Finding The Right Broker
September 23, 2012 Share

Finding The Right Broker

Why going at it alone can cost you

It’s an understatement to say that to buy or sell a houseboat is to participate in a major transaction. Houseboats can be expensive, and the investment put forth in both time and money is significant. If you are new to the houseboat market, a broker can help alleviate some of the risk through careful research and finding the right boat to fit your needs. If you need to sell your houseboat, a broker can help you be sure you get the most money for your craft in the shortest amount of time. Here are some points to consider when looking for a broker:

The Right Time
Whatever your interest level, a broker may be able to help guide your decision-making process to find a boat that matches your specifications. Wes Wise, from Middle Tennessee Houseboats & Yacht Sales, says you should start looking for a broker as soon as you have determined that you would like to spend time with your friends and family on the lake. “We can help you not only decide what you need but when and how to begin the search.”

You should contact a broker even if you’re not sure what kind of boat you’re looking for. The quicker you are able to provide the broker with a list of options, the sooner the search can begin for that perfect boat.

Travis Keller from Your New Boat agrees. “Once I get a good understanding of what options or ‘must haves’ a person is looking for, I can help narrow down their search and save them a lot of time.”

Questions prospective buyers should ask themselves are things like: What are you going to use the houseboat for? How many bedrooms do you need? And what kind of water will the boat be used in?

“If it’s going to be used for a river system, we would recommend twin engines,” says Theresa Mazzoli of Elite Boat Sales. “And if it’s going to be used in a river it would need a deeper hull.”

Even if you’re interested in making a purchase more than a year in the future, contacting a broker will ensure you’re on the right path. Terry Miller, from Houseboats Buy Terry, says, “Even if someone calls me and tells me they’ll be in the market five years from now, I will help answer their questions.”

“Considering the small upside cost and the large downside risk, it would be most unwise to consider a houseboat deal without the professional assistance of a qualified houseboat broker,” says Mark O’Neill from Center Hill Marine Brokerage.
Selecting A Surveyor

Not all marine surveyors are accredited, so research is everything to ensure that the surveyor you contact is honest. There are several different organizations which offer accreditations such as: The Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), United States Surveyors Association (USSA), International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS), and Association of Certified Marine Surveyors (ACMS), among many others. Researching the surveyor and his membership to these societies and associations will give you a feel for how reputable the surveyor is.

“Your broker should have several licensed boat surveyors to recommend to you,” says Marny Schlundt of “Always call them all and make your own decision as to whom you think is the best.”

Surveyors will check the condition of the boat and determine a fair market price for the craft. They perform four different types of surveys: a pre-purchase survey, which is the most thorough check of all systems and structural integrity; an insurance survey, which is done for insurance companies to determine risk, safety, use, and fair market price; an appraisal survey, which is for financing, estate settlements, donations and legal cases; and a damage inspection appraisal to check the extent of damages, recommend repairs, estimate repair costs, and if requested, investigate a possible cause for the damage.

Mazzoli from Elite Boat Sales says that beyond accreditation, one could also talk to other experienced boaters about what surveyors they’ve had a good experience with. “Surveys are required by most insurance companies on all boats over 10 years old, but we’d recommend them on every boat you’re interested in purchasing,” she says.

Keller also suggests that you be sure the surveyor has the right equipment and is thorough.

“Make sure that the surveyor has the proper equipment to inspect a boat, most importantly a moisture meter,” says the owner of Your New Boat. “Don’t be afraid to ask for sample surveys so that you can see how thorough they are. The survey should be more thorough than your broker’s spec sheet; it’s not just a list of equipment and pictures of the boat.”

Right For You
Brokers are as diverse as people are. Some brokerages offer special services such as driving help, and others may offer in-house financing. But most hang their hats on their reputation of experience and service.

“Middle Tennessee Houseboats & Yacht Sales is a full-service houseboat brokerage operation,” explains Wise. “We not only help find or sell your boat, but we also assist with finding professional services including: surveyors, finance institutions, insurance companies, transportation and repair professionals. If the boat is being moved, we work hand-in-hand with boat movers to ensure the utmost care of your new investment.”

“ has many years of experience in listing and selling boats,” says Schlundt. “We share our knowledge, try to educate our buyers, and we are proud of our record of happy buyers and sellers.”

Your New Boat is a member of the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA).YBAA has a professional code of ethics and business practices that all of their brokers adhere to and they utilize standardized forms and procedures that ensure a fair and impartial boat buying experience for all parties.

