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Chart a course to buy your dreamboat

This story is provided and presented by our sponsor.

Flagstar Bank
Purchasing a luxury item like a boat doesn’t have to be just a dream.

Have you ever pictured yourself spending a mid-summer day on your own luxury boat, watching the sun glisten off the water, as you enjoy time with family and friends? Or, perhaps you've envisioned quietly taking in the beauty of a serene Michigan sunset while your watercraft slowly makes its way over the lake.

Owning your own boat doesn't have to be a dream – millions of Americans have made boat ownership a reality. There were nearly 12 million registered boats in the U.S. in 2014, with almost 800,000 registered in the state of Michigan, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard. And experts say those numbers will only continue to rise in the foreseeable future.

In 2014, sales of new powerboats, the most popular type of boat, were up 6.4 percent across the country in 2014, while sales for new sailboats increased 33.9 percent and new personal watercraft sales climbed 21.6 percent, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

It's no surprise with our wealth of beautiful lakes and rivers that Michigan is a haven for boaters. Powerboat sales in Michigan went up for the fifth consecutive year to $762.4 million in 2014, making our state the third largest marine market in the country.

The good news is the path (or waterway) to boat ownership can be fairly simple. In fact, for many people, the experience of buying a boat is quite similar to buying a car. Before buying, you'll likely want to visit a dealer's showroom and do your research. After your purchase, you'll also need to obtain registration and insurance.

Ready to take the plunge into boat ownership? Here are four important steps:

Navigate your perfect loan

Many first time boat-buyers may not realize some banks offer loan options for new and used watercraft. According to Donna Glick, first vice president, Consumer Lending, at Flagstar Bank, it's possible to finance a boat much like you would a car. For those who qualify, financing may be available for 100 percent of the purchase price of a new boat, trailer and motor. Financing of used boats or refinancing of your current boat (an option to consider when interest rates drop) may also be available.

Financing a watercraft has the benefit of allowing you to make affordable payments that fit into your budget over an extended period of time. Loans for watercraft are typically paid off over longer durations than auto loans, which can help keep payments down. And, if financing isn't an option, banks often offer savings options that can help you reach your goals.

A boatload of options

The most popular watercraft are outboard boats, which include pontoons, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, and small fiberglass cruising boats. These make up almost 85 percent of the overall powerboat market, according to the NMMA. Luxury cruising boats and sailboats are also popular choices among boaters. Figuring out when and how a boat will be part of your recreational time will go a long way in determining what type is right for you.

Do you want a boat for a weekend spin on the lake with a friend or will you be on the water more often, hosting trips with family and friends? It's worth spending some time thinking about the boat that best fits your lifestyle.

Other costs on the horizon

When it comes to a boat, there's more than just the price of the watercraft to think about. You'll also need to take into account the cost of a trailer or boat well, a motor and instrumentation such as a GPS system. Just like your car, there are registration, insurance and fuel costs. And in the off-season, depending on where you keep your watercraft, there could be storage fees.All these expenses will vary considerably, depending on the type of boat you choose.

One tip: boats with certain amenities may qualify as second homes, making the watercraft tax-deductible. Consult a tax expert to see if the boat you're purchasing might fit the criteria.

"Sail" prices

Again, as with an automobile purchase, you'll likely want to visit a dealership or two and shop around. The dealer will have a sticker price on each individual model, but don't assume that's the price you have to pay. And like a car, you can bargain on price, so do your research beforehand.

Many people also choose to purchase a used boat instead of a new one. According to the NMMA, there were an estimated 940,500 pre-owned boats sold in the U.S. in 2014.

To find out more about how Flagstar Bank can help you achieve your dream of owning a boat, call or visit a local branch and ask to speak to a lender. Find a branch near you.

About Flagstar

Flagstar Bank has been in business since 1987 and is the largest bank headquartered in Michigan. It is a full-service bank and a top 10 national mortgage originator. Member FDIC. Equal housing lender.

This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Flagstar Bank.

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