Buying and Selling Boats During COVID-19
In case you hadn’t heard, COVID-19 (also known as the Coronavirus) has changed the way we live our day to day lives. It’s effects have rippled throughout the world and throughout the economy, and the boating industry is no different. But is it possible to buy or sell a boat during this crisis? Is it even safe to do so? The simple answer is YES, but steps must be taken to protect the health of everyone involved. With summer fast approaching, here are some steps we can all take to be safe but have fun getting back on the water.
At California Yacht Sales, we recognized the seriousness of the situation as things began to unfold in late February and March. We closed our doors and moved to an appointment only model that removed the need to have anybody in our office. Indeed that became unnecessary anyway as the marina was a ghost town once the official shelter-in-place order was in effect. But nevertheless, we still received calls from folks wanting to explore buying a boat. So what steps have we taken?
- First and foremost, we ask our sellers if we have permission to show their boat. This seemed a valid question to ask, considering strangers from who knows where would be boarding and exploring their vessel. And yes, some sellers have asked us to hold off until things have calmed down.
- As a company, we try to stay up to date with current technology. We offer virtual tours of all listings via FaceTime or WhatsApp to anyone wanting to see a boat without leaving their homes. In addition, nearly all of our listings are complete with a video walkthrough.
- All of our prospective buyers are asked to come prepared with a mask and hand sanitizer if they have it. Masks are worn at all times and social distancing observed while walking the docks to the boat. As you can imagine, it sometimes feels as if everyone is yelling at each other from 6 feet away.
- Once everyone has used hand sanitizer, boarding is permitted. This can be a bit tricky on smaller vessels. Some boats simply don't allow for 6 feet of constant separation. Customers board and enter cabin independent of a broker, with the broker sitting above in the cockpit available to answer questions. Surfaces are then wiped down after the showing.
In San Diego, another wrench was thrown into the cogs. In early April, the port of San Diego announced a temporary ban on all recreational boating and closed nearly all boat yards. So what was to be done for surveys? Because surveyors work directly with banks and insurance companies, they were and are considered essential. In slip surveys were able to be executed, but restrictions meant that any sea trial had to be preapproved by Harbor Patrol. A number of brief sea trials were executed in this manner. But what about haul outs? Some buyers settled for a dive survey, sending a diver down with a camera and subsequently generating a condition report. Others are opting to be patient until they can haul a boat out once boat yards are back up and running. Surveyors can do their job while both buyers and sellers respected social distancing protocols.
The recreational boating restrictions were lifted May 1, to great joy from the boating community and all those who rely on it.
Thankfully, the banks were largely unaffected by the restrictions, at least in regards to moving money around. Several boats have been sold by various brokerages in San Diego through the restrictions, albeit far fewer than normal. So now the question remains…. What will the boat buying and selling industry look like in the post COVID-19 days to come? That still remains to be seen, but if the last few weeks has been any indication, our industry should continue to thrive.