Cleaning And Staging Your Boat For Sale

staging1The day you decide to sell your boat will surely cause you to experience a wide range of emotions, but the emotion that will sneak up on you and surprise you the most is that of awe. You’ll stand there on the aft deck looking into your boat and realize just how much stuff you have on and in your boat that you now have to get off your boat! It was so easy for you or your spouse or your friends to bring that one bag of potato chips, that one liter of soda pop or that box of crackers for the boating party you had in spring of ‘79, but it’s all still on the boat! Along with all of the canned goods and Ziploc bags you stocked up on just in case that small marina you were stopping at didn’t have those items.


The following quick list of tips will help you turn your floating storage unit back into a clean and spacious boat again.


If In Doubt, Pack It Up Or Throw It Out!

  • Head down to your boat with empty storage bins or boxes and large plastic garbage bags. You’ll either be packing things up to take home or you’ll be throwing things away.
  • Once on your boat, open up all storage compartments, both inside and outside, so you have a better idea of just how much stuff is on your boat that will need to be taken off the boat.
  • This is where the “if in doubt, throw it out” rule comes in handy. Throw out all:
    • Old food and soda pop, including old spices and baking products.
    • The random assortment of old pens and paperclips in the junk drawer. For that matter, you really should just throw out everything in the junk drawer.
    • Most everything in the fridge unless you know you brought it on the boat in the past week or two and actually plan to eat it soon. In that case, just bring it home and eat it there.
    • Cleaning products that look old, are half empty, are leaking or are in a can that has rust on it.
    • Nails, screws and other small hardware items that you no longer use (or even know what they’re supposed to be used for).
  • Pack up all bedding and towels to take home and wash. You’ll bring some bedding and towels back to stage the boat with, but you won’t need it all back on the boat again.
  • Remove as many personal items from the boat as you can from cupboards and drawers. You don’t want anyone coming to look at the boat rifling through your things. Ideally, drawers and cupboards should be empty when you’re done.
  • If you’re leaving things on the boat that will be included with the sale of the boat, then organize them in a cupboard or drawer where they’re out of the way or out of sight. Your broker will let interested buyers know what comes with the boat.


Exterior Cleaning and Detailing

Assuming your boat is stern in, as they usually are at the dock, consider that this will be the area a potential buyers sees first. Make sure it shines with these tips:


  • Once you’ve emptied all exterior storage compartments, clean them out well (with a hose, bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush) and only put back the items that are necessary to still keep on the boat.
  • Wash your boat thoroughly. Lift up all hatches and clean around the gutter track and hose out the drain so water and debris flow freely. Scrub the waterline. Use a mildew spray to clean any mildew (green or black) out of the rub rail, non-skid or canvas.
  • Pull all deck carpets up, clean under then and only put the ones back that look clean and new.
  • Use Simple Green and a Mr Clean Magic Eraser pad to clean all vinyl seats. Remember to lift up all seats in the cockpit area to clean under and around them.
  • Use a plastic window cleaner and a microfiber rag to clean all plastic windows.
  • Wipe and polish stainless when you’re finished washing the boat.
  • If your boat is in need of a wax job, see if you can get away with just waxing the topside (rub rail up) and the transom. That’s the main area a potential buyer will be looking more closely at and it will save you a little money over having the whole boat waxed at this time.
  • Even after all of this cleaning and washing, your boat will get dirty again in a matter of days or weeks depending on where it’s moored and the weather. Plan to wash it or have it washed on a regular basis, every three or four weeks, and to have the interior dusted and head’s checked every four weeks.

Staging The Boat

Real estate agents stage houses they have listed for sale to make them look more inviting, comfortable and stylish. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same to your boat!

  • Assuming you’ve removed most everything from your boat so you could clean all areas, only bring things back on the boat that will create the image of carefree and stylish boating. Your vintage compass or oil lamp? Sure. Your collection of ceramic frog figurines or wine corks? Absolutely not!
  • Make the bed and lay a clean or new throw over one corner of the bed with a book on it. Fluff up the pillows and use throw pillows at the head of the bed if it looks more inviting, but not if it looks too cluttered.
  • Buy a new hand towel and bath towel for the shower and sink area in the head. Make sure all of your personal items have been removed and replace with a fresh bar of decorative soap in a dish that won’t slide around. That is all you need in the head. (And of course, make sure the tanks have been pumped recently.)
  • Remove all food from the fridge. You can put wine in the fridge or a few items that won’t go bad and that one might bring on a picnic, but it’s time to stop keeping your own food in the fridge anymore.
  • Set the table for two and set a bottle of wine out. A vase with faux flowers will look nice as long as they’re not gaudy and don’t take up a lot of room.

If you stick to these tips, you’ll end up with a clean and spacious looking boat that will show well and be easier for a broker or yourself to impress an interested buyer with.

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