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Brokerage sales flatten, but values rise

The number of brokerage boats sold in August in the United States was virtually dead even with the same month a year earlier, but the 2,746 boats that changed hands were sold for $9 million more, or $261 million. The figures are based on reports from YachtWorld.com member brokerages.

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Through August, the 21,238 boats sold were 2 percent fewer than the 21,564 that were sold in the first eight months of last year. However, the total value increased 14 percent, or almost $300 million, to $2.46 billion.

The increase in the value of sales made in August, versus the previous August, reflected a trend that began in the spring, but another possible trend also surfaced during the month. For the second month in a row, the pace of the market quickened as measured by a lower average time before a listed boat was sold.

For the last two years, including the first five months of this year, the average time to sell gradually increased, but during the summer months boats have stayed on the market for 12 to 18 days less than they did a year earlier. In August, the average time to sell was 255 days, down from 273, and for the year through August the average was 278 days, down six days from 284.

It might seem counterintuitive for boats to be selling faster and for higher value. In fact, the two trends appear to be separated, depending on the size of the boat. Boats under 26 feet have averaged two to four weeks less time on the market in July and August. And in August alone, boats 26 to 35 feet averaged 28 fewer days on the market. The total value of boats sold in those two categories has dropped by $17 million for the year through August.

By contrast, bigger boats were still taking as long to sell as they did in 2010, and among boats longer than 46 feet the total value of sales increased. As reported in previous months, the largest increase was among boats longer than 55 feet. Through August, that category was up 44 percent, from $685 million to $988 million, even though the number of boats sold increased only 5 percent, from 575 boats to 606.

A comparison of powerboat and sailboat sales adds nuance to what we can see in these two trends. Through August, power and sail remain slightly behind 2010 in terms of the number of each type sold. Both were ahead for the year in terms of value, the great majority of which rests on the increased sales value of large powerboats.

But there has been a marked difference in time on the market. For sailboats, it’s still increasing and was 305 days for the first eight months of the year; powerboats are selling more than a month faster, and through August they had a year-to-date average of 273 days. n

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue.

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