Connections

By
Brian M. Jacobson
Operations Director
National Aircraft Appraisers Association

 
 

The connection between the buyer’s agent, his client, and the seller is an important one, because without that connection the buyer’s need for an airplane cannot be satisfied.  True, the buyer could go it alone, but these days buying a used airplane without the requisite expertise and devotion of time and energy is fraught with peril.

The buyer’s agent’s sole function is to represent his client to the best of his ability and to act solely for the client as he works through the aircraft purchase process.  The process itself is complex and many buyers aren’t even aware that there is such a thing.  I had a call last week from a newly minted private pilot who expected to buy his first aircraft like he would a used automobile.  Needless to say, using that logic this potential buyer was heading for trouble. 

The buyer’s agent walks a fine line in negotiating a deal on behalf of his client.  After all, he wants to buy the right aircraft for his client, and when he locates that aircraft it is in the client’s best interest to make the deal.  However, there are all kinds of road blocks to stumble over. 

The first is the fact that many aircraft owners have yet to realize that many of the piston engine aircraft have declined in value over the last 12 months.  That especially applies to early model aircraft that do not have the t-configuration instrument panels.  Buyers want late model avionics, and those are typically found in late model aircraft.  So, there has been an increase in demand for late model aircraft with new technology avionics including flat panel displays, and a decline in the popularity of older aircraft that still sport the old fashioned panels.  Many of those aircraft cannot be upgraded to flat panel displays due to mechanical or financial considerations.

If an owner truly believes that his aircraft is worth more than it is it creates difficulties for the buyer, who would like to purchase the aircraft at a fair market price, and for the seller who would like to sell the aircraft as quickly as possible. 

So, the buyer’s agent has to use a great deal of finesse in many instances to make the deal on the aircraft that his client wants to buy.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out and the parties go their separate ways, with the buyer’s agent moving on to the next aircraft on his list, and the seller chalking up more expenses maintaining the aircraft while he waits for someone to come along and pay his price. 

Another issue the buyer’s agent often has to work around is the seller’s reluctance to fly the aircraft to another airport for a prepurchase inspection, especially when the only mechanic on the seller’s airport is the one who has been maintaining the aircraft under discussion for the last several years.  The seller will tell the buyer to bring his own mechanic and do his inspection on the ramp, but depending on the complexity of the aircraft that is not feasible in most cases.

For many sellers it is too much to ask that the aircraft be flown to the buyer’s home airport where his mechanic can do the inspection in his own shop, especially if it requires a long distance flight.  The seller is at a disadvantage in that case because his mechanic is not close at hand to inspect the items the buyer’s mechanic writes up.  If the buyer’s mechanic cannot or will not do the inspection at the seller’s airport then another mechanic local to the seller’s airport must be found and the airplane flown to that shop.

The connection between the buyer, buyer’s agent, and seller is extremely important.  First, there must be respect and trust between the parties for each other’s issues.  Too often a buyer who negotiates for himself will alienate the seller by saying the wrong things at the wrong time.  Once that happens the chances that a deal will be struck are reduced tremendously, and if one is made it won’t take much for the seller to cancel it.

The buyer’s agent is a professional who is a deal maker.  By the time he gets the deal to the contract stage the seller should have enough insight to understand that the agent wants nothing more than to see the deal progress to the closing.  If the proper respect between the parties has developed that is likely to happen.

At that point the buyer may be brought in and introduced to the seller.  With the negotiating done the two can get together and discuss their flying experiences, aircraft ownership, and a myriad of other details of their lives, creating an increasing awareness on the part of both parties that there is no ill will in the agreement that the buyer’s agent hammered out with the seller.  The point should then be apparent that this deal can be moved through the remaining stages of the purchase process with the parties working together to finalize it, instead of against each other, a sure sign that the sale will self-destruct.

 

 

There are some sellers who will insist that the deal be constructed solely on their terms with no consideration for the buyer.  I am aware of one dealer who tells anyone who is interested in purchasing an airplane that he has for sale that he will, under no circumstances, allow an aircraft to leave his premises for a prepurchase inspection.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a long distance buyer to work with that situation.  The prepurchase mechanic must be someone of the buyer’s choosing, not the seller’s. 

The buyer’s agent is a professional who is a deal maker.  By the time he gets the deal to the contract stage the seller should have enough insight to understand that the agent wants nothing more than to see the deal progress to the closing.  If the proper respect between the parties has developed that is likely to happen.

At that point the buyer may be brought in and introduced to the seller.  With the negotiating done the two can get together and discuss their flying experiences, aircraft ownership, and a myriad of other details of their lives, creating an increasing awareness on the part of both parties that there is no ill will in the agreement that the buyer’s agent hammered out with the seller.  The point should then be apparent that this deal can be moved through the remaining stages of the purchase process with the parties working together to finalize it, instead of against each other, a sure sign that the sale will self-destruct.

There are some sellers who will insist that the deal be constructed solely on their terms with no consideration for the buyer.  I am aware of one dealer who tells anyone who is interested in purchasing an airplane that he has for sale that he will, under no circumstances, allow an aircraft to leave his premises for a prepurchase inspection.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a long distance buyer to work with that situation.  The prepurchase mechanic must be someone of the buyer’s choosing, not the seller’s. 

It is nearly impossible for the buyer or the buyer’s agent to work with someone like this.  If the seller wants control of the entire sale process that should send up all kinds of red flags warning buyers to beware.  The experienced buyer’s agent removes these airplanes from consideration early in the process and does not waste time with these people.

The connection between the buyer’s agent and client must begin early in the process.  Once the potential client has explained his needs it is up to the buyer’s agent to provide enough insight that the two can work together to reach the client’s goal.  For some it may take more conversation and perhaps written detail than for others. 

The buyer’s agent brings experience to the table that the client does not possess and the fortitude to see the deal through when the client is too busy to deal with the day to day workings of the purchase process.  The process itself is lengthy, time consuming, and sometimes nerve wracking.  It is important that each step be followed for maximum success in the acquisition of any aircraft.

The buyer’s agent and the client must connect with each other on the basis of the client’s wants and needs.  When dealing with used aircraft it is almost impossible to find an airplane that will exactly meet those specifications, but a successful outcome will match the buyer with an aircraft that is as close as possible while maintaining the budget specified at the beginning of the process.

In my experience as a buyer’s agent perhaps the best indication of the strong connection that can occur between a buyer, buyer’s agent, and seller occurred when 30 days after taking delivery of a Mooney M20J for my client I received a call from the selling broker.  We discussed the airplane and how it met my client’s expectations, and then I told him that the glide slope had failed on the flight home.  My client had it repaired and the repair was not expensive.

I was dumbfounded a week later when I received in the mail a check from the selling broker for $100.  Along with the check was a note that while he understood that the check probably would not cover the entire repair the broker wanted my client to know that neither he nor his client had any knowledge that there was anything wrong with the glide slope at the time the sale was made, and that they had no intention of selling him an airplane that had any defects. 

That broker and I became good friends and even after many years have intervened we communicate with each other on a regular basis.  That there should be more people like him in this business is a given, those who recognize the need for fairness and openness in dealing with aircraft sales.  But even more importantly he understands the need for the parties in a sale transaction to connect with each other to make the transaction successful.

 

 

 


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