It seems like forever since we started looking for a broker to assist us in locating a boat. We decided that this would be a good idea since 1) we are first time buyers and 2) we are about 1000 miles from the nearest ocean. The problem has been finding one. What we wanted was someone that knew more than the average about catamarans and could assist us in locating and "pre qualifying" the boats (so our trips to the coast wouldn't consist of a lot of time spent looking at junk). It hasn't been an easy task.
I started by consulting the oracle for any reviews or recommendations we could find. I quickly found that there weren't any glowing recommendations for brokers, only a couple of "beware" comments, and none that mentioned catamarans specifically. So, we then started looking for brokers specializing in catamarans in Florida since we figured that would be the most likely location for finding a boat. From there we would read the bios of the brokers and search for any comments specific to the broker. When we found one we liked, we would send out an introductory email.
After a number of emails, we got a single response. Initially he said he was busy but would look into things for us and get back to us. About a week and a half later, we get an email stating he was going to be working on a charter for the summer and would have an associate of his...in Washington State...contact us. It took another couple weeks before his associate contacted us...but that was OK since we wanted someone in Florida and had moved on anyway.
We decided to try and contact a couple of the brokers that we had initially contacted about specific boats we were interested in (and who responded) to see if they would be able to help us as a buyers broker. After what we thought was an email miss-communication we thought we found one. We agreed that it would be a good idea to chat on the phone and he suggested talking on a Saturday afternoon. I didn't get a response when I asked for a time and so we ended up waiting around starting at 10am on Saturday (noon in Florida).
We waited patiently at home for the call until about 4pm. At that point we gave up as we needed to get some chores done. He finally called...on Sunday evening. We weren't there so he left a message that he was "out on the water" over the weekend. He didn't offer any sort of apology for missing the initial call, even when we later explicitly mentioned that we waited most of Saturday for his call. Not a good demonstration of the communication abilities we will need for this process.
We decided to write this guy off when he contacted us via email again to say he would have "one of his associates" work with us. We didn't really expect much, and were pleasantly surprised when his "associate" contacted us almost immediately. He setup a day and time to call us and called when he said he would. He has also provided us with a number of listings just to help gauge what we are looking for in a boat. He seems to understand the difficulties we are trying to work around shopping from a distance and thus far has also provided a lot of useful information on the boat buying process. So, after disappointing performance from a number of professional boat brokers, this latest hand-off seems to be a promising prospect. Glad we gave him a chance even after the poor experience from his "associate".
Given the economy and that the typical commission on a boat is 10% (5% to buyers agent, 5% to sellers agent), I'm surprised that it's been this much of an exercise to find someone willing to help us spend $100~180k. I know we aren't looking at multi-million dollar boats, but a motivated buyer with cash ought to be worth something.
I think we finally have a buyers broker. Now to find our boat.