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Bobbybass

Buying a boat ?...Cautionary tales..BEWARE !!

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I don't know if this is general or just a few things that happened around me. It concerns buying boats and having surveys and committing your hard earned cash to the outcome.

Around 11 years ago I bought my first narrowboat. A 60 foot Reeves hull that was (at that time ) 10 years old. I paid over £700 to have it surveyed at Braunston with "one of the most highly recommended surveyors in the area"...tsk tsk...

He picked out a few items..that were recitified.. and gave it a clean bill of health. 2 weeks later it nearly sank. The bolts holding the stern tube to the cross member were missing (never found them in the bilge)...and during mooring up the tube unscrewed and fell into the boat leaving a large gap around the prop shaft... By the way..the surveyed bilge pump didn't work... 2 years later I had it re-blacked to find that the 10mm base plate was corroded by 6mm over a substantial part of the plate. Approaching the "famed" surveyor... he said that the survey was "on the day...sorry about that".

20 months ago I nearly purchased a fibreglass cruiser on the Thames. £700 for lift and survey...  Another highly recommended surveyor (funny how brokers don't like to make surveyor recommendations.. and then do?)..pointed out a few things as 'minor'..and it was a sheer stroke of luck (actually..I surprised the broker by turning up unannounced and demanding the file )...that I uncovered paperwork that the boat had been in a hard collision (insurance recovery)..with the stern and had an emergency lift as water was pouring in. The stern..transom....seriously cracked....had allowed water to soak into the interior and the plywood was sodden..meaning that its strength would always be unknown.  The surveyor countered this by stating that it should never be used on the sea !. I walked away £700 lighter. A few weeks later...I discovered that the same surveyor had previously surveyed that boat..twice...so already knew it inside and out. Very lucrative !!

Last September....my sister...and her now late husband (probably due to the stress)...went looking for a narrowboat. There seems to be a trend now..that many brokers advertise.."with recent survey".....so you are reassured.  They went ahead and purchased it. In the first week they called RCR 3 times....who examined the boat and said it was totally botched..and should never have passed survey !!.

Now to me...

My wife and myself 'thought' we would go back to a narrowboat. I have just returned from a long drive to view a boat. The couple have owned it for 2 years...and I'm sure they were very genuine....I have no qualms about that. I saw the invoice for their  purchase...£28,750. They then spent £12,000 on over plating !!!. The overplating job looked great with very high quality welding, but overplating rotten base plate with 6mm of steel would mean a resale value in 5 years time.. of 2 bags of crisps and a can of coke !

I asled (as you would )...why did you buy such a bad hull that required so much remedial work...?...    Can you guess...?

Of course......the answer was that the boat came with a recent...reassuring......,wonderful survey.....so they didn't need to pay to get their own !. A year later they took it for blacking to discover that the baseplate..thought to be 8mm...was down to 2mm or less..and they had basically bought a 10 ton colander !!.  Serious corrosion...base...and sides...They took it up with the surveyor...but of course the small print said (as in most surveys)...This survey must only ever be seen by the person that commissioned it and must never be shown to a third party.  Standard surveyor cop out...

I'm wondering if this latest trend..actually involves surveyors at all..or whether you can just buy copies of surveys from China....

These are facts.......not embellished....

In the words of Hill Street Blues.."Be careful out there"....

By the way...does anybody want to buy my genuine Elvis Presley signed record..?..I have a certificate of authenticity..

 

 

  • Greenie 4

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Thanks for that - when I relate my 'stories' I am dismissed as scaremongering.

I have not bothered with a surveyor on the last 17 boats I have bought as it is money down the drain.

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2 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Thanks for that - when I relate my 'stories' I am dismissed as scaremongering.

I have not bothered with a surveyor on the last 17 boats I have bought as it is money down the drain.

For an experienced fellow like yourself Alan it is,but for the un-experienced what is the alternative?

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2 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

For an experienced fellow like yourself Alan it is,but for the un-experienced what is the alternative?

Just to be warned that whilst a survey may identify all of the faults, in reality it is unlikely to do so, and, should the boat sink & you try to get recompense you will fail.

