Last year was no banner year in the United States brokerage market for powerboats or sailboats, but until recently it looked pretty good compared to 2009.
In August, for the first time this year, yacht brokers sold more boats (7.5 percent) for more dollars (5.6 percent) than in the same month a year ago. Unit sales have been ahead of 2008 for three months running, but valuations have lagged. That's according to the data reported by the member brokers of YachtWorld.com in the Web site's SoldBoats.com database.
A further positive sign is that unit sales were ahead of the previous year in every length category in August for the first time in 2009, albeit just barely among boats of more than 45 feet. Valuations were slightly ahead for the month across the board, too. However, considering all size ranges, unit sales are still about 7 percent off, and the only size category with sales comparable to 2008 is among boats smaller than 26 feet. Valuation for the year remains a sobering 25 percent behind 2008's pace.
Small powerboats continue to be a key driver in the market's gains and, for the last few months at least, brokerage sales seem to have stabilized. Overall, power continues to lead sail by a wide margin: powerboat sales are up 14 percent against 2008, and sailboat sales are down by the same percentage.
Putting 2008 aside and comparing sales in the summer months to a five-year average of brokerage sales in the same time period, unit sales are still off roughly 5 to 10 percent: Brokers sold 2,745 boats in August, while the norm is about 3,000.
We looked at a niche market sector this month - power- and sailboats with two or more hulls, better known as multihulls. Many of the smaller boats in this category are catamaran powerboat designs; the larger ones are commonly cruising catamaran sailboats.
Last year, 443 multihulls were reported sold all year (about 1 percent of the market), for a combined value of $66,232,558 (closer to 2 percent). Through August 2008, 318 of these had been sold; this year, 283 have sold. While that's only 11 percent off, the softness on the sailboat side has meant that valuations are off by more than 30 percent (approximately $46 million for last year's first eight months against $32 million this year). But there have been recent improvements in this segment. More multihulls were sold in August 2009 than the previous August by close to 20 percent and total valuation was up 7 percent.
One other measure we studied this month was the average time it's taken to sell a multihull this year - 263 days. That means the majority of multihulls sold this year were first listed in 2008. It's also a 16 percent increase in time to sale for multihulls over last year; as of August 2008, the average time to sale was 226 days.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue.