list of marine surveyors that have been successfully used in the past by other buyers.  However, a marine surveyor only works for you as a buyer and ultimately, it is the buyer’s responsibility to select and hire one to protect his/her own interest.  If the buyer feels the need for freedom to select his/her own surveyor, a good place to begin searching is www.marinesurvey.org which contains a full list of sams-certified surveyors.

4. What is an Escrow Account?

An escrow account is a bank account held by the selling broker on behalf of the buyer. It is where all the deposits and balance monies that are collected are held in a non-interest bearing depository account during the buying process. It is also where the us department of business and professional regulation (through its financial committee) has direct and unilateral access to the buyer’s funds in case of default by the selling broker during a purchase offer or closing procedure.

In order to be licensed in the state of florida as a yacht broker, an escrow account and a yacht surety bond is mandatory and without it, the practitioner broker cannot be legally doing business as a professional. 

In essence, it is somewhat like an insurance policy the buyer holds in the event that the selling broker does not return( in a timely manner) the buyer’s deposit (if entitled to it) after the rejection of a vessel. There is no chance that the initial security deposit could be lost before the buyer “accepts the vessel” after survey.  Even if the broker empties the escrow account of any deposited monies, the mandatory insurance bond will recover said security deposit to the extent of the broker’s acquired insurance coverage per transaction.

The escrow account is used only to collect the buyer’s initial security (refundable) deposit and all monies needed to conclude the yacht sale.  By law, the broker cannot commingle his personal funds with this type of account.  Only checks from the escrow account made payable to vendors on behalf of the buyer are allowed to cover directly-related survey and closing expenses.  At the end of each financial transaction, the ending balance must equal the beginning balance of that transaction period assuring the buyer a crystal clear financial transaction.  This is reflected in the important closing document named “buyer’s closing statement”.

On the other hand, the escrow account also works on behalf of the seller.  When the buyer commits to close on a yacht purchase after “unconditionally accepting the vessel” and for some reason the closing doesn’t occur by the set date (due to buyer’s default) then the retained security deposit can’t be returned to the buyer and is equally disbursed between the seller and participating brokers as liquidating damages.  This is one of the most important reasons why an individual should perform a yacht survey and should only “accept the vessel” after receiving, reviewing and comprehending the written survey report.

This is probably one of the two most important reasons any buyer should use the free services of a professional, licensed and bonded yacht broker instead of trying to conduct a transaction of such magnitude and importance directly with an unknown yacht owner (seller).

5. What are the Real Expenses When Buying a Yacht?

When buying a recreational vessel, to some buyers, the costs involved in properly initiating the yacht purchase, surveying and closing procedures could be something far from the buyer’s initial expectations.  This is particularly true when trying to acquire a small vessel, as the fixed expenses represent a great deal of the overall purchase investment.  As the size and price of the vessel increases, the buying costs diminish if compared to the total investment as this somewhat fixed expense will become 5% (or less) of the total vessel cost when the sale price reaches approximately $55,000 or more.

The following is a breakdown of the typical costs before owning the vessel:

            »  broker’s commission: $0 !!  (usually the seller pays the commission)

            »  hull survey & sea trial: $20-$30 per foot

            »  survey haul-out: $5-$12 per foot (varies by location)

            »  engine(s) survey: $350 - $1,500 (outboards to diesel engines)

            »  laboratory oil samples: $275 +/- for a twin engines vessel

The following is a breakdown of the typical costs after owning the vessel:

            »  florida sales tax: 6%-7% (if applicable) but not greater than $18,000.

            »  closing costs: $640 - $2,700 for legal documentation required to guarantee a free and clear title to the buyer.

            »  florida vessel registration: not included in the closing costs and generally between $95-$270 + agent fee.

            »  uscg documentation: only if required by buyer or buyer’s lender and usually between $450-$900.

 

            »  foreign flag registration: varies by case, but buyers should expect to invest approximately $1,700-$3,000 on this.

