Is it time to trade Up? Miles Kendall looks at how to sell your boat quickly and get the best price

In recent years it has been almost impossible to miss the multitude of TV programmes telling you how to sell your house.

A quick coat of magnolia and the smell of freshly baked bread is said to win the hearts and minds of house-hunters, but what does it take to sell a boat?

A professional approach is all-important whether you use a broker or sell your yacht privately.

Don’t give a prospective purchaser a reason to say no, and the chances are that they’ll say yes.

Down below

The golden rule when selling a boat is that less is more. Take almost anything that is not screwed down off the boat. This includes charts and pilots, booze and stores, crockery and cooking kit.

A potential buyer needs to be able to envisage themselves as owners and the more of your kit there is on board, the harder this will be.

You may be throwing in a spare sail, but don’t leave it on board. It’ll take up room and reduce the feeling of space – and spare sails always smell. And smell is your enemy.

A damp-smelling boat speaks of neglect, so do everything you can to keep the air fresh and dry.

Dehumidifiers and heaters are a must in colder months and the bilges will need hours of scrubbing.

Use an engine-cleaning spray to give your diesel a facelift and make sure the bilge below it is spotless.

Toolkits and spares should be taken off and stored as well.

Once the boat is stripped, it’s time for the cleaning to start.

There are valeting companies at all major boating centres and they know how to do a really professional job.

On a newer boat this is money well spent as they’ll get her looking as good as new.

On deck

It may pay to call in the pros to work on the exterior too. A thorough polishing of the deck can bring back a showroom gleam that will draw buyers away from another less sparkling boat.

Touching up patches of chipped gel-coat also adds to the overall impression.

Take a look at your lines. The mainsheet is likely to be staring you in the face everytime you emerge from the companionway.

If it is looking tired and mouldy then spend a few pounds to replace it.

Old dodgers and weather-beaten horse-shoe buoys should also be removed. You may have got used to them but to a prospective owner they speak of the sea miles your boat has already logged.

Everything should be left shipshape and Bristol fashion, suggesting a boat that has been well looked after.

Location, location, location

Where should you sell your boat? In some sailing hotspot like the Hamble where there are dozens of similar boats, or in some farflung backwater where yours may be the only one of its kind and so face less competition?

The backwater technique is a dangerous one and if you want a quick sale then there’s safety in numbers.

Having chosen your location you must decide whether to leave the boat in the water or haul her out.

If you want a quick sale then out she must come as few people will buy a boat without a hull inspection.

A new coat of antifoul and a polish will again help speed your sale and drive up the price – after all, would you buy an unwashed car?

The final piece in the seller’s arsenal is a mini survey. Spend a few hundred pounds on a basic examination of the boat that you can make available to buyers and you’ll be bounds ahead of the opposition.

Buyers may not even ask for a full one if they’re happy with what they read.

Going for brokers

The benefits of a boat broker are obvious. They do everything above for you then put the boat in a spot where it’s most likely to sell: among the rows of other used vessel.

Choose a broker with care. Many specialise in a builder and their books will be full of clients who are after a particular make.

Look through the small ads in magazines like Yachting Monthly and Practical Boat Owner and you’ll soon get a feel for where to place your yacht.

Going to a specialist also allows you to tap into buyers who were after a new boat but realise that they can’t afford one and so go for a used boat of the same type.

Always ask what the broker’s service includes and don’t be afraid to haggle. Discounts may be available if you buy your next boat from the broker that sells your current vessel.

Asset stripping?

Think carefully about what you include on the yacht’s inventory. As a basic rule there is no point including an item that you will then need to buy for your next boat.

Liferaft, dinghy, flares and crockery won’t be dealbreakers, and if they’ve been taken off before viewing, the buyer won’t feel hard done by.

Electronics should not be removed as this creates a miserly impression and can put buyers off.

On the other hand there is no point in adding items to make a sale. Radar and roller furling may be attractive to prospective buyers but a well-turned-out boat without them will win out over a better-equipped scruffy boat of the same price.

Originally published in Your Yacht 2005