Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Aircraft Selling Strategies

As we get started with 2013, it may be time to take a serious look at selling your existing aircraft. The economy has certainly taken a beating the last few years but we’re starting to see the signs of a turnaround in the aviation industry. Turboprops, long the work horses of the aviation community, are the last to quit flying when times get tough and the first to get back to work when the economy starts to recover. We’ve seen an increase in turbo prop sales in December of 2012 and so far in 2013, and that indicator, among others we watch, tells us the market is starting to recover. Which means the time to sell your aircraft, either to change to a different aircraft that better suits your needs or to sell it outright, is now. Here then, are our top aircraft selling strategies to help sell your aircraft while the selling is good.

Price is the very best strategy for selling your aircraft. It is absolutely imperative that your aircraft be priced properly. Too high, and it will languish on the market as other similar aircraft are sold. Too low, and you risk leaving money on the table, as the saying goes. The right price is NOT the cheapest price and it’s important to remember that when pricing your aircraft. Some buyers are looking for only the cheapest airplane but those buyers are going to get exactly what they are looking for: a cheap airplane. No, most buyers want to get the most aircraft for their money and if that means spending more to get more, they are willing to do so. If your aircraft has unique options or features that command a premium, then that needs to be reflected in the price. How best to determine the price? The good folks at Aircraft Blue Book spend a lot of time and energy figuring that out for you and a Blue Book evaluation is an excellent place to start. Armed with that evaluation, a good market survey, to see and understand exactly what your aircraft’s market is doing at the actual time of selling, will enable you to adjust the price to ensure your aircraft is the next to sell. A good aircraft broker will be able to provide you both an evaluation and a market survey as part of your listing agreement when you contract with them to sell it.

Maintenance condition is the next area to focus on.
Maintenance condition is almost impossible to hide in an aviation transaction due to all the record-keeping requirements of the FAA. Most aircraft these days are on some sort of computerized maintenance tracking program and as such, most prospective buyers can know every detail of the aircraft’s maintenance condition in the time it takes to email a report. Because of this, the last thing you want to do is skimp on the maintenance. If you’ve let the aircraft slide on maintenance because it hasn’t been flying, do yourself a favor and get it to a good repair facility and get everything caught up. At the very least ensure all the airworthiness directives and mandatory service bulletins are complied with. Nothing reassures a potential buyer like a fresh annual or 100-hour inspection or something similar and it also gives the mechanic a chance to find and repair something that would otherwise be a deal breaker during a pre-buy inspection. Similarly, nothing makes a potential buyer more nervous than to look at a maintenance report and see page after page of red “past due” indications. Just last week I reviewed the maintenance report on a Socata TBM for a client and after  flipping through six pages of past dues, I threw the report in the trash can and called my client and told him we didn’t want to bother. A potentially worse scenario than that is to have the potential buyer go ahead and get a repair estimate from the repair facility and then have them hit you with a revised offer of your existing price minus all those squawks.
The aircraft’s title is the last aspect to consider. It’s important that the aircraft have a clean title and that title can be conveyed simply and easily to the new owner. If you have a lien holder on the aircraft, contact them and let them know you are planning to sell the plane. That way, if they have any forms that need to be filled out or your file has to be transferred to a different department, you have time to get this accomplished (it also gives them a chance to recreate your file when they lose it during the transfer which happened to me once). Ensure there are no mechanics liens against the aircraft and, if there are, clear them or make the necessary arrangements to have them cleared during escrow. Remember, too that a lot of aircraft are going to South America these days and a clean title will ensure the export Certificate of Airworthiness is easily obtained thereby making things easier on your buyer and, consequently, easier on you.

As the aviation market appears to be recovering, these aircraft selling strategies will help you get the best possible price for your aircraft and help ensure a trouble-free selling experience.

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