A few thousand dollars spent now can be the difference between the right price and no sale at all.
It’s no surprise that the aircraft sales industry is a highly dynamic and cyclical marketplace. At any given point, one model market can be “on fire” at the same time another market is completely dead. This said, the pre-owned jet marketplace in 2019 softened compared to the previous few years where inventory levels had stayed at healthier numbers. Given the current market conditions, it is critical to present an aircraft in its best possible condition when first introduced to the market. As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
When a premium aircraft comes to market at a good price, it is much more likely to receive multiple buyer inquiries. And if it’s represented well, it is even more likely that the inquiries will lead to serious interest. Granted, high-pedigree/premium aircraft are the fastest to sell in any market conditions, but especially now, taking the right steps to present an aircraft in its best possible condition can add tremendous realized value for potential buyers. As we at SOLJETS like to tell our clients selling aircraft: investing $5,000 now can add $50,000 or more to the purchase price when it sells. How often do you see a return on investment like that?
The following tips are meant to assist an aircraft owner when he or she is ready to put their plane on the market for sale. Whether or not you use professional representation (dealer/broker), it’s best to remove or at least minimize any possible objections buyers may have to purchasing your plane. Ever heard the phrase, “a no-excuses plane”? Well, that’s the goal: eliminate any excuses you may have to offer when advertising your plane. An excuse later down the road in the sale process can be meaningful, costing you much more than it would simply handling pre-sale.
Tip #1: Make Your Plane Look Good.
This may seem like a simple one, and it is, so there’s really no reason not to make your plane look good. Yes, this can be costly, but it also has the greatest effect on the saleability of your plane.
Before listing your airplane, you should give it a thorough visual inspection, inside and out. Better yet, ask a friend or trusted advisor to do a visual inspection with you. We can be “nose blind” to our 14-year-old dog, and similarly, we tend to overlook the imperfections that others see easily. Don’t be defensive when your advisor points out defects. Listen and take good notes. How does the paint look? If at all possible, have any cracks, chips or blemishes professionally treated and repaired. How does the interior look? Unless you expect, without a doubt, that a new owner is going to replace the interior, take the right steps to clean up the cabin and cockpit. Fix any tears in the leather; re-dye faded leather; replace cockpit seat sheepskin covers if old and matted; remove stains from carpet, sidewall, or headliner; ensure all seat features like headrests, armrests, and recline are functional; and have any broken or chipped cabinetry repaired if at all possible.
Before showing the plane to a buyer, remember the small details count. Have the plane fully detailed and polished, including any brightwork (like heated leading edges), pneumatic boots and tires. Pay extra attention to entryways and baggage areas. A nicely kept, clean baggage area shows that you take pride in the entire aircraft, not just the cabin. Making it shine will ensure a smile on everyone’s face. Inside the cabin AND cockpit, try to organize any materials laying out. Put checklists away; hide the lavatory toilet paper and clean up any snacks, drinks or magazines sitting out. Finally, vacuum the cabin and cockpit. Even consider getting a dusting tool to remove dust and small debris from cabin surfaces and small areas like FMS keypads. Do you have any screens in the cabin or cockpit? Clean those as well with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Those stuffed animals you like to keep on the seats might enthrall the kids, but be sure to remove extra clutter, decorative items and excess supplies. Think “clean and light” as opposed to busy and decorated.
Tip #2: Have Your Records in Order and Organized.
Now that your buyer has seen your beautiful plane and agrees you’ve taken wonderful care of it, surely he or she is ready to look through the records and see how meticulously you’ve kept those as well. You do have that all organized, right? At SOLJETS, this is one of the first topics we cover with clients when listing their aircraft as we always strive to have a complete and accurate story of the planes we sell. You can do this all on your own, too.
First off, do you know the complete ownership history of your plane? Think about important details: types of operations in which its been involved (private or commercial); locations hangared (or not hangared); registration history (the various countries in which it’s been registered/owned); how long and during what periods did what entities own the plane? Here in the United States and many other countries, you can contact the local registry and request ownership and airworthiness records history. This is time and a small fee well spent so you can accurately represent your plane to a buyer. The key is being knowledgeable about your plane’s life.
Secondly, where and how are your plane’s records stored and organized? The condition and organization of your records is a direct reflection on both the overall maintenance of your plane and you as a seller/owner. Even if you are missing logbooks, you should ensure clean, organized logs and paperwork before any showing of your plane. Separate log entries from service tags, and keep those separate from invoices, and keep those separate from user manuals. Put everything in three-ring binders and place in chronological order. Use plastic bins as needed if you have an older or high-time plane with tons of material.
Tip #3: Accomplish All Overdue and Consider Coming-Due Maintenance.
This tip comes in as common knowledge for many owners, but it’s still worth noting as it goes beyond just making sure your plane is current. An unairworthy plane does not look good to anyone, so yes, you should ensure all maintenance is current, but just as important, what does the future maintenance outlook look like?
In many cases, if your airplane has any major inspections coming due in the next 12 months, a buyer may attempt to use that as a negotiating tactic against you. This does not mean you need to pre-emptively complete future inspections, but it would be wise to be educated on what inspections are coming due and what the cost will be. At SOLJETS, we like to have on hand a 12-month/150-hour forward-looking maintenance report for all the planes we sell. If your plane is enrolled in electronic maintenance tracking like CAMP, FlightDocs or Traxxall, running one of these reports is as easy as a few mouse clicks on your computer.
A final topic to consider along with maintenance: does the equipment onboard your plane operate in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, i.e., does everything work? If you’ve deferred maintenance on non-airworthy equipment, like a coffeemaker or in-flight entertainment, it would be wise to have those items fixed before you show your plane to a buyer. Remember, the goal is “no excuses!”
The process of buying a plane can be a daunting one, and as a seller, you can help make that process just a bit more pleasant by following the tips above. The time and money invested now are all but guaranteed to return to you in some sort of multiple when a buyer recognizes your airplane as a high-pedigree, must-buy-now option.