TABOO TALK! Multi Listing Your Classic Boat For Sale. Good Or Bad?


We here at Woody Boater are going to start a new series of conversations for the Woody Boater community to talk about Taboo topics in the open. Things that are said behind the scenes so as not to cause any fights. Trust us, there are enough to keep going for some time. Subjects like, crappy restoration work, rip offs, ignorant sellers, fiberglass bottoms, new power vs old power, old wood vs new wood, judging issues, politics… and today’s subject. Multi listing a boat for sale. Mind you, you may have a strong opinion on any of these, but as we have found here, there is ALWAYS another point of view. Did I mention that Woodyboaterville is a nice small community on the shores of Lake Cyberspace… LOCATED IN SWITZERLAND! So, today’s taboo topic.


For those of you that may not understand this topic, here is what is happening out there in cyberspace. lets say you have a 1960 Chris Craft 24 ft sportsman and you want to sell it. Great. And there is a buyer out there that is looking. He goes to ebay, then one of the brokers.  He finds the boat and then finds the boat again on another site, and then on the trading dock. Confused? Yes.. Who does he  ask about the boat? Now back to you the seller, your motivation is to sell the boat, you just want to get the news out there, so you tell 3 brokers OK, then try it on ebay.. You are in splatter mode. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. Imagine that a broker has advertised the boat, and you find the buyer on ebay. Does the broker deserve some of the commission like a realtor? Are the brokers to blame for not selling it, they had there chance?  Or was it a crap listing, that broker never even had permission to list it. We know of cases where a boat will be lifted from another brokers site. Or another trick is to leave a sold boat up to attract folks to the boat and then telling the buyer you can find him or her one. Now, to show that there is another point of view.. As I said there ALWAYS IS. “I don’t go to certain sites, so am I missing a specific boat?” “I don’t like that guy, so I would rather buy from another guy” “I don’t want to pay a commission, so I will try and find the sellers name and work around the brokers.”

Please feel free to comment, please comment. This is meant to be a place to feel safe and free of politics to get the topic attention and help us all.


36 replies
  1. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I hate it when sellers or brokers leave boats that are already sold up on the sites. Nothin turns me off a website more than stale listings. I have come accross that and found it extremely frustrating. Once, when I bought a boat through a broker, I made him take it off once I had paid for it. At least put a sold sign on it, or move it to a separate category.

    I have never sold a boat through a broker – are listings suposed to be exclusive or are they not? Is it like a real estate transaction where the brokers on each side fo the deal split the commission? I don’t know, but I think it is best discussed before the boat is listed. As a seller, would I really care who sells it, as long as the boat is sold and I don’t have to pay any extra commission?

    Good topic, I hope we can all learn a little bit about the process.

  2. Sean
    Sean says:

    When I sold my Donzi last summer I listed it in the Classifieds section on several boating sites. It also went on Kijiji and CL.

    I did not retain the services of a broker and would not do so for a small boat like a runabout. However if you’re trying to push a large boat off the dock a broker might be the best way to go.

    Now, you must be specific with the listing/sales terms. Is the broker just providing a listing? Or, is he physically showing the boat(as a true broker)? If it’s just a listing, once you pay your listing fee I would think you are free to sell anywhere. If the boat is in his yard and he is showing it physically (or says he is) you must stay put until the listing expires or pay him if it sells before.

    I believe that these are two valid strategies for selling your boat and one requires more personal effort than the other. Choose which one you can live with.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    It is up to the seller and the broker to decide upfront if their deal is exclusive or not and what the terms of commissions are. If the broker is OK with multi listings, there is nothing wrong with it. If the seller is OK with an exclusive deal, again, nothing wrong with it. One size does not need to fit all.

    Brokers listing boats without the owner’s permission is more than a little shady. That said, if I was selling a boat and a broker sent me a buyer without asking me to pay anything, would I care? A good buyer is a good buyer, I don’t care how they find me.

  4. brian t
    brian t says:

    Well, since it appears that I have a habit of tickin people off – here goes….

    IMO, brokers are just like home realtors. Nothing but a middle man that takes a chunk of money from buyer, seller or both and truly provide nothing except for a false sense of security.

