Pre purchase survey considerations

What is the purpose of a survey in a Pre-Purchase context?

Firstly the recommendations the surveyor has made will assist in negotiations so that the buyer can get a reduction in the purchase price to cover the repairs. If extensive repairs are required the buyer will avoid buying a yacht which will immediately incur large expenses and may be very difficult to dispose of.

The pre-purchase report will also be suitable for obtaining insurance or financing. On older boats and also steel and wooden boats of any age the insurer will usually require an insurance survey before insuring the boat.

Most importantly the surveyor will identify items to be corrected and after the repairs are done (hopefully at seller’s expense) the buyer will be able to enjoy some good sailing without immediate problems cropping up.

The survey cost is usually a small fraction of the purchase price and in the end is good value to the buyer. The surveyor will have seen all kinds of boats and their defects daily and will also be aware of the deterioration that can happen to materials over time. The surveyor will also recognise poor and non-compliant products, installations and repairs and will be up to date with regulations and safety issues. The surveyor’s experience and methodical investigation will discover any faults thus providing a useful service to the buyer.

Removal of Antifouling

The surveyor will want to remove some patches of antifouling during the survey to assist his close inspection of the hull. This is necessary to effectively examine the gelcoat and underlying surface. The buyer should agree this with the Seller and insist upon it if there is any reluctance on the Seller’s part.  After the survey these small areas can be antifouled, some owners may complain but these areas are similar to those areas where the boat is supported and of no significance. Should the boat have been treated with a preventative osmosis treatment the surveyor should be advised and the buyer should consider whether a close inspection of the gelcoat surface is required because this requires removal of these expensive treatments.

Ashore Survey Only

If the boat is only available for a survey ashore the surveyor will not be able to test the engine unless the seller arranges for a cooling water supply to be made available. The running and operational condition of the engine is important in the consideration of a boat purchase. The ashore survey will provide a good opinion of the structure and condition of the boat but it is preferable if the boat is launched to be able to test the engine under load even if it is only moored up at the dock. If sea trials are not available it may be possible for the surveyor to attend the transfer of the yacht from the hauling area to the berth. Actually if there was a choice of ashore or afloat survey, the ashore survey would  provide  better access for assessment of the boat’s structure but cannot cover everything. Insurance surveys are generally performed ashore unless the boat is very large.

Sea Trial

Is a Sea Trial necessary? Generally these are performed under engine and are quite short. They do provide some useful information and should be  arrangements with the seller.  A full sea trial of several hours can be arranged but this would be an extra service from the surveyor and should be requested at time of quotation.

Survey Lift

It is quite normal for the boat to be lifted and suspended for survey of the hull for approximately one hour. In GRP yachts the hull needs some time to dry before representative moisture readings can be taken. One week or  more for an older yacht.  The surveyor can advise you on this. If the boat is recently hauled the moisture readings are not representative but may indicate where the moisture is. Some surveyors may decline moisture readings if the boat is recently hauled. However, a survey lift is better than no hauling at all and will be useful to the surveyor. Whether the boat is just lifted for the survey or lifted and taken to the hardstanding area, the charges for the lifting are usually down to the buyer.

Avoiding Hauling Charges Until Necessary

It is possibile for the surveyor to make an in-water inspection with a  sea trial and then issue a report. The buyer can then consider whether to proceed further with the sale and haul the yacht at his expense or to withdraw from the sale.  If lifterd, then the hull can be examined and the  the surveyor will amend his initial report or issue a new one. The survey fees are likely to be more expensive with this method but if the yacht is large the hauling charges will be considerable and perhaps in-excess of the survey fees. The buyer may choose to conclude the sale on the basis of only an in-water survey but this is not recommended as the surveyor has not been provided with proper access to the hull and has only completed a “partial” survey.

Services Required after Purchase

Should you proceed with the purchase of the boat, you may require additional services. For instance if you wish to flag the boat Part I British Registry you will need a Tonnage and Measurement Survey. Other flags may similarily need measurements. These services can be done at the same time of the pre-purchase survey for a small additional cost. If they are done separately from the pre-purchase survey and travel is required then the costs will be  more. It may be wise to advise the surveyor of your intentions at time of obtaining a quotation for pre-purchase survey.

Verbal Opinion

Some surveyors may agree to give a verbal opinion after the survey. Others may prefer not to. It is really best however to consider a boat properly by sitting down and studying a full report. Therefore considering the purchase on the basis of as much information as possible rather than just a quick opinion. A full report made after hours of work and consideration of the findings will be more useful than a verbal opinion and indeed the surveyor may after some thought and research have reached a different opinion than he had at the end of the survey.

Will the Surveyor Recommend a buyer to purchase a Boat?

Because of liability the surveyor cannot recommend  buying a boat. The surveyor may however recommend not to buy a boat but this is not always the case. The report will detail the condition of the boat and the surveyor will raise some recommendations and suggestions. The recommendations will be safety related and will also concern the insurance company so a prudent buyer should attend to them. The suggestions are items that are left up to the buyers discretion if he wants to attend to any or all of them. They may be cosmetic items or suggestions to improve the boat. The buyer should select the items he wants to attend to and the surveyor may assist with estimating the costs or will recommend a yard or technician to quote (this will provide the most accurate costing). Once the buyer has the costs he can consider the price of the boat with the repair costs and decide if it is a good purchase.

Will the surveyor tell me if it is the right Boat for me?

The surveyor cannot predict all the buyer’s requirements. It is up to the buyer to recognise if the layout and outfitting of the boat is suitable to him and also to consider his budget for the purchase and annual costs and periodic maintenance.

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