Terysa Vanderloo and partner Nick Fabbri have spent five years cruising on their Southerly 38, whilst vlogging on their YouTube channel Sailing Ruby Rose.

Sooner or later, most boat owners will find it’s time to change their yacht for a different size or model. No matter how well loved their yacht is, wants and needs shift over time and most owners will inevitably find themselves in the position of selling a yacht – whether to upgrade to something bigger, newer, or simply change to a different style of sailing.

Terysa Vanderloo

My partner and I have spent the past five years living on board our Southerly 38 Ruby Rose, on which we cruised between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, including two Atlantic crossings.

Before setting off on our bluewater adventure, we spent years researching the perfect liveaboard boat for us, and settled on the Southerly 38. Although the waterline length was relatively modest for a full-time cruiser, we loved the interior space and build quality.

Importantly, we couldn’t afford bigger and we didn’t feel comfortable handling a bigger monohull. After eight years of ownership and five years of full-time cruising, we’re now upgrading to a 45ft catamaran. We recently sold Ruby Rose, and are awaiting the launch of our new Seawind 1370.

Selling a yacht privately or with a Broker

Choosing to sell privately or through a broker is one of the first decisions to make when selling your boat.

We opted to list Ruby Rose with Northshore, the dedicated Southerly brokerage, as well as list her privately on our own website. Because we listed her before arriving back in the UK, we also had to provide photographs and manage viewings ourselves. Ultimately we accepted an offer privately while we were still in France.

Rupert Knox-Johnston of Oyster Yachts Brokerage provides some advice for choosing a broker: “Look for brokers with a track record of selling your model of yacht and ask for recommendations. If you are unwilling or unable to conduct viewings yourself, you might wish to choose a broker that is close to your yacht.

Using a broker is a popular option

“Choose one with a good reputation that is affiliated to the appropriate trade bodies. In the UK, for example, brokers that are members of the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA) must have the requisite professional indemnity and liability insurance.”

Alex Grabau from Grabau International Yacht Brokerage agrees that it’s crucial to choose a broker who operates to high professional standards. He says: “Adhering to protocols of sale such as operating with correctly managed separate client accounts, professional indemnity insurance and the use of contracts written by top lawyers in the marine industry ensures a seamless sale process and transaction.”

When Vicky and Stuart Punshon sold their Moody S31 in order to upgrade to a Moody 46 they chose a broker based on their good reputation, proven sales record, as well as the commission price and the broker’s location in respect to the yacht.

They were very happy with this decision and had a smooth sale at a price they were satisfied with.

By contrast, when Robyn Hawkins and Dave Evans chose to sell their Dufour 34 in order to upgrade to a Hallberg-Rassy 42E, they chose to do so privately. “The main reason was the cost,” says Robyn. “I wasn’t happy to give away thousands of pounds for something I knew I could do myself.”

They had originally listed the Dufour with a broker, but their experience was not positive. Things got off to a bad start when the broker missed their first appointment to view and photograph the boat.

Article continues below…

Six months later there has not been a single viewing, so Robyn and Dave instructed the broker to take down the listing and successfully sold the boat themselves in weeks.

Whether you choose to sell privately or through a broker may be influenced by the value of your yacht, says Alan McIlroy of Berthon International. “Once you step over a certain value, purchasers in particular feel a little more comfortable in dealing with an established brokerage house.

“For the seller, the correct management of the sale is key. Having a professional broker doing this makes the process less stressful. The broker works for you.”

Grabau adds that although there is nothing wrong with selling a boat privately, the risks to the vendor and buyer can be considerable.

“It makes sense that a professional and trained hand is at the wheel at all times to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Ensure your boat is in good shape for potential viewings

“The sale of a yacht will ordinarily involve a whole raft of checks and processes including establishing clear and unencumbered title, reviewing VAT, RCD and registration documentations (which may include foreign languages or formats), dealing constructively with survey findings, safe handling of client monies, drawing up contracts to assist with the process of the sale and general ‘good sense’ when dealing with delicate negotiations.”

When selling privately, he cautions: “If mistakes are made, they can be costly to either or both parties.”

Photographs and video for selling a yacht

In order to choose your boat, potential buyers need to be able to firstly find the listing, and also have their interest grabbed enough to book a viewing. This is where marketing comes in.

If selling privately, it’s crucial to understand how important this step is to a successful sale. Good photographs, a detailed description and full specification list are imperative.

Robyn Hawkins says: “Having looked at loads of listings when we were looking for our next boat, the ones we liked the best were the ones that showed everything [so] that’s what we wanted to do for our boat.”

