Having been asked this question repeatedly at our booth in the recent San Diego boat show and many times over the years, I decided to publish my answer.
Since we are a marine survey company, a question we often field from prospective boat buyers is “Can I trust my broker’s recommendation for a marine surveyor?”
To use a baseball analogy, this is a “hanging curveball”. I’m at bat with bases loaded and no outs! Boat broker and marine surveyors are often at odds and I have suffered the blows of many brokers’ verbal bats.
Still my answer is, “If you trust your broker, you should trust their recommendation for marine surveyor, lender, insurance company, boat yard, mechanic, etc…, After all you trust their advice on the boat, right?”
I ask if the potential boat buyer is working with a broker that found the boat for them or if they found the boat and the broker came along, becoming their broker and the broker for the seller. This doesn’t disqualify the broker‘s referrals but the new relationship will not manifest the same trust as one developed over time with someone searching listings for you and taking you out for viewings.
I see no ethical dilemma in brokering both sides of the deal – it is common, and the broker either is or is not ethical. Of course having one broker versus two creates some ethical challenges and raises the possibility of an appearance of a conflict of interest. It must be tricky to advise the buyer on a proper offering price when the broker already knows the seller’s bottom line. A dedicated broker could logically be more aggressive in negotiating but the shared broker might have more influence.
If there is any question that the broker’s referral(s) are not in your best interest, don’t dismiss them, but also do your own research. The marine industry is a “small world”, ask marine industry professionals for referrals. We all know each other’s reputations. Network with marine surveyors, lenders, insurance agents, boat yard operators, mechanics and maritime attorneys.
Ask for several referrals instead of just one and compare the lists. Ask your boating neighbors and friends. Search the internet, but be careful to not be influenced by one fanatical supporter or detractor. “Due diligence” in this case does not take long and is simple.
On the other side of the coin, I just met with a repeat (marine survey) client of mine who had a bad sales experience as a boat seller, and realized many of our clients don’t go through the vessel selling process often.
In Part 2 of this article, I will share my experience on the boat selling transaction side, which I hope will be helpful.