Given the level investment that ownership requires, the cost of a survey should not be prohibitive – and it’s far more expensive to hire an amateur than a professional in the long run. So is its circumvention a case of inadequate advice, or just poor judgement? Whilst a survey may be required for obtaining insurance, or securing a bank loan, above all else it will inspire confidence in the buyer.
Two recent conversations have highlighted that perhaps not enough is being done in the pre-purchase condition survey realm. The first conversation was with Peter Chettleborough, Director of Winterbothams Ltd, who pointed out that Winterbothams and its competitors are ostensibly less preoccupied with pre-purchase condition surveys, despite market research proving that yachts are effectively sold on a daily basis.
This begs several questions: Are surveys being avoided? If not, who is doing them? And are they being done by professionals or 'one-man-band’, ‘tick-in-a-box’ surveyors?
Chettleborough described the purpose of a pre-purchase condition survey as, “due diligence before purchase; making sure the buyer is getting a good deal. Unlike surveying a house, where you can largely rely on your common sense to assess its condition, it’s not stationary, it’s in a hostile environment, it has lots of machinery and it’s very complicated, so using a professional surveyor is crucial”.
Superyacht Buyer was fortunate enough to speak to Robert Lewis, the owner of Chagos (29m Ocean Voyager build), whose experiences underline the potential hazards that come with skipping the option of a pre-purchase survey.
“I can only warn any purchaser to do a full survey before taking delivery, or spending one cent, even on new builds. I once looked at a yacht and got the Pliskes to do a survey. They were recommended to me by my broker and they did a fantastic job. The survey results changed my mind and I didn’t buy the yacht”, said Lewis.
“I wish I had spent the extra few thousand doing that with my current yacht, Chagos. I am on board at the moment and the engineer is running through what we need and it’s everything from new generators, to fridges, to new lights and possibly completely new wiring. This mistake has cost me $1.5 million. Always do a survey – always listen to the professionals.”
Lewis’ experience emphasises that hiring amateurs for a job comprising such a multitude of vital considerations, or purchasing a yacht under ‘as is where is’ terms – or any other unconventional route to acquisition – is not just extremely dangerous for a seafaring asset – as proven by the Hirtenstein v Hill Dickinson case in 2014 – but an extremely expensive ‘short-cut’ to be taking, for what is a relatively economical expense.
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