Marketing your yacht: In conversation with Jon Ford, Senior Broker at Argo Yachting
How would you prep a boat before listing it for sale?
The first thing is that it needs to be properly cleaned and polished. It’s difficult to stress how important that is, so if you’re in any doubt, you should get a second opinion from someone you trust. And the other vital thing you need to do is de-clutter. You need to really pay attention to clearing out all your personal possessions because the power of a buyer’s neuro-linguistic programming is very strong…
What I mean by that is actually quite straightforward. If you see a yacht littered with personal pictures, possessions, teddies and toys, then when you walk on board, your immediate thought is ‘This is somebody else’s yacht.’ But if it’s all neutrally laid out and ready to use, then whether you’re viewing pictures and video or enjoying a first-hand visit, the first impression will be ‘I can see myself standing at that galley, sitting at that helm, drinking wine at that table.’ And from that moment onwards, you’re invested in visualising yourself on board and using it in the way you would want.
How would you then present that yacht for a viewing?
In terms of the video and the marketing presentation, we like to take the boat off the mooring and lift the fenders off. It doesn’t have to go far but you need to get it away from the mooring so you can see the boat – and that goes for the internal photos as well as the external ones. Even if the boat can’t leave the berth, lift the fenders off so the profile of the yacht is clear and unobstructed.
As regards viewings, the old cliché about having the coffee machine running and bread in the oven might be a step too far but there’s no doubt that presentation makes a huge difference. Just as in the main living spaces, the cabins should be clean and neutral and the beds should be made up and tucked in as though they’ve never been slept in. And size and value shouldn’t really come into this at all. Whether you’re selling something at 35-foot in the middle of a British winter or something at 95-foot during high season in Cannes, those same rules apply.
How do you set about describing a yacht?
It needs to be positive, it needs to be realistic and you need to cover all the practicalities too. Once they’ve seen the photos and the headline information and they’re looking further into it, they begin trying to understand some of the finer details like the cabins. Does it have three cabins? Does it have two heads or three? Are they all en-suite? Is there a crew cabin? Is it a double crew cabin? You need good, accurate information to help them with this, so when we take a listing on, we prepare a detailed specification. We then get the vendor or the Captain to sign it off so we can make sure it’s fully accurate. If you give a potential buyer plenty of good, relevant and reliable information, they feel forearmed and forewarned and that enables them to take their time and to contact us when they’re comfortable and confident.
So is it about giving the buyer the confidence to commit?
Absolutely. That’s exactly what it’s about. And if you can do that – show good accurate information, an honest description and support that with knowledgeable input when they do make the call, then the confidence really starts to flow. Buyers will often then make an offer, subject to a viewing; and I’ve even had several cases when clients who are cash-rich but time-poor have bought large, valuable motoryachts on the basis of that information alone. The first time they see the boat is after they’ve paid for it and that’s exactly what real confidence can do.
How should the seller establish a realistic price?
JF: If you’re looking to sell privately, you could go and have a look on the Internet and see what’s comparable. But a good broker would go beyond that. For instance, of the three boats you might see, the broker would say, ‘Well I know that those boats have been on the market for 12 months, so we need to come down a little bit.’ Or, if you’re selling a Sunseeker Manhattan 66 and the Dusseldorf Boat Show is coming up with the launch of the new Manhattan 68, you know that now is the time to reduce the price. So effective pricing depends on more than online comparisons. It needs to encompass real-time knowledge of the yacht markets and that is part of the reason why a broker can be so useful.
Where would you publish your yacht ad for the best coverage?
It is of course dependent on the nature of your boat but Yachtworld, the Yacht Market, Right Boat and Boat International are the major websites. In particular, Yacht World is the go-to platform for buyers, brokers and sellers, but it’s not just about being on there. Anyone can place an ad, but a good broker will see to it that your yacht is a featured boat, highlighted with bigger text and bigger photos. You’re more likely to be higher up the rankings and you can also be featured on the homepage. There are even ways to make sure that, when someone searches for a particular boat, your listing is there on the screen as an alternative – and that can generate some really valuable interest.
What are the key marketing pitfalls to avoid?
JF: It’s almost laughable when you go online and see photos of a yacht showing dirty cutlery in the sink, untidy marks on the linings, unmade beds and a mess on the table. Like it or not, selling a boat is about selling the lifestyle and people don’t want dirt and clutter. If you can, just look at your yacht through a fresh pair of eyes, it’s much easier to see that mess for what it is and get it remedied.
Do you have any top tips for owners looking to sell privately?
JF: Present the boat well; have photos off the dock; and if you’re out on your boat on a sunny day with friends, even if you’re not yet considering selling your yacht, get that lovely sunny running shot. It will absolutely pay off when the time comes to start marketing it.