Brokerage sales drop, but values rise

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Sales of brokerage boats in the United States declined in September, as 1,962 vessels changed hands, 8 percent fewer than in September 2011. Yet the aggregate price paid of $221.1 million was 13 percent higher, according to YachtWorld member brokers reporting in SoldBoats.com.

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Compared with any other September since the Great Recession began, the number of boats sold was the lowest, but the price paid was the highest. The dichotomy was attributable, in large part, to a break in the pattern of recent months, when smaller yachts were selling better. In September, broadly speaking, sales of larger yachts strengthened as sales of smaller ones weakened. But there was a nuance in the numbers that is worth noting.

The hardest-hit category was the most popular brokerage size — 26 to 35 feet. Sales there declined 14 percent, from 868 boats in September 2011 to 749 in the same month this year. The total price fell slightly more, by 16 percent, to $37.6 million. The other size to incur a significant drop in sales was the smallest — under 26 feet — in which sales volume fell 12 percent, to 555 boats, yet the total price of sales in the category decreased only 1 percent, to $11.7 million.

Notably, although the average sale price among 26- to 35-footers declined from $51,000 to $50,000, the average boat under 26 feet sold for $21,000, up from less than $19,000 a year earlier.

The number of boats that were sold in the 36- to 45-foot category was essentially flat, as 473 boats sold for $52.9 million, but sales were up 11 percent among boats 46 feet and larger, as 185 changed hands. The aggregate price of the larger boats sold rose 37 percent, from $87 million to $119 million, resulting in an increase in the average price from $519,000 to $643,000.

Among larger boats, however, depending on size, there was a significant variation in the average price paid. For a superyacht (over 80 feet), the average price paid was $3.7 million, compared with $2.6 million in September 2011. Boats at the smaller end of the range, 46 to 55 feet, sold for an average of $311,000, up from $241,000. Sales were up 12 percent among boats 56 to 79 feet, but the total value rose only slightly, and the average price paid declined from $752,000 to $710,000.

Generally higher prices and increased sales of larger vessels represent a change from recent months, but one month’s figures don’t define a trend. Through three-quarters of the year, the total value of transactions is still $219 million less than in 2011, and the gap seems unlikely be made up in the fourth quarter.

However, looking at the aggregate price paid, compared with the same month the previous year, it’s worth noting that the sales value has been higher in five of the nine months — January through April, and again in September.

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue.

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