Boat surveyors don't even need to be qualified - anyone can have cards /stationary printed stating they are a 'surveyor'.

Even when taken to a court of law the surveyor will win as their T&Cs state "we can only comment on what we see, and the survey is only valid for 10 seconds - after we have left the boat the survey is invalid"

 

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4 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

For an experienced fellow like yourself Alan it is,but for the un-experienced what is the alternative?

This is indeed..tricky.

I consider myself I (after potential mishaps)..reasonably astute...but as you have asked.. what's the alternative..?

Having viewed the colander boat this weekend....I was aware that the overplate looked good quality and would do you for a few years cruising...but was also conscious that further down the line..the overplating would not be new..and would be considered a risk..so leading to low resale value.

I'm curious about this latest trend of brokers advertising "recent survey...recent hiull survey"..?

The costs of your own survey..maybe in the region of £700 plus..make a ready surveyed boat an attractive proposition...but (like my sister)...how much can you trust it..?

In my..;Thames' cruiser' episode.....I had a definite feeling that although the surveyor was supposedly from hundreds of miles away..he wouldn't have liked to have completely written off the boat for fear of loosing future work at the marina. I also had this feeling with my previous narrowboat..

It's indeed a problem.....the old buyer beware scenario...which is really tough for first time buyers...

 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Just to be warned that whilst a survey may identify all of the faults, in reality it is unlikely to do so, and, should the boat sink & you try to get recompense you will fail.

Boat surveyors don't even need to be qualified - anyone can have cards /stationary printed stating they are a 'surveyor'.

Even when taken to a court of law the surveyor will win as their T&Cs state "we can only comment on what we see, and the survey is only valid for 10 seconds - after we have left the boat the survey is invalid"

 

Its is often said  that a decent surveyor will pay for themselves. I would also think (especially on an older boat) that the insurance company is more likely to payout if you have a recent survey from a reputable surveyor (although perhaps not).

What is the alternative though?

 

ETA answered by the OP whilst I was typing

 

Edited by rusty69

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Not as major an issue but when we bought 'The Dog House' in 2010 it only required a few minor things to rectify some minor points.

I remember asking the surveyor specifically 'Is the macerator toilet OK' (I don't recall why that particularly concerned me but it did), any way yes all was in working order, 'It was fine'.

Only a few months after we started to notice an unpleasant smell emanating from the area of the holding tank under the bed. Of course the get out clause here is the one around 'not dismantling anything to inspect' or words to that effect.

In fact no dismantling was required, we only needed to move the mattress (does that count as dismantling?) and shine down with a torch to see that the system was leaking and had IMHO likley been for some considerable time, and very likely was at the time of the survey. Had this small check been done it would have saved us the cost of ripping the lot out and replacing it with a cassette, or at the very least having the existing system repaired.

That brought home to me the limited value of a boat survey and I vowed then I would have little interest in getting anything other than a hull survey done. Though that said reading the OP one wonders of the value of even that.

  • Greenie 1

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What I don’t t understand I should why people who have limited experience tend to rely on a surveyor recommended by either a broker, who has a vested interest, or a seller, ditto.

Members of this forum will happily suggest good surveyors who don’t miss things like colander hulls.

I learned the hard way with the first boat I bought, and have relied on one excellent surveyor and my own eyes since.

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11 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

Its is often said  that a decent surveyor will pay for themselves. I would also think (especially on an older boat) that the insurance company is more likely to payout if you have a recent survey from a reputable surveyor (although perhaps not).

What is the alternative though?

 

ETA answered by the OP whilst I was typing

 

You are also locked into having a survey done if you are getting finance secured on the value of the boat. Even if under normal circumstances you wouldnt have one.

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16 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

Its is often said  that a decent surveyor will pay for themselves. I would also think (especially on an older boat) that the insurance company is more likely to payout if you have a recent survey from a reputable surveyor (although perhaps not).

What is the alternative though?

