Selling Tips: Rules for Successful Jet Transactions

Though the marketplace currently favors private jet sellers, aircraft transactions still require effort and organization from both parties. Aviation Director Andre Fodor shares some rules he applies to ensure success as a seller.

Andre Fodor  |  16th March 2022
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    Andre Fodor
    Andre Fodor

    With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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    A Dassault Falcon jet with open airstairs waiting for passengers

    Much has been said of the sellers’ market existing in the pre-owned aircraft sales industry. With such a low level of inventory available, these are, without doubt, unprecedented times.

    Covid-19 has undoubtedly been a turning point in Business Aviation. The fear of infection and contamination, disruption to scheduled airline services, and the need to keep business functioning as normal have driven many first-time users into the sector.

    One financial advisor who used to preach a conservative approach to wealth and spending confided recently that his viewpoint and philosophy have changed. He now considers lifestyle to be a far more valuable asset, and consequently, he views private aviation far more favorably.

    Late last year, fractional ownership and charter companies were operating approximately 30% more flight hours than they were pre-Covid – and that was just for leisure travel. Today, I consider myself lucky when I find any charter flights available to provide the additional lift needed by my corporate operation.

    Meanwhile, OEM backlogs are stretching into the latter part of 2024. As I recently assisted a client through the process of spec’ing a new airplane recently, we were advised to focus on signing the Letter of Intent (LOI), and warned by the OEM of the risk of losing the available position within a few hours, since another customer had an LOI and a check in-hand, ready to buy the same jet.

    The pressure on the buyer within today’s market, whether seeking charter, pre-owned aircraft, or new aircraft is immense. If your finances aren’t in place, and all your ducks aligned to sign the contract, undertake the inspection, and close quickly, you are likely to miss out on a buying opportunity.

    Consequently, pre-owned aircraft are commanding premiums, and are at times even selling above their new prices. Sellers who purchased their aircraft when values were depreciating are making some hefty profits – but are then finding there are no suitable aircraft available to buy.

    Rules to Optimize a Sale

    Unless the aircraft is particularly old, and/or in need of a vast amount of expensive maintenance (which could render you the airplane’s final owner), many of today’s sellers will receive immediate inquires, and their aircraft are likely sell faster than ever. But it remains necessary to prepare properly before entering the market.

    There are a couple of rules to follow that have help me ensure my jet stands out from competing aircraft for sale, and that the transaction will proceed quickly, yielding optimum value. Those rules are as follows…

    Rule #1: Regardless of a buyer’s apparent eagerness to purchase your airplane, before marketing it be sure you have conducted a review of all your records. Everything should be well organized and clearly labelled. Are all the records easily auditable for the prospective buyer’s representatives? Do the electronic records reflect the paper records accurately?

    Paying careful attention to this prior to marketing the asset will ensure the process is smooth and quick, and that you will lose no time and unnecessary money rectifying a problem with the paperwork later.

    Rule #2: In preparation for the sale, consider the pre-purchase inspection that will inevitably take place. Although some sellers try to insist buyers accept their aircraft on an ‘as-is’ basis in the current market environment, buyers with an experienced representative will simply pass on the aircraft and wait for another suitable jet to become available, possibly off-market.

    Have a mechanic conduct a preliminary pre-purchase inspection, and identify the issues that are likely to come up in any actual inspection. It’s very likely there will be some minor issues found. Though you may have lived with them until now, a buyer paying a premium for your jet may be less willing to do so.

    The pre-purchase inspection may also render some unexpected findings. On one occasion when I was acting as a seller’s representative of a nearly-new aircraft with very low time, the pre-purchase inspection identified a bracket was installed incorrectly inside the engine’s cowling. Since no scheduled maintenance had required the cowlings to be removed prior to the inspection, the imperfection had remained un-detected.

    Thankfully, as a manufacturing defect, the OEM eventually paid for the repair, but the point is this: Seek to reduce the chance of any major surprises during a transaction. A preliminary pre-purchase inspection is your opportunity to fix any faults while you are in full control, rather than paying higher MRO shop rates to address findings later when you are not.

    This is also your chance to deliver an even better aircraft to market that will ideally command a premium over similar offerings that are available for sale.

    Resolve cosmetic issues, touching up what is needed – make the aircraft as blemish-free as possible. There are plenty of ways of doing this on a budget, including having the leather conditioned, and airbrushing the imperfections to give the interior a fresh, new look. Polish the chrome and bright works, and identify any corrosion issues before putting the jet on the market, since it will all add to the appeal and value.

    Identifying squawks before a pre-purchase inspection will save time and cost less, ultimately. It’s the quickest path to closing the transaction and getting funded for your next airplane purchase.

    Rule #3: The Letter of Intent and contract will identify the range of repairs that are acceptable to both parties. Personally, I always consider the option to renegotiate the final sale price if something is found that needs to be corrected, but don’t want to do it at the pre-purchase location.

    In such cases, I may negotiate that money be left in escrow for the repairs, or a discount is made on the final transaction sum. This is a good way for sellers to keep the sale moving forward towards the expected outcome – money in the bank.

    Rule #4: Finally, the most important rule of all: Work with bona fide professionals. Make sure that the broker you work with has a long, demonstrable track-record of successful pre-owned aircraft sales. Seek references if necessary.

    Despite the fact that this current market favors aircraft sellers, you can be certain buyers will come to the negotiating table with excellent representation ready to fight hard for their best interests. 

    For the nominal fee that you will pay for a broker to represent your interests, you’ll undoubtedly come away from a successful transaction very glad you did.

    Next time, we’ll look at some of the rules prospective pre-owned aircraft buyers should consider to help get a transaction over the line in today’s market. Stay tuned!

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