6. What are the New Regulations Affecting the Vessel Sales Tax?

Let’s begin by saying that not every vessel transaction is subject to state sales or federal tax.  In the state of florida there’s no federal tax on yacht purchases, only a florida state sales tax. It is applicable at different rates to vessels owned by a natural individual or corporation that registers the vessel in florida and doesn’t use the yacht as a commercial charter business (some rules and exemptions apply).  If the vessel is removed from florida waters between 10-90 days from date of purchase, a sales tax exemption is generally available (with some exceptions).  We strongly recommend that the buyer solicit the advice of a local cpa before making the final purchase decision.

Vessels owned by foreign nationals or corporations that are exported within 90 days from date of purchase are eligible for a florida state sales tax exemption (some restrictions apply).

Each state has its own tax table and not every county in the state of florida has the same sales tax and surtax rates since it varies by counties.  Furthermore, a vessel purchased in florida by a an individual or corporation residing in another state must first pay the applicable rate of the county of the state of florida (where the transaction took place) and possibly pay any difference (if any) in tax rate at the buyer’s local state and/or federal tax agency in the county of his chosen port of call and registry.

As of july 1st 2010, the maximum sales tax imposed to recreational vessels in florida is $18,000 regardless of the final purchase price, or the corresponding 6%-7% sales tax if the purchase amount is less than $299,166.66 but, not more than the sales tax cap of $18,000.  Below is a partial excerpt of the law from the florida department of revenue’s web site:

 “effective july 1, 2010, the maximum tax on the sale or use of a boat or vessel is $18,000. Purchases made on or after july 1, 2010, are subject to the maximum $18,000 tax. Taxpayers using boats or vessels in florida on or after july 1, 2010, who are subject to florida use tax pursuant to section 212.06, florida statutes (f.s.), will owe a maximum $18,000 use tax.

The $18,000 cap includes both the state (sales or use) tax and any applicable discretionary sales surtax ("county surtax"). No more than $18,000 in total tax (state sales or use tax plus county surtax) is due on any taxable sale or use.”

For more information we strongly urge you to read the official state of florida article about the sales tax cap on vessels at: http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/tips/tip10a01-07.html

7. The True Cost of Yacht Ownership?

Occasionally, prospective buyers are under the impression that the price of owning their dream yacht and obtaining an insurance policy for it, is where the cost will end. However, knowing the true maintenance and operational costs involved during the term of ownership can help an individual avoid unwelcome surprises and can give you a clear picture of what it takes to own your dream vessel.  It is best to become as educated as possible before determining if a purchase is right for you.

A percentage of new yacht buyers keep the vessels behind their own waterfront properties and have the ability to cover all expenses related to their vessels without restrictions or major budget concerns (more power to them!)

For the more budget-oriented buyer, it’s fascinating (and highly recommended) to take a deeper look at the costs that are associated with owning a medium to large size yacht; not only when purchasing but, also when running, maintaining and repairing a vessel is involved.  The process becomes more extensive when an individual must hire a captain and/or crew to run the vessel and moving logistics when dealing with larger yachts.

Similar to the costs of surveying and financing a vessel, there are many variables which determine the true cost of owning and running a yacht on an annual basis. It is difficult to come up with a magic number that includes every vessel. However, we can offer a good idea of what a new yacht owner (especially as a first time buyer) should consider as the upkeep and operational expenses. They are listed below:

            »  yacht insurance:

2%-3% of yacht’s value for yearly premiums

            »  dockage:

In florida typically $20/ft-$30/ft per month at marinas

            »  bottom cleaning:

Typically $2.50/ft per month

            »  trailer repairs:

If applicable it usually represents +/- $500/year

            »  equipment:

Hard to determine but +/- $3,000/year is a safe bet for vessels up to 35’-40’ (more for larger yachts).

            »  sailboat sails & rigging:

Approximately $5,000-$9,000 every 5 years

            »  powerboats fuel:

Probably the highest running expense.  Twin engine vessels can easily burn $400-$1,000/weekend in fuel consumption.  Small open center console or small runabouts are usually easier on the wallet.  Tripled or quadrupled for outboard powered engines.

            »  electronics update

In the technology era this is a mandatory upkeep and usually requires a +/- $4,000 investment every 3-4 years.

