The highlight of my foray into the world of yachting was a trip to the Ft. Lauderdale headquarters of The Ferretti Group to meet with yacht broker Jason Wood. It’s a gorgeous showroom on the Stranahan River just south of downtown. The beautiful open-air space serves as a hub for sales, design, and service for Ferretti and Allied Marine.
I went in thinking that a yacht broker was a parallel role to a real estate broker, and was surprised to find out how much above and beyond Jason went for his clients. He is clearly in in for the long game and sees each sale not as the end of the transaction, but the beginning of a life-long relationship. For that reason, the most repeated theme in our conversation was to pick the right team.
Although everyone’s situation will be different, whether you represent the buyer or seller your team will need to incorporate a broker, legal representative, and finance manager. The latter you will probably have in-house, but how does one find a good yacht broker? Jason said first and foremost: ask around. A broker’s reputation will follow him. Then check out a broker’s current and recent sales. Does he have a lot of inventory sitting? Is he selling yachts similar to what your principal is looking for? Is there a long sales history?
When you have narrowed your options, check the broker’s license and affiliations. In Florida, licensing is required to sell any vessel greater than 32 feet in fixed length other than a personal craft. In order to participate in the sale of a vessel in Florida, a person must submit a bond of $10,000, go through a criminal background check, submit a fingerprint card and hold a valid license with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. After 2 years as a sales person, one is eligible to become a Broker in their own right.
Some common yacht association memberships to look for:
– Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB)
– Florida Yacht Brokers Association (FYBA)
The last step in choosing a broker is an interview. In a variation from real estate, it’s not uncommon to have one broker representing sellers and buyers, even in the same transaction. Jason pointed this out to emphasize that we need to look for a broker who is neutral and transparent. Make sure the person you choose is working as hard for your principal (buyer, in this case) as he is for the seller. It should be very comfortable conversation and the broker should have a personality that will click with your boss or you should keep looking. As mentioned, this can be a long-term relationship.
Once you have found a good broker, I asked Jason what we could expect our broker to do for us. His first reply was to understand what we want. An estate manager should come prepared with a list of wants, needs, and plans to begin to narrow the choices. Jason suggests a quick list of questions to ask in order get the conversation started:
Why do they want a yacht?
What will they want to do on it? With how many people?
How much time will they plan to spend onboard?
To where do they envision travelling? And from what home port?
You’ll also need to have a budget. There’s much (much) more to it than purchase cost. Similar to an estate property, there will be taxes, insurance, staff, furnishings, maintenance, and provisions. But there are a slew of additional expenses like fuel, port fees, dockage, and management. An Estate Manager should work closely with the finance team to put together a few budget models based on different sized and priced yachts so that the principal is fully aware of the complete purchase plus operating expenses.
Now that we have an idea of what kind of yacht to look for and at what price point, the broker gets going reaching out to contacts to see what’s available. In the case of The Ferretti Group, they represent (as manufacturers) some of the best luxury yachts out there- Ferretti, Pershing, and Riva, among others. Working with a broker who directly represents the yacht builder you are interested in can have some great advantages. Still, be sure it’s the right broker. A good broker can work with any company to find what you need.
This is probably the point where you bring your principal into the conversation with the broker personally. As an Estate Manager, you have identified a few options as a starting point and now they can begin to work together to determine what works and what doesn’t and start to articulate the principal’s vision for his or her yachting life. An experienced broker will pick up on reactions and comments and preferences that will focus the field of options.
Once a yacht has been chosen, based on whether it’s new or used, there are two paths of action, both of which will be managed by your broker and team. A new or custom purchase will lead over to the design team. A used yacht needs to be vetted. This includes verifying that it is free from any liens and has clear title, coordinating a haul out and survey, and scheduling a sea trial. In both cases the next steps are to negotiate a sales price, create and execute contracts, manage deposits and escrow, and confirm that seller loans are paid.
I would have thought that’s where a broker’s job stopped, but Mr. Wood said that wasn’t the case with the services he provides. He’ll gather the specs, surveys, and valuations and deliver them to the finance team or insurance company as needed, oversee delivery, and connect you with the team you’ll need going forward. That new team includes management, staff, specialty maintenance crews and mechanics, and any customization or refit vendors that might be needed. He’ll also insist that he be the first on your call list for any issues that arise– forever.
A seasoned Estate Manager knows that ultimately, every vendor and every sales person that we locate and vet for our principal is going to come back to us, success or failure. Yachts are such a huge investment, and such a personal one at that, the broker really is key to making it all work. I would recommend Jason Wood to everyone (and have). If you aren’t working with someone who you would tell the world about, keep looking. There are good brokers out there.
You can find Jason Wood’s contact information in our Little Black Book.
Currently serving the sports and entertainment industry working on the east coast, Kimberly’s focus is expert management of ‘on-location’ and transitional experiences for these high profile individuals. Working with Production Coordinators, Estate Managers, Agents, and Personal Assistants, she strives to make the relocation process, whether long term or short term, as painless as possible.
For those who chose to add a property to their portfolio, Kimberly serve as an owner’s representative in the design and renovation process and then can map out a successful management plan and put in place experienced staff to facilitate the new systems. Recent projects include a significant portfolio of historic and newly constricted estate properties ranging from 6,000 to 33,000 square feet, often with multiple support structures and extensive grounds.
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