Big-boat decline negates July increases

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The aggregate data of brokerage boat sales in the United States continued to tell two stories.

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The total volume of sales increased 1 percent in July from the same month last year, according to reports submitted by YachtWorld.com member brokerages to their proprietary database, SoldBoats.com.

However, the total value of sales declined 30 percent, or $101.3 million, for the same period, from $338.2 million to $236.9 million.

The reasons for the seemingly contradictory data are easy to uncover when you examine the sales of different sizes of boats. Although the majority of transactions in the marketplace — those for boats under 46 feet — continued to grow slowly and at relatively stable prices, big-boat sales and sale prices declined. The bigger the boat, the greater the decline.

The sales volume for boats 46 to 55 feet was down 13 percent, from 153 to 133 boats. For boats 56 to 79 feet, sales dropped 25 percent, from 65 to 49. And for superyachts (80 feet and above), only four boats were reported sold in July, compared with 16 a year earlier. The total value of sales also declined steeply, ranging from 31 percent for 46- to 55-footers to 74 percent for superyachts.

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By contrast, sales were up 3 percent among all boats under 46 feet, with the 26- to 35-foot category showing the biggest volume increase, with 1,280 boats sold, 5 percent more than in July 2011. The best gain in sales value was among the smallest boats — under 26 feet — a 5 percent increase. However, the sales value actually decreased for boats 26 to 35 feet (3 percent) and boats 36 to 45 feet (1 percent).

For the first seven months of this year, the number of boats sold was higher than 2011 by 4 percent, at 19,221, but the total value was down 10 percent on sales of $1.98 billion. The strongest size categories in terms of prices achieved were under 26 feet and between 56 and 79 feet. Although the latter was down by 16 boats in July, it was up 32 boats through seven months, with 458 boats sold, an 8 percent gain. The smallest boats, with 6,587 sold, were up 11 percent, from 5,928 in 2011.

Boats under 26 feet were the only size through July to sell for a higher average price than they did the year before. Although volume was up 11 percent, the total value of sales was up 14 percent, raising the average price from about $20,000 to $20,500. Among boats 36 to 45 feet, the number of boats sold rose in step with the total value of the boats, 3 percent, so the average sale price remained consistent at about $132,000.

Superyacht pricing was the hardest hit so far in 2012; the 100 boats sold through July brought $358.5 million, compared with 113 boats fetching $571.2 million in 2011. But average prices also have fallen among boats 26 to 35 feet, 46 to 55 feet and 56 to 79 feet. n

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.

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