    Having sold three homes For-Sale-By-Owner and only one with a realtor, the process was exactly the same. Realtors and private sellers must use the same agencies to have the sale documented. The only thing the realtor did was to provide a false sense of security for the buyer as they were under the idea that the realtor was somehow going to ensure that we were not going to rip off the buyer. Irony to the full degree. The buyers ended up paying more for the house because I wanted the same end profit whereas during the other sales – deals made strictly between buyer, seller, title company and the mortgage lender – both buyer and seller were able to take advantage of the lack of bloodsucker in the middle – we received an increased profit and the buyers received a lower price.

    Selling a boat should be nothing different. With today’s electronic forms of communication, there is really no need for a leech in the middle. Sadly though, I am certain that there are many buyers out there under the false illusion that the broker is going to be their Mommy and make sure that any purchase will be nice and pretty. The harsh reality is that the first person to split and hide behind lawyers and such is the broker, who exists only to make money. They will act like your best friend but they are a business – money first, you second.

    Now, this being the USA, folks are free to do whatever the heck they want and if some buyer or seller needs to be led about by their hand in order to buy or sell a boat, then by all means have fun.

    That ought to be enough to stir up the hornets’ nest.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Brian – It is really very simple – if you want to sell it yourself, do so. If one does not want to sell it themselves, don’t expect someone else to do that for you for free. There are obviously many sellers out there who list their boats with brokers, and it is safe to imply that these people do not want to be bothered managing that process themselves – for whatever reasons they may have. As far as security in a transaction, any boat should be surveyed unless it is sold as a fixer upper or project to begin with, and all brokers I know advise buyers to have this done. I don’t expect a broker to provide me security, that is up to me.

      I have bought and sold several houses by owner as well as through realty. It doesn’t matter to me so long as in the end I get the desired result. I have no problem treating people fairly and paying commission if that is the agreement, and if I have time or inclination I on occsion don’t mind doing the sales work myself.

      I have been extremely well served in most cases by selling brokers when it comes to boats, but I have yet to go through a sales process so I can’t comment on that side of the transaction. Given where I live and associated logisitcal challenges, should I sell a boat I would probably use a broker.

      Your personal priority is cost, and saving money is of importance to you – that is both obvious and understandable. If someone else has a different priority – that of convenience, reducing bother, or otherwise removing himself from the sales process, then his priority is no less valid than yours. Your scathing assessment of the broker is arrived at simply by ascribing your personal values and priorities to everyone else who cares to sell a boat, and in my opinion completely misses the point, again.

  5. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    After dealing with one vendor on a potential purchase where the selling company treated my wife rudely over the phone trying to get in touch with me, needless to say, they will no longer get my business.

    On the other hand, having hauled several boats for owners to Antique Boat, their approach to business has always been fair to seller, purchaser, and hauler. When an owner tried to “hold me up” for damage to his boat upon returning it unsold, AB had documentation on those questionable areas showing that’s how it was originally received. Apparently, there are unscrupulous owners as well as sellers.

    The one thing that I find strange is the poor photography from the owners of a boat they are trying to sell. Why wouldn’t you go so far as to enlist a good photographer for quality boat pictures if you are marketing for over 20k?? And use one that understands the most flattering angle to shoot the boat, not some long lens that condenses the length and makes the boat look shorter than it is.

  6. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    In response to Brian, many owners do not want to be bothered with the phone calls, tire kickers, and boat preparation to provide test rides because of many factors, limited time, no sales experience, no place to launch, lake or storage location is remote, so these vendors are providing a valuable service. As I indicated, Antique Boat and other vendors provide that service, some better than others. Having dealt with them as a contract hauler for owners, the owner who had several boats and no time to answer a lot of the “newbie” or repetitive obvious questions “tire” kickers have. You must have the time and the patience for the sale, others maybe not, especially widows of deceased owners of multiple listings.

    • brian t
      brian t says:

      Sadly, I would agree that due to the factors you listed, I can see why a seller would opt to go with a broker. It means though that they are going to take a hit and pay for that service. As I said, it is a free country and folks can do as they wish.

