Annapolitan Turns Camera's Eye To Selling Yachts

Videos Billow Salesin A Sinking Market

February 05, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

You'd have to say John R. Kaiser Jr. knows his way around a boat.

During his 30 years, the Annapolis resident has watched his father custom-build yachts, learned the craft himself, sold and refurbished vessels, run charters in the Florida Keys and sailed alone from Annapolis to Maine.

Now he's capturing boats on Super VHS and Beta SP videotape.

Last summer, Kaiser left his job as a yacht broker to navigate an uncharted course in the marine industry. With sales of new, large boats hurting from the recession and federal luxury tax, Kaiser believed he'd found an innovative way to show buyers stocks of lower-priced, usedboats.

So far, the video yacht marketing business Kaiser started out of a 27-foot trawler has more than stayed afloat.

Yacht View had videotaped about 40 boats, at an average $300 per job, before Kaiser took last month off for the slow season. The new company's president expects the pace to pick up in March and the concept to really take off in the next few years.

Kaiser grew up around his father's Wilmington, Del., business, Kaiser Yachts, where he later built and sold boats. When the senior John Kaiser closed the business in 1985 after 25 years, Kaiser headed for Duck Key, Fla. He chartered sailboats there in the winters and in Martha's Vineyard each summer.

After three years, Kaiser moved to Annapolis to work as a broker for Interyacht in Eastport. It was there that he developed the video marketing idea.

"Six months after I started, I realized the hardest thing about selling used boats was that the condition was hard to tell from fliers or photos," Kaiser said.

He began videotaping boats after he'dlisted them. He'd tape the owner discussing the boat, filming the interior and exterior.

"We would take the boat out to show how it looked when it was running," he said. "My job was putting (the viewer) on the boat, taking them out for a ride."

Kaiser would field inquiries about boats, send the prospective buyer listings, then follow upwith videos.

It worked.

"You could get people excited about wanting to see the boat in person," he said. "I got appointments faster. You need to get them to come to you."

After one client watched avideo with his family, he told Kaiser, "The kids have already pickedout their berths."

Since most of the prospective buyers came fromout of state, videos enable them to get a good look at a boat beforeinvesting time and money to travel to see it.

One buyer called Kaiser from Seattle, Wash., looking for an Endeavor 43. Kaiser happenedto have that particular boat, in great condition, with an owner anxious to sell. Kaiser taped the boat, then sent the client the video.

"The next afternoon he called and made an offer," Kaiser said. "Thesale took two weeks, and they average a month at least. And the owner says he did great."

Kaiser found the videos so effective he decided to go into business full time.

He left his brokerage job last June and enrolled in the International Television and Film Workshop, a four-week program in Rockport, Maine, focusing on story-telling, camera work and editing.

He decided that was the perfect time to tryout the 34-foot Kaiser Galeforce -- built by his father years earlier -- that he'd spent two years restoring. He sailed to the workshop, making stops in Manhattan and at his brother's marina in Massachusetts.

When he returned, he sold that boat, then opened the doors of his 27-foot sailboat, docked at Annapolis City Marina, for business.

Kaiser's fee depends on the size of the boat: he charges $5 a foot,based on deck length. He tapes the boat's details, focusing on features such as the galley and electronics. He charges an additional $50 to tape the boat on the water from a 20-foot speedboat.

He takes videos to Metro Video Productions in Edgewater, where owner Tom Kreuzburg adds computer graphics, titles, narrations, background music or whatever the client orders.

Yacht View also plans to publish a monthly directory of boats for sale, which the company will send to buyers and yacht brokerages. Yacht View will distribute videos for a $20 per-boat duplication fee.

So far, Kaiser's the only video marketer in the area specializing in the marine industry. But he expects that will change.

"The future's in selling boats in this manner," he said.

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