There’s always debate on this subject, especially on the various owners forums. Some people say absolutely yes, some say absolutely no, and the rest are somewhere in between. Even though aircraft brokerage is my business I’m not one of those who will tell you that is the right decision for everyone. And -- just to get the white elephant out of the room -- yes, there are a few dirtbags in this business. There are also a lot of very fine, hard working people who want to do the right thing and who pour their souls into helping their clients.
Buying and selling seems to trigger a lot of emotions. Throw an airplane into the mix and sometimes those emotions run high. A lot of brokers are unfairly blamed for things over which they had absolutely no control or knowledge. This is akin to the real estate agent who gets blamed for the broken water heater after the sale. How were they supposed to know Point being -- in today’s bombshell throwing social media world -- you can find less than favorable comments on just about anyone. If you can’t, they probably haven’t been in the business long. Dig deeper to find out how a prospective broker handles situations, take the time to actually speak with those who have worked with them, and think critically.
But back to the question of whether or not a broker is right for you and/or your airplane. Let’s take a look at the 6 most important considerations. The assumption here is that the broker has a long-standing reputation for great customer service and is not in the business to quickly flip an airplane.
Time. Even the easiest planes can take a lot of time to sell. Make sure you have the time. Figure 40+ hours to stage the plane, take good pictures and video, copy the records, develop the marketing materials, post the ads, call known prospects, answer calls, prepare offers and contracts, renegotiate after an inspection, coordinate delivery, etc. Here’s a recent example: Within a period of 8 days I took over 30 calls and emails on a Beech A36. Many of those callers were asking the same questions over and over again. I don’t mind, it’s my business. But even at just 15 minutes per call I spent over 7 1/2 hours of my time -- and that doesn’t include the other work I did on that plane. If your time is valuable or in short supply then maybe you should consider hiring a broker.
A second opinion. Most reputable brokers keep meticulous records on previous sales and market history. They use this data along with current trends and forecasts to give you a very clear idea of a likely sales price and time-on-the-market. You can use them as a sounding board and they can help you see things objectively. They can also advise you about upgrades you’ve been considering. I’ll get calls from customers who want to spend money on an upgrade they think will help them sell their plane. More often than not I encourage them to save their money since their return on investment is almost always well below 100%.
Notes & Databases. Reputable brokers keep copious notes and databases. We know who’s in the market, which buyer’s are always looking for that “smokin’ deal”, what the scam-artist tactics are, which maintenance shops are good (and which ones to stay away from). When you sell a lot of airplanes you collect a lot insider market knowledge that can be very valuable.
Returned communications. I’ll bet I get a comment a week from someone who told me they couldn’t get so-and-so to return their call. Sometimes they’re referring to brokers (which is inexcusable) but often it’s from individual owners. If you’re busy, often out of cell coverage, work nights, or have other reasons why you can’t respond in a timely manner, then maybe you should considering having someone help you.
Objectivity. I always cringe when someone tells me their plane is “the best one out there”, “a perfect 10”, or that there’s “absolutely nothing wrong with it.” Hey, we’re all human and we sometimes miss things. It’s rare that I don’t discover something about a plane that the owner didn’t know. Buyer’s want to hear the truth and they are skeptical about so-called perfection. A good broker will take the time to go see your airplane personally. If you’re one of those people -- and this happens -- who want to hide or conceal something about your plane then a good broker is not for you. They will find out and should disclose that info to prospective buyers.
Experience. An experienced broker will know how to handle contracts, extensions, revisions, foreign purchases and different countries bureaucratic requirements, ferrying, closing, inspections, etc., etc. and they will be able to advise you every step of the way. We know where the potholes and roadblock lie and can often see them a long way off.
A good broker can be well-worth his/her money, sometimes multifold. You absolutely must perform due diligence before committing to a brokerage agreement though. If you’re the kind of person who handles your own investments, sells your own homes, and likes to do everything yourself while never taking counsel from anyone else then you’re not the kind of person who would be a good fit for a brokerage relationship. A broker is there to help you expand your team, to give you some of your time back, and to broaden your perspective on things you may not have previously ever thought of. And a good broker should always act in your best interests and be willing to tell you “no” when all you you really want to hear is “yes.”