      • floyd r turbo
        floyd r turbo says:

        Sorry for late clarification, it was Antique Boat Center that documented customer’s boat as received and was up front with condition of the boat. When customer wanted it hauled back, and upon receipt, wanted compensation for “transport damage”. Joel at Antique Boat Ctr had documented problems with the boat that he went over with me as an independent hauler at time of pick up. These were also photographed. This was one of the reasons the boat didn’t sell in a timely manner for the asking price and seller was unwilling to adjust price accordingly. So the owners claim became moot.

        As Dennis Mykols indicated they are a customer focused operation. Have had great experience with Greg Jackson at Carolina Classic as well.

  7. Alex
    Alex says:

    I’ve bought a boat from Seth Katz (Katz’s Marina), and a boat through Tommy Mertaugh (Classic and Antique Boats), and John Reus (Macatawa Boat Works). All three boats were listed in their respective websites. In the cases of Tommy and Jon, they played a role in my coming to terms with the sellers. In Seth’s case, he was the owner so the deal was struck directly and pleasantly with him.

    I can’t say enough about how well I was treated by each of these folks and their employees! White glove all the way, no exaggeration. These people added enormously to the buying experience, making things like test running, preparing and securing the boat and trailer for the road, doing paperwork, etc. easy and worry free. Whatever fee they earned from the seller (or me, or both of us — who knows whose wallet it comes out of) was worth it.

    I also bought a grey boat through Herb Carpenter (now retired from Antique Boat Center) which was another pleasant, worry free experience, with support from his ABC people in Cinci. And, come to think of it, yet another boat through Herb, where he did a great job introducing me to the seller and helping the deal come together seamlessly.

    And I’ve bought one from Andy Hoffman (Antique Boat America), where I was treated (online and over the phone) with great courtesy and responsiveness, though I never met Andy or test drove the boat.

    In the case of Seth’s boat and Tommy’s, there was a minor issue with each of the boats shortly after taking ownership/delivery. Both parties looked after me without blinking an eye. Seth’s warranty was in writing. Tommy’s was implicit.

    In all of the above cases, the intermediary was a plus for me, and I haven’t a single criticism to offer. I dealt with true gentlemen. Which, no joking, is in part why I kept buying.

  8. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    As always ‘Buyer Beware’. You must know what to look for. If not get some reputable help. Even there you must be careful. I hired a ‘Reputable’ person for $350 and all I got was ‘It’s not worth it’. No report of any kind. I felt ripped off. Be specific about terms! The boat I finally bought was one I found and went twice before the deal was closed. Remember… One way or the other, You are going to pay!

  9. brian t
    brian t says:

    It looks as though Alex has has the opportunity to deal with more than a few businesses that have treated him well. My experience has been the opposite. All of the experiences that I have had with big ticket items (car, boat, house) has been that when only a seller and buyer involved – perfect. The minute a middleman business got involved there was pain and misery.

  10. Alex
    Alex says:

    brian t, unfortunately, no one is immune, including me. I had one very bad experience purchasing two boats and restoring a third — same party. There wasn’t willful fraud or deceit or anything like that. Just poor service and mechanical incompetence. It ended up costing me many thousands to rectify. My bad for not vetting the individual / shop beforehand. But you see, I was pretty new to this boat buying stuff and was blinded by a love of couple models. You know what they say about that, “fools rush in.”

  11. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I can add here that I have referred two friends (one actually my brother in law) to a broker – in this case Antique Boat Center, because I simply noted two boats that I thought were just what these guys were looking for on their site. In both cases purchases were made and the transaction was smooth, the boats delivered exactly as represented and everyone was very happy. What is wrong with that equation? In my opinion, nothing. The broker had the resources at hand to manage the necessary insepctions, evaluations and storage for a distant purchaser who had other things to occupy his time.