            »  captain fee:

Anywhere between $150-$500 per day for single pay days.

            »  payroll crew:

more common on 80’+ yachts (and only if needed) this cost can easily reach $60,000-$100,000/year for the yacht’s main captain and +/- $45,000-$100,000/year for paid crew.

            »  exterior canvas/seats:

A commonly needed expense that can reach anywhere between $2,000-$10,000 every 3-4 years.

            »  mechanical breakdown:

Truly unpredictable.  But, in 5+ years old vessels an unavoidable expense.  However a good “preventive” maintenance plan will keep this cost down.

            »  exterior wax:

Very seldom done in a timely manner but, an extremely necessary application needed in southern u.s. states and everywhere in the bahamas, central & south america and the caribbean: +/- $500-$3,000 each time, twice a year.

 

As with every other hobby the marine enthusiast can just add or subtract dollar figures on their toys as deemed necessary, making really hard to predict the real cost of running and maintaining their vessels.  What’s certain is that a truly “preventive” maintenance plan always prevails over “corrective” maintenance minimizing the impact of use and age on any vessel, regardless of its size, quality or price.

8. Is Yacht Financing an Option?

It largely depends on the buyer’s intended vessel use, own financial structure, vessel’s age, type of construction, borrower’s credit worthiness, port of call and/or yacht’s registration location and other determining factors as established by the marine lending institutions.

In the past, u.s. buyers were able to obtain marine vessel loans for a maximum period of 20-30 years with as lows as 10% down payment and low fixed interest rates with no or limited proof of income.  After the recent economic crisis, access to credit has generally tightened and some lending guidelines have become a little more difficult to qualify for.  However we can safely say that credit is extended these days for credit-worthy people at competitive rates (sometimes on par with the real estate mortgage markets).  Terms are typically not longer than 15 years with an initial down payment of 20% (or more in most cases) and requiring a somewhat higher credit score from the buyer than previous years.  Lenders almost always require a fully documented loan with substantial proof of income.

Still, it is a relatively easy and simple process to follow that can offer competitive rates when the right conditions are met.  As a rule of thumb, a typical yacht financing represents approximately $7.25 per each $1,000 financed with a loan term of 15 years and a 25% down payment.  As there are many different financing options available to buyers and many variables involved with the buyer’s credit history and income, a more accurate estimate of mortgage costs should be analyzed on each individual basis.  Interest rates and down payments may vary so, the above rule of thumb is only offered as a reference based on past experience.

With few exceptions, yacht loans are almost always exclusively available to legal u.s. residents and citizens paying personal/corporate income taxes in the continental u.s. for at least two consecutive years under a social security number and are able to provide complete tax returns, proof of income, source of funds for the down payment and other lender-required supporting documentation to establish the buyer’s creditworthiness.

If more information is needed, please click here to review our “quick financing inquiry” or visit our marine financing page by clicking the last option at the bottom of the yacht brokerage tab’s drop-down menu.  This is not a credit application nor will the buyer’s credit be checked; it is only to obtain a general opinion of the current lending market conditions for a specific yacht purchase.

Note:

Mare blue marine group, llc. Does not offer credit directly to its clients as a separate mortgage license is required in the state of florida in order to do so; therefore (and only at the buyer’s request) the borrower will be referred to a list of appropriately qualified marine lenders to initiate a formal credit application.

9. Is a Captain License Required to Run Your Own Boat?

Incredibly, as long as it is under 200grt and strictly for private use, no license is required by the uscg to run a recreational yacht in us waters. However, at some point your insurance company will want some proof of competency. 

You do need a captain's license if your boat is used "for hire" or commercial purposes. This means if you are charging a fee for anything such as rides, people, cargo, fishing, diving trips, etc.

We suggest to inexperienced yacht owners to visit the following links to obtain more detailed information on the uscg official “boating safety resource center” web site at: http://www.uscgboating.org/ and the current downloadable brochure:

a boater’s guide to the federal requirements for recreational boats” here:

http://www.uscgboating.org/fedreqs/default.html

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