Brokerage sales show quarter-to-quarter gains, but results still lag 2013

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The second quarter of 2014 was positive for the U.S. yacht brokerage market, with sales improving significantly from the first quarter, more than 10,000 boats sold and year-to-date results above 5-year average figures for each month.

Sales improved, but not quite to the levels of the second quarter last year: The number of boats sold in June was down 2 percent from June 2013, the number sold during the quarter declined 3 percent and for the year to date the total number of boats sold was 4 percent lower than in the previous year, according to YachtWorld member brokers reporting in their proprietary database, Soldboats.com.

Sales through June remained lower in the high-volume end of the market, among boats under 35 feet, with the number of boats sold declining 6 percent, from 11,932 in 2013 to 11,195 this year. Sales improved or held their own in all other segments, with boats 56 to 79 feet making the highest percentage gain, 9 percent, as 404 boats were sold.

Despite the decline in small-boat sales, the average selling price improved through the first half of the year for boats under 26 feet, boats 26 to 35 feet and incrementally so for boats 36 to 45 feet. As an example, although 6 percent fewer boats 26 to 35 feet were sold, the average final sale price improved from $55,574 to $58,547.

One reason that sales lagged in the first half of the year, compared with 2013, was that Florida, the leading state for brokerage, was behind the extraordinary pace its brokers set a year earlier. Sales were down 5 percent, or 172 boats, as 3,212 boats were sold; there was a pronounced decline in sales of boats under 35 feet, which contrasted with increased sales for all sizes of boats 36 feet and up. Sales of boats under 26 feet, for example, were down 14 percent, as 800 boats were sold.

This month, we took an alternate view of the market, comparing the average days required to sell a boat in May of this year, with a variable being the age of the boat. As the chart indicates, there was a significant difference between powerboats and sailboats in this respect. Powerboats less than 10 years old typically sold in fewer than 250 days; after that, the average time to sell increased at a steady rate and reached 350 days for boats 25 years old and older.

By contrast, sailboats of all ages required a remarkably consistent time to sell — 250 to 300 days — although notably, boats between 15 and 30 years old sold slightly faster than newer models. One possible explanation for the overall difference between power and sail is that it’s far easier to replace an aging sailboat’s primary powerplant — the sails.

Note that brand-new models, of which YachtWorld brokers sell a very small number, sold much more quickly, on average, than boats even 1 or 2 years old.

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue.

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