Did you resolve to upgrade your current aircraft or to buy your first airplane in 2019? Congratulations!. With low inventory and high demand, how you approach the buying process may be the difference between getting your first-choice or settling for an also-ran.
Buying an airplane is like flying an airplane. It’s all about planning, crew resource management and checklists. Your “crew” includes your lender, your insurer, your maintenance contractor and AOPA’s Aviation Finance Group. AOPA Finance can match you with the right lender, and our extensive experience can also provide you the additional leverage you may need in a tight market, at no cost to you.
Like flying, how well you plan, manage your crew and follow your checklists help determine how well the purchase process goes. We’re not talking about pre-flight, flight and post-flight checklists, though. We mean these checklists:
3. Aircraft Delivery
Let’s start with the Pre-purchase Checklist:
• Ownership—personally or through a company or LLC?
• Use—personal or commercial?
• Loan Pre-approval
• Private hangar or shared?
• Aircraft maintenance contractor
Ownership. Are you going to own the airplane yourself or through your company? Will you create an LLC, a partnership or some other type of corporate body? Iron out those details first. They guide which lender can pre-approve you and may also influence the length of the pre-approval process. There are advantages and disadvantages to all ownership scenarios. What’s important to know is that if you decide to change structure at the last minute, it’s a bit like telling your building contractor you want to move a door. At a minimum you know there’s going to be delays in the process and it may completely change the structure.
We’ve seen too many situations where potential buyers got a loan pre-approval based on one ownership scenario (like a partnership), only for them to change the scenario (like dissolving the partnership). That kind of change will negate the pre-approval process and will force the buyer to start over. It may also necessitate finding a different lender.
Use—Personal or Commercial? Part 91 transport for you alone, for your company’s employees or leaseback to the local flight school? Decide how you intend to fly your aircraft and commit to it. There is no advantage in telling your prospective lender and insurer it’s for personal use, only to conduct commercial operations once purchased. Should the discrepancy come to light because of an accident, incident or investigation, it could trigger a steep default interest rate, or worse. Transparent communication is the best way to keep this complex transaction simple.
Now it’s time for:
Loan Pre-Approval. Getting pre-approved confirms what you can afford and enables you to move quickly on an aircraft, both essential in this seller’s market.
Some think it’s a waste of time to get pre-approved because the pre-approval is time-limited. True, pre-approval is good for anywhere from 60 to 90 days, depending on the lender. That’s generally enough time to find the right aircraft. But, if the search period does exceed the pre-approval timeframe, it may be possible to extend the pre-approval period.
Even if the lender won’t extend, re-approval is quicker than an initial pre-approval. So you’re still ahead of the competition.
While waiting on pre-approval, finish the rest of the checklist:
Escrow. Have cash ready to put in an escrow account. Escrow gives you an exclusive option on an aircraft within a specific timeframe. When entering escrow, ask for generous restrictions. The more time you can negotiate, the better. It gives your lender, insurer or AOPA Finance space to conduct background checks, damage history and title searches. Also consider keeping extra money in reserve to add to escrow should the seller require an additional incentive.
Next time: The Purchase and Aircraft Delivery checklists.