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Boats are spending less time on the market

February brokerage numbers are down, but members report shorter stints on the block for vessels sold


Sales of boats on the U.S. brokerage market broke no records in February, as the number of boats sold and their total valuation slipped, compared with February 2010. Unit sales fell 3 percent, to 1,699, and total valuation was off 16 percent, or $35 million, according to member brokerages reporting sale prices in their proprietary database,

But one positive difference for owners and brokers trying to make a sale was that the average time to sale continued to shorten. Boats sold in February averaged less than nine months on the market before changing owners. Before the recent recession, monthly averages were in the range of 220 to 260 days. They increased steadily through 2009 until May 2010, when the average peaked at 315 days. Since September, however, the averages have been lower or even with the previous year.

The time-to-sale picture is more nuanced when boat size is considered. During the first two months of this year, the largest and smallest boats were generally selling quickest, with boats under 26 feet averaging 157 days - 29 less than in 2010 - and boats over 55 feet averaging 485 days, an improvement of 15 days.

The biggest reduction was among boats 46 to 55 feet, a drop of 56 days, to a 384-day average. Midsize boats, on the other hand, are slower to sell, with 2 to 6 percent increases in their average sale times.

Brokerage powerboats have historically sold more quickly than sailboats and that trend continues in 2011. For the year to date, powerboats are averaging 25 fewer days on sale than sailboats. Notably, however, all of the drop in the average so far this year can be attributed to sales of sailboats. Although power averaged 265 days through the first two months of both 2010 and this year, sailboat sales have lowered their average from 309 to 290.

Looking at the year-to-date figures for sales and valuation for the overall brokerage market, 3,267 boats were sold, a dip of 2.5 percent. Total valuation was lower by 10 percent, at $365 million in sales. Powerboat sales were up by 1 percent for the year to date, with 2,654 boats sold. Sailboat sales, despite shorter selling times, were down 15 percent for the year, with 613 boats sold.

Selling prices tell a different story. Despite the small increase in the number of powerboats changing hands, compared with the first two months of 2010, their owners have received 12 percent less cash for the sales, with total sales of $311 million for the year to date. By comparison, the total valuation of sailboat sales remained nearly level with 2010, even though 110 fewer sailboats sold than a year earlier.

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue.



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