  12. Charley Quimby
    Charley Quimby says:

    Some of us are fortunate enough to live where the interest in classic and antique boats is substantial. I am not one of those… I am using two of the better-known on-line brokers because local interest runs to wave-runners and sport/commercial salt water boating. Plus, I finally got tired of the tales about grampa’s old wooden boat, or what a pain in the tookas all that varnishing is. Heck, I would also get them to a live auction if one were within reasonable distance, hammer fee and Mecum notwithstanding. I am not under pressure to sell, so I’m going to throw in with the brokers for the time being…

  13. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    We bought our Greavette at Antique Boat Center. It was in their new showroom, not just a listing on their website. I can tell you that made all the difference – we would have never noticed the listing or paid the sales price without Lou and Matt’s knowledge, business ethics and reputation. Though it’s our first antique boat, they took the time to understand what we wanted, and worked to negotiate what I think was a fair price for all involved. (I hope the seller feels the same way) They even sweetened the deal by providing free winterization and storage until boating season begins this year.

    I believe that honest reputable brokers/dealers perform a service worthy of their commissions. Buyers MUST do their homework – researching the boats and businesses they are considering!

    That said, if the buyer and seller are both very knowledgeable and are reasonable enough to be able to negotiate a deal, there is no reason for the broker/dealer. Of course, it is very much “Buyer Beware” in this case, as there is no one to blame for problems other than himself. Like someone said in another thread, there is no such thing as the perfect boat, and the buyer must understand that the seller might not even know about problems hiding within.

  14. brian t
    brian t says:

    Look. My personal “scathing” comments about brokers and realtors come from my personal experiences with these groups. My “personal values” have nothing to do with the equation. For me, yes saving cash for both the seller and buyer is important, but I have also forged friendships over the buying and selling of cars and homes when done privately. Why, because we were both able to sit down and have a transaction where money was not the cornerstone of the entire process. My negative experiences with dealers, brokers and realtors have come directly from how I was treated by them. Perhaps if the transactions had gone smoothly and on a higher professional level, then perhaps I would have a better viewpoint of them as a group. But frankly, thus far, they have earned my not-so-favourable assessment of them – which I guess I have to repeat myself, is mine alone.

    Now, maybe these boat brokers are wonderful people and have allowed for many people to have had wonderful buying and selling experiences, like Alex, and that is great for them. And if someone wants to use the broker to sell their boat, for whatever reason(s) – great. Have at it.

    We are all going to bring a different viewpoint and opinion to this discussion. Mine is not better or worse than any other presented. I did not miss any point here. There will be some of us with a nasty taste for brokers and realtors, others will be somewhere in the middle (like Floyd I guess), and others will have had only great experiences (like Alex.)

    And Paul, I never stated that a broker should sell a boat for free. If you enlist the assistance of a broker then obviously you gotta pay the man.

  15. Alex
    Alex says:

    I just remembered something. Seth actually had a specialist come out the day of delivery — well after the deal had been struck — to touch up a couple minor blemishes on the vinyl of the boat I was buying — a 20′ Grand Prix. His nickel. Not at my request. And frankly, had I noticed the marks, I’d have been fine with it.

    A buying process where stuff like that happens is the best way to begin a long term ownership experience. And, I believe those warm fuzzy feelings are totally worth the extra bucks.

  16. Texx
    Texx says:

    This is an interesting topic today, I just hope some of the comments above don’t “derail” the conversation or create some type of personal debate between a few viewers.

    I like what Bryan said in his comment above:

    “I believe that honest reputable brokers/dealers perform a service worthy of their commissions. Buyers MUST do their homework – researching the boats and businesses they are considering!”

    I would be interested to know how many classic boat brokers there are out there today, as it seems that there are many different types of brokers – from the well established brokerage outfits, to boat restorers, to guys with a cell phone and a pickup truck that also call themselves “brokers.”

    Unlike the real estate business, there isn’t much regulation or accountability in the classic boat business (i.e. real estate brokers need a license). Unfortunately the hobby doesn’t have a Carfax (or Brokerfax) system in place.

    For us in the hobby, for the most part we know who the legitimate brokers are and who the crooks are, so it’s easy for us to avoid the pitfalls…

    But imagine for a minute that you are new to the hobby (reading this story today) and considering using a broker to help you find the classic boat of your dreams. Where do you start and how do you determine who is a legitimate broker and who is simply a snake-oil salesman?

    Some advice for the newbie – “Do your research, ask the questions and insist on referrals from the broker. And when you get the list of referrals from the broker, actually follow up by contacting them. Accept nothing less, or your life will be Hell”

    One last tip. If the broker insists that the boat sale is conditional on them also performing the restoration work or repair work on the boat you are considering, be careful… They could be using this as a “lost leader” towards a mountain of future expenses. The buyer should always have the option of taking the boat elsewhere for repairs or restoration work – period.


  17. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    Most brokers I know do a great service otherwise they go out of business, aka Reggie man. The worst variable in the equation is the seller who , once the broker has done his job, i.e. matched seller with buyer, wants to re-negotiate the broker fee or simply cat out. Then they tell how the broker screw ’em or doesn,t provide value. It’s not about the all holy dollar, or always the highest price, get over it.

  18. Carroll
    Carroll says:

    I am going to chime in here and share the experiences I have had purchasing boats over the last 3 years, which is the amount of time that I have been in the hobby of classic boats.
    My first boat was a grey boat that I purchased from a classic boat dealer. Being that the boat was a ‘project boat’, the small amount of money I paid was insignificant. I drove for 12 hours and the boat was as I expected, a project boat!

    My second boat was purchased a few months later, from the same dealer. I couldn’t wait until I retire to fix up my “project” so I purchased a user boat and, again drove 12 hour each way to pick it up. I was not disappointed.

    Here is the important thing. I did my homework. I was new to the hobby and knew nothing about classic boats. I was on the Internet every day looking at everything I could find, comparing “good” boats to “very good boats”, etc. When the right boat for me showed up, I asked a lot of questions. You get to know the people and brokers selling the boats when you do your homework. I spend hours and hours over a period on months researching the boats that were available and at what price.

    Having said that, when I was ready for a more significant boat, I did not hesitate for a second to purchase though a broker – Antique Boat America. Andy Hoffman, as mentioned in a previous post, was a tremendous amount of help, during the process and after, offering advise on transportation, trailers, storage, etc, etc. Being a buyer I did not pay a fee but if I were the seller of this particular boat, I would have been pleased with Andy’s involvement and knowledge of the boat – which, I am sure, helped it sell quickly.

    I am sure not all brokers are reputable but I truly believe that the reputable ones have a keen interest in the hobby and not just the money. They are know a lot of people and know a lot about the boats that are out here!

    My $.02


  19. Alex
    Alex says:

    Carroll, it was worth reading. Thank you.

    Texx, you got my thinking. If I were new to this hobby, I’d probably come to WB pretty quickly online. I’d search the now extensive stories and their comments for the kind of stuff we are discussing today, in order to inform myself. I’d then probably attend some shows, meet some owners of the type of boats I fancy, and ask their advice. If I met among those people one or more with whom I “clicked,” I’d then ask for a referral to honorable and capable brokers / finders, as well as to a good restoration shop or two who could assist me in evaluating any boat(s) that became available. Having this kind of support would help me navigate any confusion, such as boats that are multi-listed.

    Let me circle back to WB though. This blog has become an amazing resource for new entrants to the hobby, by raising topics such as today’s. Before WB, the road to buying and caring for a classic boat was much foggier. You and Matt and all who participate here are doing a great service to our hobby!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Alex. For the good of the hobby, as a group we have to share our experiences (both good and bad) with each other, in the hope that others will learn and not make the same mistakes. That’s one of our many goals here at Woody Boater as the site continues to grow.

      It’s also one of the advantages of being an independent voice in the hobby.

  20. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    A few annoyance that I have seen with the multiple listing is that the same boat is different price on each web site. Also with the ease of listing nowadays a guys can put his boat on lots of sites for no cost to him. Then this free service allows for the seller putting up a boat for sale and a premium price and if someone makes buys it then he will let it go and if not then no loss to him.

  21. Chad
    Chad says:

    I don’t have much to add today. My truck has a flat and I’ve got a cold.

    Buy a boat anyway you can. Don’t sell a boat unless you need the $ to restore another boat.