“Our brokers have years of experience on houseboats. I grew up with one,” says Mazzoli. “People come from all over the country and the world to buy from us. We’re located in the houseboat capital of the world here in Jamestown, Ky., so we have a large selection of houseboats and cruisers to choose from.”

Honesty and integrity is important to Houseboats Buy Terry. “I will tell them what they need to know, even if it doesn’t make them happy,” explains Miller. “If it’s a project boat and it needs repairs x, y and z, and they don’t want a project boat, I will suggest to them not to buy it.”

O’Neill adds, “Center Hill Marine Brokerage has a lot of repeat customers because of our focus on service after the sale. For example, we're available to give our customers driving lessons and help them get comfortable in operating their new boat.”

Don’t Go Along
Connections are everything, and brokers can exploit contacts that you may not have access to. Many have contacts across the country as well as around the world.

Your New Boat is a member of a boat multiple listing service and participates in co-brokerages.  What this means for its sellers is that their boat is being marketed not only by brokers, but by thousands of brokers around the world.”
 “There are a lot of boats that are for sale which don't have signs in the windows, so you may be walking by the perfect boat for your family and not even know it,” adds O’Neill.

A broker can also make sure your boat has the correct documentation, which could save you a time-consuming hassle.

“We handle all the paperwork to ensure the boat is properly documented with respect to taxes, liens, insurance, registration and even Coast Guard documentation if necessary,” says Wise.

A broker can protect you from shady business practices and weed out lemons which aren’t worthy of your investment.

“We’ve heard of ‘for sale by owner’ boat sellers who have agreed to sell their boat to someone, turned down other offers, and then never heard from the buyer again,” says Keller. “The same thing has also happened that a buyer had agreed to buy a boat but the seller ended up selling to someone else.”

If you do not have a YBAA broker, you do not have the advantage of having the transaction safeguarded through the use of an escrow account. A buyer could end up with a boat that has a lien on it and a seller could end up letting their boat go and not receiving payment due to fraudulent funds.

O’Neill agrees, “One customer decided to go on his own and purchased a for-sale-by-owner vessel and did not get a marine survey. The result was a very unhappy experience in that the roof was rotten and there were major electrical issues with the boat that cost the gentleman well over $10,000 to repair. A $400 marine survey recommended by our brokerage would have saved him money and aggravation.”

Finally, a brokerage is an institution which is enduring, and will not leave town the minute you buy the houseboat.

“A reputable broker is going to be around in the future,” says Miller. “When I see a boat buyer on the docks years later, I want them to offer me an iced tea, not throw me overboard.”
Case in Point: Houseboat Brokering
Selling a houseboat without the services of a broker can be frustrating. You alone are responsible for advertising the boat, screening prospective buyers, negotiating a fair price, and completing the transaction. Although one might expect that another party being involved might cost more than it’s worth, a broker can actually increase the amount of money you get from the sale.

David Evans, from Okeechobee, Fla., recently needed to sell his houseboat. He was moving to Moore Haven, Fla., and due to market conditions, he kept going down on his price. Finally he was going to sell it to a marina manager for a bargain.

“Lo and behold, Terry [Miller from Houseboats Buy Terry] and her husband walked by and saw my boat. After talking for awhile, they found out I was selling it and asked me what the price was. I told her what I had been asking for it and she told me it was worth double,” Evans said.

The difference in price was a staggering $22,000. Evans says that although he didn’t get to make the sale immediately, the amount of money is worth waiting for.  “I’m retired now, and I’m not desperate for the money,” he said.

When asked why he didn’t go through a broker to begin with he said, “I was a marine surveyor in the past, and I’m familiar with the industry. We are in a depressed market so I thought the price was fair. Terry now has the boat on the market for a better price. I’m really pleased with her service.”
Bill Austin Yacht Sales
Center Hill Marine Brokerage
Elite Boat Sales
Erwin Marine Sales
Executive Boat & Yacht Brokering
Green Turtle Bay Marina & Resort
Holiday Boat Sales & Brokerage
Houseboat Outlet
Houseboats Plus
Houseboats Buy Terry
Houseboats of Georgia
Holly Bluff Marina
Kentuckian Yacht Sales
Middle Tennessee Houseboats & Yacht Sales
Pirates Yacht & Houseboat Sales
Safe Harbor Yacht Sales
Sea Village Marina
Shasta Lake Houseboat Sales

By Charlie VanLeuven
Houseboat Magazine
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