If the second largest purchase you ever decide to make floats… keep reading. Large yacht owners (and an increasing number of small boat owners) know an investment in a marine survey is worth while. Hire a marine surveyor to inspect the vessel prior to purchase but don’t simply “go through the motions”. Hire a good marine surveyor.
If you trust your broker then trust your broker’s selection of a marine surveyor. You are risking a lot more based on your choice of brokers than you are on your choice of marine surveyors. But, don’t trust the broker blindly, ask questions about your options, educate yourself, it is your decision. Ask the broker if they feel the surveyor is the best surveyor available, one that will represent your interests exclusively and rigorously. If the broker has a list of marine surveyors, ask if any surveyors have been excluded because they are too “picky”, too “tough” or “are deal killers”. Ask the broker who they would use if they were buying a vessel for themselves.
Comparing surveyors is a simple task. Narrow your list of potential surveyors based on your initial research, and simply request sample survey reports of vessels similar to the one you wish to purchase. Briefing these reports should take no time at all and you will have a good idea which surveyor fits you best, performs the job you require and which surveyor you feel is good.
You should raise any specific concerns you have about the boat or the survey process with the marine surveyor. Mention any problems you have noticed, any deficiencies you have heard about and discuss any specific inspection techniques that you hope to be accomplished. Ask the surveyor about the extent of the operation of the systems they will perform during the inspection process. Many surveyors operate very little equipment; their sample surveys should reveal these details.
Don’t hire a surveyor by price. Price is not likely to vary by any significant amount and the price of the survey is insignificant compared to the cost of the vessel and the potential cost of not hiring a good marine surveyor.
Assure that the marine surveyor’s report will be accepted by the lending institution, insurance company and marina of your choice. This step can be tricky because you may not have made your choice(s) at the time of purchase. An easy vetting process for this purpose is to choose a surveyor who is a member of a recognized surveyor’s association. The Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) and the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) are well established and recognized by most financial and insurance institutions. Also make sure the surveyor has sufficient length of time in the trade and is experienced with the type of vessel you’re buying.
Don’t skip the survey because you are buying a vessel “as-is”. It is better to know what you are buying than to be surprised. A recent client buying a vessel with no possibility of survey allowances; was happy to learn of two significant survey findings. A bobstay fitting exhibited significant corrosion and a through hull valve was not properly functional. The bobstay fitting was easily removed, cleaned, inspected and reinstalled. A new snubber connection was attached, it was reinstalled with little expense and effort. The through hull valve was subsequently determined to be corroded. The repairer easily broke the valve stem, necessitating the replacement of the valve. The client decided to replace the through hull in conjunction with the valve and thus took the utmost advantage of the haul for survey. Although there was no survey allowance from the seller, the buyer still realized the benefit of a good marine survey.
Don’t accept an old survey done for another client. Get the benefit of the survey process along with the survey. Learn the boat with the surveyor, if you hire a good surveyor, the education during the survey will be invaluable. If you use an old survey, you have no idea of the events of the day and the money and time saved may be the worst investment you ever didn’t make. The report also may not be useful for the finance, insurance or marina requirements.
Brokers desiring long term relationships with boat owners should limit their referral list to good marine surveyors. The true condition of the vessel should be determined and any issues resolved at the time of purchase. This results in a satisfied customer, who feels they were treated fairly and this feeling builds a relationship which is sure to continue. Discard the clutter of negative reputations and you may discover that the “deal killer” is actually a good deal maker. Referring “sub-standard” marine surveyors often comes back to bite brokers. Don’t refer a surveyor that you wouldn’t want surveying your own boat; ethically there should be no difference between a good surveyor when you’re “buying” and a good surveyor when you’re “selling”.