Big-boat sales drive valuations higher

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Unit sales in Florida were up 172 percent for November; dollar measures are up 29 percent for year


The total valuation of U.S. brokerage sales in November increased significantly compared both to November 2009 and October 2010. According to reports by member brokerages registered within the proprietary database, valuations rose 76 percent to $388 million compared to the same month a year ago. And that valuation was nearly double the $198 million valuation of sales just a month ago.

Big-boat sales were the driver of this market surge. Unit sales among boats larger than 55 feet rose from 48 to 77 boats - a 60 percent increase - and total valuation of sales increased to $231 million - a gain of nearly 300 percent.

Across all sizes, unit sales were up only 2 percent, to 1,938 boats, but for the first time all year that figure exceeded the five-year average for the month, which was 1,878 boats in November. That number still fell well short of the higher unit sales volumes of 2,100 to 2,220 boats in November 2006 and '07.

As a result of November's relatively flat unit sales, combined with the big gain in valuations, the 2010 year-to-date unit sales dipped to slightly less than a 10 percent gain over 2009, while valuations climbed back up over a 20 percent increase. Unit sales for the year stand at 27,900 (up 2,412 boats) and total valuation at $2.97 billion (up $500 million).

We return to Florida for a regional focus this month, where, as usual, the highest volume and greatest valuations in the country are found. Compared to November 2009, unit sales in this region were up 3 percent to 450 boats - roughly a quarter of all U.S. sales. Valuations rose 172 percent to $225 million - more than half of U.S. dollar volume.

As with the market as a whole, big-boat sales were up from 24 to 39 units, a gain of 63 percent. Valuations made a remarkable rise from $38 million to $181 million, a 373 percent increase.

For the year to date, unit sales in Florida are up 9 percent to 5,327 boats, which is slightly behind the 9 percent rise for the United States as a whole. A 29 percent increase in total valuations in Florida has led the rest of the country, which is up 20 percent.

For perspective, we looked at Florida sales since November 2008. That year, in the depths of the recession, 263 brokerage boats changed hands for a total of $54 million. November 2009 saw the beginning of a modest recovery, as unit sales came to life with 438 boats sold, but there was a relatively mild valuation   increase to $83 million. In 2010, valuation finally picked up steam as 450 boats were sold for $225 million.

John Burnham is editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue.