Get maximum value without over-investment in the refurbishment...
Owners of business jets for sale may consider investing in improvements in the hope of getting a better price, notes Dave Higdon. Although the reality will usually disappoint in today’s market, there are nevertheless items sellers can undertake to refurbish their jets and position them well to sell…
The types of business jet refurbishment work discussed below that a seller might undertake will ensure the asset attracts its actual nominal market value. However difficult the topic of residual value is in today’s market, there is every reason for sellers to present their aircraft in a favorable light.
Anything less simply cheats the seller, since the aircraft will take longer to attract a buyer in a competitive marketplace and render lower offers from those who do take an interest.
Market preferences among pre-owned aircraft shoppers seem to take a circular course over several years, with buyer preferences swinging from a high level of ‘Do-It-Yourself’ bargain-hunters to cash/credit-flush shoppers seeking a turnkey buy (one already outfitted with the preferred cockpit and cabin amenities).
Between the looming mandates for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Controller-Pilot Datalink Communications (CPDLC), today’s buyers seem to want aircraft already outfitted to meet those mandates. Both upgrades, however, require significant investment on the part of their present owners, and some scheduled down-time to install. Simpler, shorter lead-time upgrades tend to find favor among many buyers.
Of the four basic categories of upgrade (cockpit, engine, exterior and interior), the one with arguably the most flexibility may also offer the biggest bang for the buck: the interior.
Interior upgrades come in a variety of forms, from down-to-the-sheet-metal makeovers to updates focused on improving the cosmetics while eschewing more significant, longer-term work. Let's look at the options for making the aircraft look, feel and smell like brand new.
Upholstery takes a lot of wear and tear. It’s inside the cabin that business aircraft often show battle scars. It’s where the owners and users spend most of their time.
For the prospective seller, there are a multitude of opportunities to burnish the aircraft's ramp appeal, while focusing on some of the simpler, lower-cost options for renewing or refreshing the interior.
Reupholstering seats, for example, requires relatively little downtime compared to other more-invasive jobs such as a full-interior makeover. With advance planning and coordination, renewing the seating upholstery can fit into the time window of an annual inspection or longer-term C- or D-Check.
And by selecting more common materials, you’ll find them readily available when you need them, at a lower cost than customized items, while giving your airplane a pleasant cabin environment that will likely increase the aircraft’s appeal to a wider pool of prospective buyers.
Carpeting & Trim
At the same time as you consider upholstery renewal you may also want to replace foot-worn carpeting, which can be – with advanced planning with the interior shop – accomplished within the downtime of an annual inspection. Unless you want to give the interior an all-new look color-wise (perhaps neutralizing it a little from a highly customized interior for the purpose of achieving a sale), a carpet vendor will be able to help you find variations in carpet nap and depth without changing the overall color scheme of the interior.
Conversely, combining the replacement of carpeting and upholstery together can open up the option to change the interior look altogether.
Remember, much like upholstering seats and sofas, fitting carpeting to an aircraft interior typically involves more planning than carpeting your rooms at home. Not only does the carpeting need cutting and trimming to fit the floor plan, but the carpet pieces require edging to be sewn and prevent them from fraying.
Hence the need for planning prior to the airplane going into the maintenance hangar, so that carpet pieces are ready to install.
Buckles, Trim and Woodwork
If you’re planning on selling your jet at any point in the near future, the shine in your newly refurbished cabin will owe much to the buckles, trim and woodwork. While renewing the appearance of upholstery and carpeting, it makes sense to consider giving equal treatment to related hardware.
Seat belts and buckles get as much wear as the upholstery, and they are relatively simple – and inexpensive – to replace… ditto for wood-finish inlays, metal-finished trim-work, and side-panels in the cabin.
Again, advanced planning and thorough coordination with the shop charged with producing the replacement hardware is a must for this work to be successfully accomplished during downtime.
Interior Renewal Alternatives
Even if your airplane has been refurbished relatively recently, you should consider hiring a cleaning or detailing crew to give the entire interior a deep cleaning prior to placing it on the market. If the interior of the jet you’re selling is not brand-new, it should certainly seem newer and less worn than its competition.
One sticking point for some operators involves the more constrained options of fabrics, leathers and carpets for aircraft use. Always remember that fabrics, leathers and carpeting approved for aircraft use under Part 23 or Part 25 must meet FAA burn standards for the type certificate in use.
Ramp Appeal Enhancements
Finally, while the interior appointments may get the most use – and the most attention – never forget that first impressions start with first viewing. A deep cleaning, waxing and polishing of the exterior can make old paint look newer.
Of course, new paint is always an option - but a full-blown repaint typically takes a week or two. That's because for the best-quality finish the job starts with the removal of ailerons, elevators, flaps, gear doors, rudder, and trim tabs; windows and door seals must be masked off, the surface prepped, primed and finally painted.
The paint then needs time to cure, preferably in a climate-stable environment similar to what's needed to apply the paint.
A deep cleaning of the paint, polishing of stainless steel and polished aluminum surfaces can render an old paint job like-new.
If the trim colors are faded or dated but the base color is in decent shape, a change in trim-colors design can help make an old paint livery look more contemporary. Often the new trim colors can be applied without the removal of control surfaces.
The shorter the downtime, the lower the cost of accomplishing a refurbishment that is sure to help improve the ramp appeal – and prospects – of your older business jet for sale.