 

ETA answered by the OP whilst I was typing

 

Ive never had a survey and never will. Its jobs for the boys. Having said that I bought my first boat side of the canal in cash and for all I knew at the time it could have been crap.........I was lucky it was solid. The boat I bought at present after I bought it came with a survey done a month before I bought it. I had no idea about the survey but it came with the paperwork bumff when I took boat away. Survey was from a very well known bloke. Its a good survey anyway as it happens but Myself and my mate in our quick ten minute look round the boat identified more problems than the survey had highlighted including a quite obviously leaking cauliflower which I simply replaced. There is no doubt surveyors do wriggle when stuck!!

  • Greenie 1

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11 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

For an experienced fellow like yourself Alan it is,but for the un-experienced what is the alternative?

A surveyor that you can check by asking on this forum .The vendor/broker will probably refuse a buyer permission to lift floor panels,remove trim panels,and poke a screwdriver into rust bubbles and generally have a forensic investigation of the boat,whereas a surveyor would not be denied that permission.

Even with a survey,you are still taking a chance,as has been reported above.

Buying a boat is rather like taking up with a new woman,you don't really know what you have got untill you have lived with them for a year! 

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When I bought mine I was lucky enough to know a guy called Dick Goble, who has been around boats for most of his life and was renovating an old working boat, as well as being a first rate diesel mechanic, even if he specialised in the old single cylinder jobs rather than Listers.  We also had a mate who was a welder.  I just walked them round the boat and took their advice.

I've bought and sold enough houses to know that a survey is essentially useless and virtually guaranteed to miss anything important while focussing on nonsense (my last house surveyor - insisted on against my advice by my wife - failed to notice some blatant faults and suggested the house shouldn't be bought because of the colour scheme and the fact that it was only half a mile from a council estate). The one before said joists were rotten (they weren't) and missed the fact that the firewall in the loft between the houses had fallen down.

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3 minutes ago, Furness said:

A surveyor that you can check by asking on this forum .The vendor/broker will probably refuse a buyer permission to lift floor panels,remove trim panels,and poke a screwdriver into rust bubbles and generally have a forensic investigation of the boat,whereas a surveyor would not be denied that permission.

Even with a survey,you are still taking a chance,as has been reported above.

Buying a boat is rather like taking up with a new woman,you don't really know what you have got untill you have lived with them for a year! 

A reputable surveyor is worthwhile imo for the inexperienced. I often recommend one when ever someone asks.

I didn't ask whether he surveys potential new women,but could ask:)

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9 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

I didn't ask whether he surveys potential new women,but could ask

I can offer a range of services & I'd be glad to help out if he doesn't.

 

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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The alternative obviously, is to use your senses to assess both the boat and the owner, then take a chance and buy with no survey. 

Most boats more than a few hours old carry a plethora of faults, and only a very VERY few are likely immediately to make the boat sink. A surveyor knows this and feels obliged to come up with a list but my feeling is the list would be completely different for every surveyor used on a given boat.

Even if your surveyor correctly identifies every fault and you get the seller to fix them, a load more faults are going to arise during your period of ownership. Are you going to have the boat re-surveyed every six months or year? If not, why not? In reality boats only get surveyed on change of ownership and plenty of boats that would get a horror survey carry on floating and being used by owners completely oblivious to the supposed colander status of the boat they are cruising about in. 

It comes, I think, from the way we get houses surveyed when buying them. There really is no need to carry this over into boats. Boats are consumable items, they degrade and wear out. People seem to forget this. Houses are expected to last for generations and form security for the mortgages used to buy them. Broadly speaking boats wear out. The older the boat, the more knackered it will be.

There, a universal survey report for you all for use on any boat. That'll be £700 please!

Edited by Mike the Boilerman
Split infinitive identified on survey of post.

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2 minutes ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

The alternative obviously, is to use your senses to assess both the boat and the owner, then take a chance and buy with no survey. 

So when you are happily chugging along the cut and find water sloshing around your ankles,and your boat about to visit Davy Jones's canal locker,you may say "but the survey said the boat was ok"or " I wish I had a survey done before buying this boat".

I largely agree with Mike the Boilerman,but I think a hull survey to check the extent of corrosion,is essential, either with an ultrasound thing or the old fashioned way of drilling a small hole in various parts of the hull and measuring the thickness.[Filling the holes in with weld after of course]

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On 11/02/2018 at 17:14, Furness said:

So when you are happily chugging along the cut and find water sloshing around your ankles,and your boat about to visit Davy Jones's canal locker,you may say "but the survey said the boat was ok"or " I wish I had a survey done before buying this boat".

