Internet brokers new future for boat sales
But the hatches wouldn’t hold
They drowned upon the staircase
Of brass and polished gold
-- Bob Dylan
AMSTERDAM _ When Jort van Sisseren told Y&C last year “the internet is automating everything,” the Netherlands’ sizable yachting lobby HISWA (4,500 companies, 30,000 workers, €3 billion annual turnover) battened down the hatches. That has not quelled Van Sisseren’s revolution. “We are at tipping point to a totally new economy,” he says today.
In April 2011, Van Sisseren and a partner launched a do-it-yourself, online yacht brokerage promising to be “the world’s biggest boat site in 5 years with the largest online offering of yachts.” The aim: to cut out brokerage fees that can be 8% of a sale price. HISWA yacht brokers call online trading dicey. They say flesh-and-blood brokers are experts at pricing vessels and crucial in sorting out pesky legal, financial, ownership and other details.
HISWA says Van Sisseren is not a broker, but simply offers an online service to buyers and sellers of yachts. “Anyone can do that,” says HISWA spokesman Paul Huisman. Van Sisseren. “Let me be clear: I’m not out to get HISWA, or traditional yacht brokers. I’m empowering individuals. I believe yacht brokering can be done better, more cheaply, more smartly.” www.DoItYourselfYachtBroker.com _ his venture with Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bouwe Bekking _ offers buyers and sellers through a step-by-step trading process. Sellers establish an account that lets them list their boats for free. They can upload photos and video. The listing is shared with other used-boat websites, including Boats.com, at Van Sisseren’s charge. Buyers can contact sellers directly. Depending on a boat’s location, they can use the DIY site to find a nearby surveyor and book a survey. An online sales module guides the parties through all a sale. “Template contracts are based on professional yacht brokerage agreements,” says Van Sisseren. He says if a survey points to repairs exceeding 10% of the sale price, a buyer can call the whole thing off.
He calls HISWA and traditional brokers hidebound. “They do not innovate enough, do not see _ let alone seize _ the opportunity the Internet offers. Most yachting-related companies blame the economic slump, but are blind to today’s fantastic opportunities. Look at your own company critically! Where can you save money? What’s your added value? How can you build on it? We are not in a crisis. We are at a tipping moment to a completely new economy.”
Van Sisseren says his DIY site was a moderate investment, mostly for software development and online marketing. For now, the focus is on building traffic. The site is available in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, the US.
Van Sisseren: “We now have 689 yachts online. Growth is kicking in. Reactions from brokers can be fierce, especially in the US. But private boat owners think it’s a great idea. And that’s the point. He 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.