Looking for a yacht in Florida, or in any coastal area will offer a lot of choices. You will want to choose a professional yacht broker who understands your needs, someone who will work with you to search out the best possible options. A knowledgeable broker will direct you to different kinds of vessels and will help you assess the merits of each. Once you narrow the field, and have an idea of your preferences, the best way to get a feel for what you like is to spend some time on the water. Accept invitations from boating friends, visit boat shows, charter the kind of vessel that appeals to you -- "test drive" the candidates you are considering.
As you visit yachts that are on the market, consider ease in boarding, walk-around space on deck, comfortable quarters below, light and space allocation, and the total "feel" of the vessel. If you don't feel comfortable on the boat while it is tied to the dock, you will never be happy once you slip the lines.
The basic "find a boat, make an offer, cross your fingers and go to closing" scenario is similar to the process of buying real estate. Essentially, once you find a "floor plan" and exterior style that appeal to you, your broker will search listings for vessels that meet your desired specifications. Try to visit all that are within a reasonable geographic area. Some boats sell quickly, but try not to make a hasty decision.
Oftentimes, similar yachts are available at a wide range of price points. This is where your broker's expertise pays off. In addition, travel to view out-of-town yachts may be well worth the expense.
Just as in real estate, a written offer will follow the initial inquiry. Once again, rely on your broker as an ally and a trusted professional, as well as an experienced negotiator and adviser. Expect some "back and forth" communication before a binding contract is finalized.
Unless you plan to pay cash for your boat, you should pre-arrange financing and become familiar with the terms your lender will impose. Your escrow deposit and offer will be based on those terms, subject to confirmation following inspection and acceptance of all contract terms. Also check on insurance and registration requirements, just to eliminate any unnecessary last-minute surprises.
Your broker will suggest and arrange for a licensed marine inspector to examine the vessel and its mechanical operating systems with a keen eye. Any abnormalities, problems, malfunctions or worrisome situations will be noted. As part of the inspection process, a vessel is hauled out of the water so that the bottom paint and running gear can be evaluated and hull condition confirmed. The sea trial will take the vessel through its paces on the water to provide a thorough evaluation of its potential for trouble-free service. The cost of the inspection is at buyer expense, but you would not want to accept title on a yacht without a professional inspection.
The actual paperwork is a minor part of the sales process. The vessel must be documented or registered, and all details should be handled by your broker through a marine documentation service. If you are a first-time yacht owner, you might also want to investigate maritime safety courses, or enroll in Coast Guard training.
Once the sale is finalized, it is time to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and celebrate! It is tradition, after all.