Do-It-Yourself boat trading challenges brokers
AMSTERDAM _ To Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bouwe Bekking and his 2 partners, yacht brokers are not toast, but the heat is definitely on! The do-it-yourself yacht broker site they launched in April, 2011 has emerged from beta testing ready to reinvent yacht trading. “We expect to be the world’s biggest boat site in 5 years with the largest online offering of yachts,” says Jort van Sisseren, one of Bekking’s partners. Whence that confidence?
He calls the shift to no-broker, online yacht sales logical. “The internet is automating everything,” says Van Sisseren. “Cutting out the middle man is common, especially in an economic downturn. Yacht brokers are important. They handle legal, registration and other formalities.” But they can charge up to 8% of the sale price. His DIY site shuns brokers. It puts yachts on Boats.com, Boten.nl and Boatshop24.com and lets buyers get a technical survey, plan a boat visit and download documents. When a price is agreed, a unique online sales module is started up. In a step-by-step process, it takes seller and buyer through registration and financing details, produces a legal bill of sale and arranges for safe payment, insurance, shipping registry and other formalities.
In December, 2012, the DIY site was available in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Britain and the US. More countries are added as their boat registries become available to the DIY site’s owners. They shed light on a yacht’s ownership, legal and registration status. And whether it is under a mortgage. This is the sort of legwork brokers do.
The DIY site offers seller and buyer 24/7 support. Van Sisseren cites research showing more than 80% of private boat owners feel brokers overcharge and 90% feel they don’t need a broker, especially in hard times. But 41% are scared off by red tape and prefer step-by-step help. The DIY site can be used for international and national sales. Currently the biggest international brokerage site is yachtworld.com which lists more than 130,000 vessels from 2,500 brokers
No broker? Is that wise? Not very, says Jan-Pieter Oosting. His massive YachtFocus site (1,500 new and 10,000 used boats, more than 100,000 visitors/m) is a major platform for brokers in the Netherlands and beyond. “Yacht brokers are crucial in completing the legal and financial details of a sale. If a big sum of money is involved, I would always recommend you take a broker. Especially if it involves an international trade,” says Oosting. Also, he says, brokers are experts at pricing your vessel. And they are available to show your boat if you are unavailable.
The DIY yacht broker site prides itself in being “transparent” and adds, “The best thing is you never have to pay an expensive yacht broker ever again.” Not paying a broker in an economic slowdown “works to our advantage,” says Van Sisseren. “Sale prices have dropped greatly. People need to get money from somewhere.”