How to Buy a New Build Yacht: An Expert Guide

Posted December 15, 2021 in Brokerage & New Build by Ashleigh King

Northrop & Johnson, along with our reliable team of brokers, has strong affiliations with some of the most world-renowned yacht builders, refit yards, designers and naval architects. Our brokers are dedicated to creating a seamless, stress-free new build experience for their clients. From choosing the number of cabins aboard to deciding on the material of the hull, your Northrop and Johnson broker is here to promise a flawless process from concept to delivery. Northrop & Johnson Head of Video Production and Creator of the “Yachts for Sale” Youtube Channel, David Seal sat down with Joe Foggia, yacht broker and former CEO of the famed Christensen shipyard, to pick his brain and learn about what it takes to build yourself a superyacht.

Find a yacht broker

Building a new yacht from scratch can seem like an overwhelming idea. Finding and selecting the appropriate broker is paramount to ensure proper communication between you, the shipyard, project manager and so forth. Your Northrop & Johnson broker provides the best guidance on the process and is available to explain each construction step, as well as the financial and legal aspects.

“What’s the first step you think people should take?” asks Seal.

“I think the first step is to find a yacht broker. Do not approach a shipyard unless you have a yacht broker that has done one or two builds or has experience in new construction…it’s imperative to have an intermediary in the mix that has some experience relative to new construction and how to approach a shipyard” answers Foggia.

Once you have found a broker you’re comfortable with, they will chat with you in detail regarding the next steps in your new-build process.

Define your needs

After you have narrowed down exactly what you’re looking for, your broker will filter through several shipyards, designers and naval architects who can spearhead your project.

“So let’s say I’m thinking of buying a 150’ yacht, I’ve got exactly in my mind what I want, and I phone you and say I’m ready to pull the trigger on this; what’s the next step that we take?” asks Seal.

“The broker will work with you to disseminate the information to the shipyard, including exactly what you’re looking for, your requirements, your usage, where you’re going to take it, how many cabins [and] budget. Then [they will] determine all of the parameters and create a brief in a sense,” answers Foggia.

Your broker will submit the brief to various shipyards to get a handle on pricing and what exactly each shipyard has to offer. Each shipyard has a platform they like to build from, which is why it’s important to look into several different shipyards, which you will do together with your broker. “The key is to take that brief and submit it to [the broker] and let them do all the work supplying you with the specifications and let them guide you the way that they would recommend. Brokers with extensive new-build experience know it best; having them liaise with the yard ensures the yard will be motivated to provide you the best package for the parameters you have in place,” states Foggia.

Sometimes, the shipyards may not come back with their proposals. This is not a bad thing, as it means they’re not as motivated to provide a concept on their platform. Your broker will advise you to move on and to work with others who want to help you achieve your dreams.

Determine a project manager

Your Northrop & Johnson broker will can assist in appointing an experienced project manager who will act on your behalf during the length of the building process. This individual will review the shipyard’s proposals, and, along with you and your broker, will determine what best fits your parameters. They then supervise the entire new build from start to finish, keeping in constant communication along the way.

“How do you decide which project manager is the best fit?” asks David.

“The biggest difference in project managers relies on whether the vessel is composite or fiberglass versus steel and aluminum. That’s about the only difference I would say you would find between some of them. [Several project managers] do both. The biggest key is to choose a project manager that is willing to be at the yard full-time as a liaison and your representative to go through the whole build and make sure it’s done to the specification that is negotiated on,” states Foggia.

Timeframe, contracts and maritime attorneys

Once you’ve chosen the most suitable design and build for you, your broker and team will aid negotiations with the shipyard to evaluate the price and a timeframe based on your parameters. They will make sure the overall specification that you’ve worked through with your team meets your criteria to a T, comes in within the budget you’ve set and meets the timeframe you’re looking for.

“I don’t ever recommend negotiating timeframe,” says Foggia, “you never want to rush a project through.”

“The contract is the next step, and what I like to do in that aspect is make sure that the shipyard understands that a maritime attorney is going to be used…I like to use ones that are well known and that have been down the road many times, and therefore I like to let the shipyard know who we’re going to use so that when they send their contract, which is what I prefer we use, [the shipyard] sends the one that is in line with that lawyer,” says Foggia.

We recommend using a maritime attorney for your new build process as these attorneys have the experience and familiarity with most shipyards. Many yacht brokers have a relationship with these attorneys and ensure your best interest is at heart when the contract is drawn up and finalized.


The final and most exciting stage of the build is, of course, the delivery. Once your broker ensures all contractual obligations have been met, they will work with your project manager to schedule sea trials and tests to ensure the yacht is ready for use and is to your complete satisfaction.

“Can you give me some insight on the payment structure for a new build yacht?” asks David.

“What I like to do is let the shipyard present their construction pay point concept as to how everything is going to be paid out. Usually, a buyer should expect that pre-contract [they’ll] have to put probably 5% up to move forward into the contract. After the contract is signed, it’s probably another 5%. [There are] usually about 10-12 different construction pay points throughout the build process,” answers Foggia.

These pay points may include paying X amount once the hull is complete and X amount when the engines land, etc. A good project manager and broker can direct you on whether it’s worth negotiating some of those pay points. Your broker will be sure to guide you from the concept to the delivery.

Northrop & Johnson’s industry-leading knowledgeable yacht brokers have decades of experience in yacht sales, purchase and new construction. They have access to the world’s most advanced yachting tech tools and databases, ensuring they have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. If you have any questions about yacht purchase, please contact a dedicated N&J yacht broker today.

If you’re interested in buying or selling a yacht, contact the professional team of yacht brokers at Northrop & Johnson today. As a world-leading yacht brokerage, Northrop & Johnson offers access to thousands of luxury yachts for sale around the world, including private yachts not publicly advertised for sale. From yacht sales to new construction, contact our team of yacht brokers to get the results you need.

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