 

Which is what I meant when I said "take a chance". This happens perhaps five or ten times a year out of 35,000 boats on the cut. 

That's a chance I'm willing to take to save the £700, given how unreliable surveyors are at finding hull faults. 

I too have shelled out £500 on a survey stating the hull is in good insurable condition, only to have the boat start sinking from a  corrosion hole two years later. Surveys simply can't be relied upon so what's the point?

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I too had problems with a surveyor a few years back. Completely missed a whole area of significant rot in the wooden topsides. This was discovered by the company who were carrying out a wholesale renovation of all the topsides recommended by said survey.

Not quite so helpfully, this was after they had completed the work they had been asked to do. I contacted the surveyor afterwards and got the usual "what was seen on the day" stuff. However, looking at the paperwork he had provided indicated he was a member of some sort of International Institute Of Surveyors. I actually managed to contact these people who said they would ask their member to respond more constructively. The bloke was absolutely livid that I had contacted them but, lo and behold, he returned to the boat and, eventually carried out this work as well at no extra cost. Conclusion? Occasionally there may be a means of bringing them to book!

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5 minutes ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

Surveys simply can't be relied upon so what's the point?

Fully comp insurance on an older boat,and the opportunity to walk away from a lemon that you can't afford to loose the money on:)

 

ETA perhaps a surveyor surveyor is required

Edited by rusty69

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On 11/02/2018 at 17:26, rusty69 said:

Fully comp insurance on an older boat,and the opportunity to walk away from a lemon that you can't afford to loose the money on:)

 

ETA perhaps a surveyor surveyor is required

 

But there are plenty of occasions where a surveyor errs in the opposite direction too, i.e. recommends overplating for no good reason. 

But I take your point about it usually being necessary to get fully comp insurance on a 25+ year old boat. CraftInsure will do up to 30 years old with no survey however.

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Just now, rusty69 said:

Fully comp insurance on an older boat,and the opportunity to walk away from a lemon that you can't afford to loose the money on:)

A valid reason for a hull survey.  Many insurers will not quote for full cover on an old boat without a recent hull survey.

When I had mine steam cleaned and blacked,the cheerful bloke doing it said  " your hull is ok, if it wasn't,the steam cleaner would have blown a hole in it"

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1 minute ago, Furness said:

When I had mine steam cleaned and blacked,the cheerful bloke doing it said  " your hull is ok, if it wasn't,the steam cleaner would have blown a hole in it"

Same happened to ours last year .Bloke used a powerful hot washer on it the day before the surveyor came over,and his hammer didn't go through either. I spose a DIY hammer through the hull of someone elses boat may be frowned on, whereas a surveyor would be ok.

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Just to offer the other side of this.

Our pre-purchase survey was done by a surveyor we picked who wasn't on the broker's list.  It's a 1980's boat, so needed at least a hull survey for insurance due to it's age.

Points he raised in his verbal report knocked thousands off the agreed "subject to survey" price.  All of it was stuff we had noticed ourselves, but the broker and vendor were more amenable to his report than our haggling.

Choose a good surveyor who knows their stuff, not one suggested by anyone with an interest in the sale.

 

  • Greenie 1
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On 11/02/2018 at 17:40, TheBiscuits said:

Just to offer the other side of this.

Our pre-purchase survey was done by a surveyor we picked who wasn't on the broker's list.  It's a 1980's boat, so needed at least a hull survey for insurance due to it's age.

Points he raised in his verbal report knocked thousands off the agreed "subject to survey" price.  All of it was stuff we had noticed ourselves, but the broker and vendor were more amenable to his report than our haggling.

Choose a good surveyor who knows their stuff, not one suggested by anyone with an interest in the sale.

 

 

I think you are morphing this from the original concern about surveyors missing stuff, into surveys being great because they help you negotiate a reduction in the price. 

Agreed they do the latter, but this does not invalidate the original premise that surveys fail to guarantee you protection from buying a colander. 

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