"Make Offer"

Nov 29, 2017 - 8:45 PM

It’s perhaps the most common—and least helpful—phrase you’ll find among preowned-aircraft listings: “make offer.” At least half of business jets and turboprops for sale are listed without an asking price, according to industry experts. If you’re a buyer, should you take this to mean the seller: a) doesn’t know the aircraft’s value? b) is simply testing the waters? or c) is searching for a sucker? And if you’re a seller, is this (non) pricing strategy one you should consider?

Brokerages and aircraft owners avoid listing an asking price for a variety of reasons, but often, “the rationale is to encourage dialogue between the buyer and seller,” says Chad Anderson, president of North Carolina-based Jetcraft. In other words, “make the phone ring,” in common broker parlance.

“If you assign too high a price, some people won’t call,” says Kevin O’Leary of Jet Advisors, a Massachusetts consultancy. “But if you say ‘make offer,’ they might email or pick up the phone.”

“Make offer” can also signal that “there may be things that could be included in the sale that could change the price,” such as the cost to comply with upcoming equipage mandates, says Toby Batchelder of Central Business Jets in Minneapolis. Once the call comes in, “I’m going to get a chance to talk about the airplane I might not have if I just had the price,” says Jay Mesinger, CEO of Mesinger Jet Sales in Boulder, Colorado.

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Another benefit: in a fast-changing market like today’s—and in the absence of a central listing platform for aircraft analogous to real estate’s Multiple Listing Service—“make offer” can spare brokers from having to visit a roster of sites to update prices. The tactic also makes it easier for sellers who worry that the market will turn upward to negotiate top dollar at the time of sale.

If you’re thinking of listing your aircraft without an asking price, you should at least have a realistic one in mind. “Buyers need to see that a seller is in the right zone in order to gain their attention and consideration,” says Anderson. Adds Mesinger, “You have to have a sense of where you want to be [price-wise]. Otherwise I’m not going to make an offer.”

Some aircraft owners won’t disclose this information to their reps, brokers say, but it’s assumed—given the documentation and effort required to secure exclusive representation—that most of these owners are serious about selling.

If you’re a buyer annoyed at the widespread lack of published prices, take comfort in knowing that many brokers feel the same way. “It’s frustrating for people who want the data and want to know the market,” says O’Leary.

Indeed, while a “make offer” listing can start the phone ringing, the callers may not be the ones sellers are after. “The listing broker may field a lot more calls from other brokers who are simply researching the market versus real buyers,” says Batchelder.

Mesinger, unlike many brokers, eschews “make offer” listings for aircraft his firm represents. “We think in a crowded market, those with logical asking prices will sell planes before someone [who advertises] ‘make offer,’” he says.

Meanwhile, what do you do if your airplane’s not getting the response you want without a price attached? “Put a low price on it,” says O’Leary. “The phone is going to ring.”    


James Wynbrandt a multiengine instrument-rated pilot, is a longtime BJT contributor.