A step-by-step guide to selling your boat

Story by Harris & Ellis / July 12, 2023

Author: Patricia and Grant Bowlby Yacht Brokers Harris & Ellis Yachts

The decision to sell a boat brings lots of questions. Is there a market for my boat? What is it worth? How quickly will it sell? Who can best represent me and my boat?

At Harris & Ellis Yachts, our professional brokers will do a market analysis and then meet with you on your boat to take a tour and discuss a marketing strategy with you. We’ll handle the listing and all calls and show the boat. And when we find the perfect buyer, we’ll write the contract, present it, walk you through survey and sea trial, and handle transfer of ownership.

Step 1: The marketing process

The process for selling your boat will feel somewhat like selling your home. You will complete a Marketing Agreement with us and compile an equipment inventory that we will use to create the listing for your boat. We’ll ask that you:

  • ensure that the equipment inventory is kept current, and that all items listed are working.
  • notify us if any item no longer works or is replaced so that we can keep your listing current.
  • keep your boat clean, uncluttered, and in “showable” condition.
  • keep the boat accessible both in winter and summer.
  • make the marina or yacht club aware that your boat is for sale by Harris & Ellis Yachts.
  • let us know where the boat will be stored in winter and docked in summer.
  • keep us informed about when the boat will be away from the marina or yacht club.
  • notify us if you move the location of the key for access or change the lock.
  • be sure that your Pleasure Craft License or Document of Registration is current and active.
  • let us know if you have a loan, lien, or debt owing to the marina on the boat and talk to us prior to the sale to ensure that the debt will be paid out before the new owner takes possession.

We will:

  • field all calls regarding your boat and set up appointments to show the vessel if it appears to be a good fit for prospective buyers.
  • always accompany prospective buyers or outside brokers when on board your boat.

Step 2: The sales process

When a buyer indicates interest in purchasing your boat, we will work with them or their broker to prepare a conditional offer to be presented to you, the seller. Once the contract is agreed upon, we will facilitate the next steps:

  • As part of the sales contract, every boat will undergo a survey. The surveyor will be looking into and under all cupboards, compartments, cushions, beds, and floorboards. (Please ensure that any excess “stuff” stored is removed for the survey.)
  • We will do our best to put the boat back together when the survey is complete.
  • A surveyor will examine the structure of the vessel for soundness, and the electrical and plumbing to assess the safety of the vessel.
  • Most of the findings are maintenance related, but sometimes there are structural issues. We can help you understand the findings.
  • When there are issues, we will recommend having a professional in to properly assess the area of concern and work with you to solve the problem.
  • Prior to the sea trial, we’ll go over what you need to do to ensure that the vessel is in good operating condition, for example making sure that the engine(s) will start and run properly, that all electrical and electronic items are hooked up and running properly, and that the plumbing and water system(s) are working. You’ll also need to have a working knowledge of these items, as you will be asked to demonstrate these during the orientation.

Step 3: Transfer of ownership

  • We will prepare the closing paperwork for you and the buyer. Whether your boat is licensed or registered or foreign owned, we have access to the documents you’ll need.
  • We can also advise on shipping and cross-border documentation.


Thank you for all your work in facilitating the sale of our dad's boat. Jake and I really appreciate all the hard work you put into it with the many visits, paperwork, etc. A special mention has to go out to Grant for teaching me how to fold the sails!

As first-time boat buyers and as foreigners wanting to buy a cruising catamaran in the US, we knew we needed a reliable broker that had our best interests in mind. John Heintzman was just that, and more! He was extremely committed to understanding what we were looking for, gave great advice, and guided us through the purchase process with great patience and knowledge. All in all, we felt very well taken care of.

I feel compelled to reach out about the absolutely wonderful experience that I have had with Grant and Patricia Bowlby. I completed the purchase of a boat yesterday and I couldn’t be happier. They were so helpful, kind, and patient. This was my first experience with a broker, and I think I’ve found the best.

I can’t thank Ewan Campbell enough for the super job he did in selling G, making up for my lack of experience in this realm and patiently searching for just the right buyer and a win-win for seller and buyer alike.

It was a wonderful experience selling A with Jeff Cole’s expert assistance. Thank you for simplifying a complicated process. Your patience and kindness are especially appreciated.

I just wanted to thank Jeff Cole for all his hard work. He was very professional and effective.

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