  22. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    Well, after just buying my 29th boat, I guess I should jump in here, even at this late hour. Darn work got me tied up all day. I have bought and sold boats and cars every which way. Most times I bought high and sold low, it happens when you buy with your heart (gotta have it) instead of making a business decision.
    I must say the with the last several transactions I came out on top, since I have done a lot of homework, and was in a position were I did not HAVE to sell right now.
    I want to give a shout out to three brokers/dealers who have been a pleasure to work with; Greg Jackson at Carolina Classic Boat and Cars, in North Carolina, Dennis Ryan at the Antique Boat Center, and Bill John at the Vintage Race Boat Shop, in New Hampshire.
    Greg listed my Hacker “Old School”, cause that is who I bought it from three years earlier, and it was just a pleasure working with him, so I did it again. But being a niche market for a Gentleman Racer, I called Bill to see what commissions would be if he also listed the racer knowing Greg already had it listed.. Bill said he would list it on his site, and would not charge any commission if sold. Three weeks later the boat was sold, to a person who saw it on Bill’s website. Bill just wanted to see the racer on the water. A true man of the sport/hobby.
    After a year of research, looking at listings of all sort, and making a list of what I wanted on my next boat, I knew it when I saw it sitting there on the A.B.C. new showroom last October. Dennis Ryan and his guys did everything needed to make the sale as easy and worry free as possible. A great group of talented guys.
    The key is to do your homework, ask questions and work with solid brokers.

  23. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I agree with Chad’s comments, and although I have been in the hobby for over 20 years, I have only sold one and bought two boats during that time. I have a real problem parting with them. All my transactions have been with individuals and not brokers, and there is a story too long to tell here that goes with each of them. I like Chad’s shirt in the picture too!

  24. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    OK….it’s my time. With the exception of Dennis’ story, there’s seems to be something inherently wrong with listing with more than one broker. We are a small hobby and some people are willing to help out for free just to see a boat go to a good home. However, I think a seller should do his homework and work with one broker. Maybe list the boat locally on CL if necessary but honor the agreement. There is no excuse for a broker “ripping” a listing of one site and posting it on there’s.

    Bottom line, in my opinion, is that the majority of the boats traded in this hobby aren’t high dollar boats so the commission left for the broker isn’t exactly life changing. I’ve helped “counsel” a few purchases in my day and I can assure you that it takes a lot of time to work with a new buyer. If you consider the time it takes to get a new owner into a $12,000 boat and do the math, I’d argue that most brokers are working for $5/hour. Maybe my numbers are off a little bit, but not too much. Besides, I was told there would be no math!

  25. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    I’ve bought boats from both of the major brokers, you know who they are,. One experience was good the other not so much. I think Brokers are good to a certain point but some are not so fun to deal with.

    Part of the problem Brokers have to deal with are sellers that want to price their boats way out of the current market. When I look at most of the listings I can’t believe the asking price for a lot of junk that needs far more work then advertised. I end up talking to many newer people in the hobby and my best advise it to “expect the worst and hope for the best”.

    One thing that I do think is good for the hobby is when a broker/restoration house takes a boat that they own and puts a new bottom on it and gets the boat 100% mechanically ready to go and then sells it. ABC and Katz are good examples.

    How cares what model it is. If it’s got a new bottom (properly done) and is ready to use it is worth X price.

    This is the best way to get into the hobby i.e. a solid boat that does not leak matched up with a new inexperienced buyer.

  26. Mike D
    Mike D says:

    I’ll jump in with a comment. I went through a big time broker last spring and purchased a CC Runabout for a reasonable price. During negotiations I had to ask if there was an inspection done on the boat that I could read. I was sent a copy of an inspection that indicated just minor problems. I decide to make a purchase and when I got there I was handed another inspection report that had less than glowing comments.

    Considering what the second report presented, I am not sure I would have bought the boat. In the heat of the moment I let the lure of varnished mahogany get the better of me and I went ahead with the purchase.

    I probably spent a couple thousand more than it is worth but then again I probably would not have had a boat to motor around in last summer. My takeaway is that the agent could have been more forthwright with the second report and I should have been more willing to walk away.

  27. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hi, Don. “Expect the worst and hope for the best?” Surely we can’t leave this posting on that note. You’ll scare off every novice wooden boat buyer. Hell, you’re scaring me and I’m already in the pond, thinking the water feels great. Are you telling me something might be lurking below?

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