In conversation with Jon Ford, Senior Broker at Argo Yachting
What’s the nature of your yachting background?
I grew up in a seaside town in Dorset, sailing with my family and friends from a very young age. I always associated sailing and sail instructing with my leisure time but I suppose the light-bulb moment was realising I could marry up my personal and professional life. I was given that opportunity at the 2004 Southampton Boat Show and I’ve been professionally selling both Motor Yachts and Super Yachts ever since. I still enjoy sailing and like nothing more that racing around on my Hobie Cat off the coast of Dorset.
Has that background helped shape your area of expertise?
It has to a degree. I started working as a yacht broker for Sealine on the River Hamble, and after building up a couple of years of experience, I moved to Sunseeker Sales followed by 8 years as an Independent Yacht & Super Yacht Broker based in the UK and the South of France. Having sold over 10 Super Yachts in my career to-date I know I can confidently market and sell a 30m motor yacht as well as a 35ft sports boat in the UK. Both types of sale can be extremely diverse and rewarding.
So how does your relationship with a boat buyer begin?
It’s very personal. It depends on who it is and what they’re looking for. It also depends on what stage of the process they’re at. We can quickly ascertain with a few questions, whether they know everything about boats and have got it down to a particular model, or whether they haven’t yet decided whether they’re going to do their boating in the UK or abroad or whether they’re looking at sail or power. It’s through the process of asking questions, spending time and really getting to know your client, that you build up a picture of what they’re looking for. And in some cases, it’s about helping their thoughts develop and take shape, because sometimes they don’t actually know what they want.
What kinds of questions are the most important?
Generally I am more interested in understanding how they intend to use their boat, who they’re intending to use it with and where in the world they’re looking to keep it. This is as opposed to going straight into what make and model they are interested in. For instance, I’ve spoken to clients who might be looking to keep a 50-foot motor yacht as a floating villa down in the Mediterranean. They might like the look of a sports boat with a hard top roof and that’s fine – but if they’re moored between a pair of flybridge motor yachts, they could find themselves a bit low down and overlooked. So with the extra space it allows, they could consider a flybridge instead. It’s not that a flybridge is always the right motor yacht, however a good broker should pose the question, so that people can really visualise how they’re going to use their boat and ultimately assist them in making the right choice for them.
I’ve also met people who have always been boating in the UK and are a bit nervous about the idea of going abroad. But if you can give them first-hand advice on places like the South of France or Mallorca, with information on things like flights, attractions, logistics and costings, that can make it a whole lot easier for people to embrace the boating experiences they really want.
Are there any pitfalls you warn boat buyers against?
The industry is immeasurably more professional than it was ten years ago but there is still some way to go. For instance, there are no barriers to yacht brokerage out there. Anyone can become a yacht broker and that’s fairly incredible in this day and age – so you need to understand that the agreements you make during a yacht transaction are serious. You’re transferring large sums of money so you need to find a broker who has your best interests at heart.
How do you pick a better broker?
The fact that a company may be large doesn’t necessarily mean a broker will look after your best interests. And conversely, it’s perfectly possible for a small company or even a one-man band to offer good advice. But when you have a good solid team with an established support and service network, alongside 40 years of business experience within the group, then when you’re bringing together a nervous British owner with a Turkish buyer who’s never done any business with a Brit, it really does carry some weight. That proven credibility is absolutely crucial in making things happen.
So is the real value of a broker about client confidence?
That’s a very important question and one we ought to be asking constantly, as advances in technology bring everyone better access to the world’s yachting markets. But what I would come back to is my experience of previous clients. When I think about buyers and sellers I’ve helped over the years, I know that if I hadn’t been there to influence, assist and get involved at certain stages, many of the sales would never have happened – and very few with such happy outcomes.
Is there anything special in terms of the service you provide?
Argo Yachting is a brokerage that’s equipped to provide an exceptional level of service for the new generation of boat buyers. We offer a one-year extendable service and maintenance package, as well as a purchasable ‘Guardian Assured’ warranty to help give buyers confidence that a brokerage boat is something that could work for them. We also offer a part-exchange service, regardless of brand, model and boat type, to everyone who comes forward with a boat to sell. At Argo Yachting we want to provide a full end-to-end service not just a quick sale. To demonstrate this, we offer all our buyers a free-of-charge half-day orientation with one of our marine engineers, who will come and help you find your feet with your new yacht regardless of where in the World the boat is lying. They will walk you through the switches, the electronics, the pumps, the pump-outs; all the nitty-gritty; all the questions you might have. Even after the sale is completed, we’re still there to offer support, so you can get the best use out of your new motor yacht from day one.
What’s the toughest part about finding someone the right boat?
Each case is so personal. Everyone’s completely different. Sometimes we’ve got the right boat lined up but sometimes you can explore the whole market and then move on to new-build projects before you find exactly what the client is looking for. That said, we’ve been in business for less than 12 months and we’re already dealing with repeat clients so the evidence suggests we’re getting it right.
What core advice would you offer the boat buyer?
Even if you’re looking at a small sports boat, there’s always a broker that covers your area so I would always try to find one who can properly represent your interests. And if all the documentation is readily to hand, then with smaller, older boats, whether you’re using a broker or not, the two key things are good, clear, accurate information, and transacting the money in a way that is safe and secure for both parties.
If you are considering buying a yacht, you can view our selection of yachts available here. If what you are looking for isn’t listed, or you simply need guidance to help you choose your next yacht, you can email Jon directly at email@example.com