Marine surveys ­ how it all comes together

The role of a marine surveyor is to produce a detailed report based on a thorough examination of a boat, their experience of similar vessels and any information there may be on known manufacturing defects. The report is written for you and is your property. The findings will not be shared with the seller or the broker without your permission.

Assuming you can make an initial inspection, look for obvious evidence of poor condition or lack of care, bearing in mind if these exist, there will inevitably be other, hidden, faults. Whilst everything has a fair price for its age and condition, unless you are prepared to take on a repair project or the seller makes major defects clear, you should expect a boat to be fit for its purpose and make your offer on that basis, subject to survey. At this stage you can contact me to make a provisional booking and will not be charged if you cancel this.

If you are buying privately, you should ensure the owner has 'title' to the boat and can affirm that it does not have any outstanding debts or mortgages secured against it. I can advise you on what to look for and provide a suitable bill of sale. If you buy through a broker, you can expect them to ensure 'title' is checked and passes to you. You can generally expect brokerage boats to be at a fair price for their age ­ brokers have no interest in loading up their books with boats that will not sell. The survey is to make sure they are also in fair condition.

Brokers will usually expect you to pay 10% of your offer price as a deposit and to sign a sales contract. This should be in a standard format produced by the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA) or the British Marine Industries Federation (BMIF). A private seller may require a deposit and if so you should ask for a receipt. Either the broker or seller will then arrange for a haul out if the boat is not already ashore and take the boat off the market. At this stage you will need to book the survey

A normal arrangement is to start the survey in the morning, have the boat lifted, cleaned and inspected over midday and carry out a sea trial early afternoon with the buyer onboard. We can then discuss any immediate issues on the spot and you will receive the full report 2-3 days later

When I have completed the survey, I will call or e-mail you with a brief summary of the main findings. You should only take the purchase forward when you have the full marine survey report. If this uncovers significant problems, you can either re-negotiate the price or withdraw from the sale and recoup your deposit. Generally speaking, you can negotiate a reduction for the cost of putting right structural faults that were not evident when you made your offer, but not for wear and tear or the replacement of consumables, for example sails, covers and batteries.

To get things started, you can call or e mail using the contacts on the front page or the enquiry form. To quote, I need to know where the boat is, her type, age and length. I will give you a firm quote at the outset. There are no hidden extras and I do not charge VAT. It will also help me to know what you want to use the boat for and how much work you are prepared to carry out yourself. I can also carry out an initial or partial assessments on several boats to determine which are worth having a full survey, or by going through your choices with you, discussing the use of the boat, its likely running costs and possible moorings.

We will need a survey contract before I can start work. An example is here and I will e-mail you a completed version and ask you to acknowledge receipt. The contract is a standard draft drawn up by the YDSA's solicitors. I will call you straight after the survey to let you know the main points and e-mail you a report in PDF format and hard copy by first class post, usually within 48 hours. My invoice will accompany the report and I would be grateful for payment by cheque or bank transfer within one week.

Follow up

If the survey uncovers significant work that needs to be done by a boatyard or other contractors and you decide to go ahead and negotiate this into the sale price, I will write the recommendations in a form that yards can quote against. I can also manage repair work which will save you money by ensuring the work is to an appropriate standard for the boat and within budget. You must agree work with a yard in advance, including the costs of any initial examination before the work is carried out; there is little that can be done about an unexpectedly high invoice once work is complete.

I can also help arrange delivery voyages between Brighton and south coast destinations. From Brighton to the Solent is about 8 hours by sail or displacement power boat. Beyond a 24hr passage or during winter, it is usually cheaper to arrange road haulage for boats up to about 40'/ 12m. Larger vessels beyond 50'/15m nearly always have to be moved by sea, either under tow or their own power. Crane costs and heavy load restrictions make it impractical to move them by road. Note, if a large commercial vessel can not safely be moved by sea, it will probably be unsuitable for use as a houseboat.

For more information see ‘10 things to know before buying a boat ’