I can empathise to an extent and what I write isn't aimed at you personally, more anyone that's found themselves in the same situation. I'm pretty new to boating having only sold a small leisure boat last summer after a fairly short period of ownership. I ended up living aboard for a chunk of last year, mostly through the lockdowns, by choice and really enjoyed it. So much so, whilst I'm in my late 30s with no debts or family responsibilities or excuses, and young enough to make a potential mistake, that I finally found the courage and bollocks to press on with moving aboard full-time. Since the start of this year I've had the funds available but encountered similar upsets and issues:
A few months ago I set off very early in the morning to view a boat at Rugby Boats in the knowledge that I'd be the second person to view, only to get a call when I was 5 minutes away to say it was sold to viewer number 1. That was a 200 mile round trip
Same circumstances as above, except I did make it to the broker and managed to view the boat this time. The first people who viewed bought it and the broker promised me a call once he knew whether they were prepared to make an offer, and wouldn't accept mine until he'd had theirs. I never did get that call and only knew it'd gone because they did find the time to update their website a few hours later. That broker in question is a smug Cheshire-based marina
I had to take to small claims court the seller the private seller of a boat post-survey result to get my deposit back after he reneged on the sale terms. I won and got it back but it was unwanted stress
I've clocked up hundreds and hundreds of miles of driving to see boats, excited at the prospect, only to find it's no good for varying reasons and encountered the feeling of hopelessness
I've also had the bare the expense of having boats surveyed only to find there's varying issues and the sale fall through. Note here I don't say the money was wasted; what I learned a lot more from the surveyor each time this happened, in terms of what to look for and what to do next time I find a boat even before I call him to arrange a survey has been invaluable. Knowing what I know now, I'd have never even gotten to the offer or survey stage with said boats. But the painful experience has been well worth it.
With all this going on, I ended up sinking dead money into renting a house for most of this year, thinking that I'd have secured a boat well before now. And despite all this, with me coming close every now and again to giving up due to disillusionment, and coming to terms with it all being a misguided idea and flitting to wanting to pursue buying another house instead, I haven't given up. I think most in my shoes would have done so.
It's very easy to focus on the negatives when it's not going your way. That's not intended criticism, more a reflection of how I've felt. But when looking at things with a clear head and objectively, I'd say that:
If you really want it to happen, you'll go to the lengths necessary to make it so. I've booked 3 separate weeks of annual leave from work this year so I'm not constrained if something come to market, enabling to me to jump in the car immediately as well as the time to put the groundwork in with the brokers mentioned below. This really paid off - I got to see lots of boats, many unlisted - and not many would be willing to make this sacrifice with their holidays, I reckon
You'll have to do the groundwork with the brokers. Most of the bigger ones won't be calling you when something's on its way which meets your needs. They've no need to do so in the current climate
I've a list of maybe 20 brokers, from small to large, I've proactively called to ask whether they've got anything sat unlisted or on its way which meets your requirements. It's a fag packet estimate but I reckon maybe 25% of the brokers, including Rugby Boats, gave me the details of exactly just that and gave me the opportunity to view before they listed them
Speaking to boatbuilders who only do a bit of brokerage on the side for boat they've usually previously built, threw up great results. One in particular, a very top end builder actually, not only spent a few hours with me in person after a viewing, chatting and giving advice but proactively got in touch several times since detailing boats they were about to broker to see if I'd be interested
As above, with smaller marinas that do a bit of brokerage only for their own moorers
You're dealing with people and not just companies. I've found with one broker who runs a whole load of marinas, the experience differed wildly from marina to marina. One marina couldn't be more helpful in terms of giving me details of an unlisted boat they were about to sell and invited me to view, whereas another took a smart-arsed response and generally treated me with contempt; "how do you know it's for sale then if it's not even listed!", rather than offering help
Stating your position to brokers early on helps. I've seen countless sale fall through, only to speak to the broker and be told it was because the intended buyer's house sale fell through or the generally didn't have the cash, rather than it being the result of a duff survey. If you've got the cash ready, make it clear
The terms of sale for buyers are so poor with some brokers you may wish to rule some brokers out altogether. It might be worth getting copies or an understanding of them, as I did, and make your mind up from there
I don't hold any ill will towards those who've bought and sold boats without giving me a call. It's not their responsibility to call me. However, I will remember those who lied, acted smugly or treated me with contempt. When things inevitably go full circle in the future and it becomes a buyer's market, I'll not forget the good and the bad experiences and would be happy to share them with anyone who might ask
Things are starting to change a little. Boats which would normally have gone quickly are now taking days, if not longer. Some of the prominent YouTubers have jacked it in, so perhaps it's falling out of favour slightly. We're coming into winter and the weather's turned - carrying out viewing in the lashing rain and cold won't be too appealing to many and will put off those who've have likely seen and bought had it been a lovely sunny day
Maybe it was down to this approach or just pot luck but I managed to view and get an offer in on a boat last week before it made Apollo Duck, just through checking the marina's website. Subject to survey in 2 weeks, it's mine. Indeed things are so favourable with the marina that the contract doesn't even call for a deposit.
Best wishes in finding a boat and to all those in the same situation. Fingers crossed I'll be living aboard very soon.
Now I've got to find a mooring and a professional boat mover but you can't have it all 🙂