Alex Grabau agrees that the more photographs or video content the broker has at their disposal, the better. “Buyers are often time-poor and the ability to go online and get a really clear idea of the yacht, her layout and her condition before having to enquire further, can make all the difference.

“The most successful listings are the ones where there is a clear photographic or video walkthrough, both internally and externally.”

Photos taken in landscape rather than portrait format are more website-friendly, and ensuring the photographs are clear, taken in good light and portray the boat at its cleanest and tidiest is crucial. Countless times I’ve seen photos of very expensive boats for sale, with items left on galley countertops, bags on the seats, and people standing in the shot; which can be very off-putting.

“Very much as important as high quality photography, walkthrough videos are now

playing an important role in promoting a yacht,” adds Alan McIlroy of Berthon.

“A well put together walkthrough gives a prospective client a good feel for the yacht in terms of the yacht’s condition, the layout both above and below decks and acts as a useful qualifier prior to an actual viewing.”

Most brokers will list the boat on their own websites as well as brokerage websites, and private sellers should also advertise online. It’s also worth using social media, and there are pages and groups dedicated to buying and selling boats. If you have an internet presence already, as we did, that can makes your sale much easier.

Matt and Jessica Johnson are the creators behind the popular YouTube channel MJ Sailing, and when it came time to list their aluminium monohull, they chose to simply advertise it on their own platforms.

“To advertise our boat, we did a walkthrough video on our YouTube channel. Within the video we mentioned she was for sale. If parties were interested, we had a link with all the boat’s information as well as a number of photographs on our website,” says Jessica.

It worked; less than two months later, their boat was sold and they are now in the process of upgrading to a catamaran.

A smooth handover is just as important to the buyer as the vendor. We ensured our buyer was fully aware of any issues the survey may reveal well in advance. We tried to be as transparent as possible about any items that needed upgrading or repairing from the outset and kept lines of communication open at all times.

Matt and Jessica had the same approach when they came to sell their aluminium cutter: “We never shied away from listing every issue the boat had that we were aware of. We wanted there to be no surprises when the new owner took possession, so there were daily discussions about everything good and bad we could think of relating to the boat.”

Berthon is a big name in brokerage, particularly higher end yachts

Even if selling through a broker, Alan McIlroy still advises on adopting a full disclosure policy. “Whether selling privately or through a broker, it’s vital that any known defects or significant repairs are disclosed to the broker/purchaser.

Maintaining confidence

“Letting the purchaser’s surveyor discover a defect which was previously known of is not going to aid the sales process. At worst it may lead the purchaser to pull out, at best it leaves the broker the job of rebuilding the purchaser’s confidence in the yacht.”

Also check you have all your documentation in order. “Review your paperwork, title chain and VAT. Having just received an offer is not the time discover there is a vital link in the paper chain missing that might hamper the sale’s progress,” says McIlroy.

To seal the deal, Rupert Knox-Johnston believes there are three factors to ensure all goes well: price, location and condition.

“Your yacht should be [priced] broadly in line with other comparable yachts on the market. Make sure buyers can view your yacht with minimum effort – if you want her sold, bring your yacht to the market, don’t expect the market to come to her.

A used boat show is a good place to find a captive market

“And make sure she is clean, dry, and tidy. Money invested in her presentation is rarely wasted. If you’re getting viewings and not offers, it’s probably down to her condition.”

Moving on

Planning future sailing when you are uncertain of the date on which you plan to sell a yacht is awkward. If you buy your next boat too soon, before selling your current boat, it puts you under enormous pressure to sell as quickly as possible, which is what happened to Robyn and Dave.

“We had to buy our second boat before selling the first as we were full-time liveaboards and didn’t have anywhere to stay on land,” Robyn recalls. However, when their departure date was looming and they still hadn’t sold their old boat, they decided to drop the price – and soon after that they found a buyer.

We faced the same dilemma but chose a different approach. We are having a Seawind 1370 catamaran built in 2021 and could have kept our Southerly until just before launch to ensure we not only had somewhere to live, but also could continue cruising.

However, we chose to sell early and deal with a 12-month gap where we are both homeless and boatless.

We’re now temporarily living on land in Greece where the cost of living is low, the weather is good, and we’re never far from the sea. For us, knowing we’d released the equity from our first boat and could cover the cost of our catamaran was the least stressful option.

The final piece of advice from Vicky and Stuart Punshon is: be patient.

“Don’t take an early low offer. If you’re selling a yacht that is correctly priced, it will eventually sell for a price you’ll be satisfied with.”

If you enjoyed this….

Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
Build your knowledge with a subscription delivered to your door. See our latest offers and save at least 30% off the cover price.