With the call from the broker, we were relieved knowing at last, but also deflated. We had discussed our finances repeatedly over the previous four days, and had come to the conclusion that we could afford to pay only half the difference between our offer and the owner’s counter. Regardless of the condition of the boat, we really did not have the cash on hand to go any higher, and even that middle price pushed our savings to the limit.
Of course, we could always use a line of credit to bridge the gap, and then pay it off over the next two months. And with that thinking, we started pondering the condition of the boat. Already stretching out money to the limit, there could be no major issues with any of the systems on the boat. Our biggest concern in this regard, based on the listing and our internet research, was the rigging. The listing itself did not mention when the standing rigging had been replaced, which was a pretty clear sign it was not in the last five years or so. Moreover, we had found a couple emails from the previous owner to the Tayana owners’ group asking about replacing chainplates back in 2010. Again, since the listing did not say the chainplates had been replaced, we figured they probably needed to be. Chainplates alone were not going to break our budget, but buying and installing all new standing rigging was.
At the same time we pondered the condition of the rigging, and the costs to replace it, we also could not shake the feeling that Bear was an exceptional boat. As we have said before, the pictures made the boat look extremely well cared for. And, everything we read on the Tayana owners’ group and heard from the broker (admittedly, an interested party) supported the idea that the previous owner was fastidious regarding upkeep. Maybe we were being overly optimistic, but it just felt like – outside of the concerns about the rigging – that there would only be normal maintenance issues to deal with during our first year of ownership, not a major refit.
Knowing we had nothing to lose and seeking to make a more informed decision, we decided to ask the previous owner about the condition of the rigging and when work had been done on it. In response, the owner specifically told us he had replaced about half the rigging over the past eight years and that the rest was in excellent shape, having been regularly inspected. Unfortunately, the answer did not do much to clarify things. Did this mean that the other rigging was original and on its last legs? Or did it indicate the rigging was regularly inspected and replaced as needed, with all the remaining rigging truly in excellent shape? While many times having a broker as an intermediary between the owner and the buyer surely smooths out some of the interests and emotions that could lead to miscommunications and other difficulties, this was one of the times we wished we could just talk to the owner about the condition of the rigging over a beer. And, maybe we could have had we asked, but we did not. And so, we were left to make our decision based on the information we did have.
While we understood that we could always attempt to renegotiate the price if the survey turned up major issues with the rigging or any other system, we also realized that there was no guarantee the owner would accede to such changes in the purchase price at that point. Then, out a few thousand dollars for the survey and travel to the boat, we would be faced with the decision of whether to walk away or pay for the repairs ourselves, in addition to the higher agreed upon purchase price. And with that scenario in mind, after two days of agonizing, we came to the conclusion that we were not comfortable accepting the counteroffer. Instead, we would propose to meet the owner halfway, which would put us at the very limit of our current savings. At the same time, the 3500 dollars we would have been paying off over the next two months could be put aside to fix any immediate problems with the rigging.
Before I called the broker back, though, Margaret and I discussed the possibility that the broker simply responded by saying that the owner had already made it clear that he would not be accepting a lower price. Were we ready to move on from Bear if that was the case? Again, the condition of this Tayana compared to the other boats we looked at and the expense in time and money of continuing the search made us both reluctant to walk away because of less than five percent of the purchase price. So, we decided that I would make it clear that we were accepting the offer expecting a near perfect survey and that, because this purchase price really pushed us to the limit, we would be coming back to the owner to renegotiate should anything turn up in the survey.
And, that is exactly what happened. I called the broker and said that we would like to propose meeting the owner halfway. Very kindly and apologetically, the broker then informed me that he had strict instructions from the owner to reject any lower offer. I then went to our backup plan, explaining our concerns about the price and our ability to affect any major repairs and making it clear that we would be renegotiating should the survey turn up any issues. The broker then told me that the owner believed the boat was in excellent condition and that is why he was unwilling to accept a lower price. He further assured me that the owner would expect to renegotiate should anything turn up. And, with that, we accepted the owner’s counteroffer.
Though we were excited, our excitement was definitely tempered by the fact that we had not yet even seen the boat, let alone completed the survey. And, we had some lingering concerns, based on all the horror stories about brokers that are out there, that we were acting like naive boat buyers, trusting the words of the broker. But in all our interactions thus far, this broker had been as patient, helpful, and understanding as the best brokers we had encountered. Moreover, I had faith in the owner, who, we had discovered through a little internet stalking, was a historian, a very fine teacher, and a major proponent of the humanities and liberal arts who had been honored by President Clinton with a National Humanities Medal. Sure, folks like that can be assholes too, but at some point in time, we needed to believe the process was going to work out fairly for all involved. And, given what we knew, I liked our chances.