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Today's Boat Buyer - Banker/boater knows both sides of a sale

Peter Schleck of Portsmouth, Va., is a banker. A couple years ago, he became a boater, too.

This banker-turned-boater has simple advice for those looking to make a purchase in this market: don’t buy what you can’t afford.

Peter Schleck and his wife, Elizabeth, say they would still buy a new boat today; Schleck bought a 27-foot Regal because he wanted a cruising boat that would handle resonably well.

“Most banks are looking for at least 25 percent down payment on a boat at this time,” says Schleck, 49. “I think the days of 100 percent financing with no proof of income are gone, but there is credit out there for qualified buyers.”

Schleck says banks are looking closely into the buyer’s source of income, as well as if there is a secondary source of payment.

“I understand that, for a lot of people, it’s hard to save up,” says Schleck. “But that’s definitely helpful in getting financing.”

Schleck says recently he has seen signs of the credit market improving and believes it will continue upward toward the end of the year.

“We are seeing more capital expenditures, more people borrowing money, so those are some signs that we are beginning to improve,” says Schleck, who bought his 27-foot Regal new with Volvo Penta 265-hp sterndrive as a first-time boat buyer in 2007, and has never looked back.

The Schlecks bought a 27-foot Regal new with Volvo Penta 265-hp sterndrive.

“I would still buy my boat even now,” says Schleck. “As long as I live near the water, I’m always going to have a boat.”

Schleck bought the vessel from Master Marine Boats in Williamsburg, Va., a certified Regal dealer.

“I came to Regal for two reasons — first of all, they sure look nice, and the cabins and the way they were laid out also attracted me,” says Schleck. “I’m pretty conservative so I wanted a cruising boat that would handle reasonably well, especially since this was my first boat.”

He began searching the market in September 2006 by doing research on the Internet. Schleck and his wife were recent empty-nesters.

“We felt like we were entitled to something,” says Schleck. “We also thought we could offer the boat to our kids when they came to town.”

Schleck says he didn’t approach the dealer until February 2007 for a sea trial after seeing the vessel at a boat show.

“The Regal felt comfortable and something we could comfortably take guests in,” says Schleck. “I love fishing, but I haven’t marred the look of the boat with rod holders.”

Dealer Brett Trimbath was more than willing to answer any questions Schleck had about boating. What clinched the deal for Schleck was the cruising club that would allow him to socialize and learn from other Regal owners. Schleck had saved up for the vessel and was able to pay cash — even now, he estimates the Regal’s value to still be in the six-figure range.

“We really didn’t anticipate how bad the economy was going to get. In my business it didn’t really hit us until after Sept. 1, 2008,” says Schleck, who estimates he uses his boat about 30 hours per boating season. “But the time that I use it is worth more to me than its price — that feeling of being out on the water and knowing that feeling will always be there is worth it.”

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This article originally appeared in the Home Waters Section of the August 2009 issue.