With the huge number of powerboats and sailboats in United States waters, there could be numerous boats for sale at any one time. Although many boats are sold by their owners, others are listed with a yacht broker, who lists boats electronically on his company’s website. Other brokers can access the listing and inquire about the boat for their clients. When the boat is sold, both the listing and selling broker receive a portion of the proceeds. Depending on the commission per sale and the number of sales per year, a yacht broker can make a comfortable living.
Bone up on boats. Before you can help your client to buy or sell his boat, you need to have an extensive knowledge of both powerboats and sailboats. If you already have considerable boating experience, take time to broaden your knowledge of boats and their manufacturers.
Learn about the different versions of the same 38-foot sailboat, or expand your knowledge of powerboats to include convertibles, motoryachts and trawlers. Buy some boating magazines and look at the brokerage-sponsored pages of boats for sale. Many more yachts are found on the yacht brokerage websites.
Check out your market. Like other sales businesses, yacht brokerage is a game of numbers. In any port city, there's a finite pool of boat owners who want to sell their boats. There's another limited group of potential buyers looking for their dream boat. To complicate the picture, many local brokerage companies are vying for the same boat owners' business.
To increase your number of prospects, situate yourself in an area filled with boats, boating businesses and boating destinations. Ideally, the surrounding region will have other towns and ports that are also boating havens.
Join a reputable brokerage company. Once you’ve chosen your location, ask about the largest and most reputable yacht brokerages in town. The company’s physical environment will tell you a lot about their success. Look for a firm with attractive offices, a full-time listing secretary and a fully staffed broker duty roster. Conversely, a one-man show located in a cramped office may not offer you the support you want.
There are two reasons to join a reputable brokerage company: (1) The level of sales and marketing support will be higher; and (2) you'll gain credibility through your association with the firm. Find a local brokerage through a state-by-state listing service (see Resources).
Get some professional credentials. Besides joining an established yacht brokerage, it’s important to also obtain your professional designations. The Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA) promotes education, ethics and high standards for yacht brokerage companies and their member brokers.
Current yacht brokers who have worked in yacht sales for the past three years can take an examination to become a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB). There are eight criteria that must be met before the broker can sit for the CPYB exam, which can be viewed on the YBAA site.
Build your business with listings and service. Your yacht sales business will be similar to a real estate agent’s career: Both professions rely on acquiring listings that can be sold by the listing broker or by others. Here are some ways to find listings: (1) Volunteer for “desk duty,” as boat owners sometimes walk into the office to list their boat; (2) walk the docks of nearby marinas, handing out your card to owners of well-kept boats; (3) work the brokerage booth at local boat shows; and (4) ask for referrals from satisfied buyers and sellers.
Treat your buyers and sellers as trusted partners, not as sources of income. Use a contact management system to remember important client dates and facts. Continue to educate yourself so you can better assist your buyers and sellers. Finally, because it takes time to build a successful brokerage business, ensure that you have another source of income available.