A year ago, an already weak brokerage sales market began slowing rapidly in the United States as the economy took its well-documented nosedive. By comparison, the market this year has continued to improve and make significant year-over-year gains. Against 2008, unit sales of 2,171 boats in October were 21 percent ahead, and the $220 million value of the boats sold was up 11 percent, according to data reported by YachtWorld.com member brokers in the Web site's SoldBoats.com database.
Another positive segment continues to be powerboat sales, which were up 31 percent in units in October and have moved ahead for the year by 2 percent. Sailboats, which represent 19 percent of units sold and 14 percent of valuation, were slightly down in October and, for the year, are off by more than 20 percent. Valuation is another story. power is down nearly half a billion dollars, or about 20 percent, year to date; sail is off 31 percent, or $145 million.
The strongest sales by length in October were among those under 26 feet, which, compared to October 2008, were up 37 percent in units and 42 percent in valuation - more than $3 million. Year to date, small boats have led the sales recovery, with nearly 700 additional boats sold. Unit sales are down by progressively greater percentages for each larger size range, with boats over 55 feet down the most at 19 percent.
The other top-performing size range, when comparing October '09 with the same month in '08, was boats 46 to 55 feet, which showed improvement of 34 percent in units and 32 percent, or nearly $10 million, in valuation. Unit sales were up by an even greater percentage among boats larger than 55 feet, with 74 boats sold compared to 54 the previous year, but valuation was lower by about 1 percent at $61 million. So either the boats sold were generally smaller, or there were much lower prices agreed to than a year ago.
We looked again this month at the average time it's taken to sell a boat, and in October that moved to 278 days, down from a high of 293 in September. Year to date, however, the average is 272 days, 16 days higher than in 2008. Powerboats have taken roughly three weeks longer to sell, moving from 250 days to 271, while sailboats have only increased a few days from 273 to 276. All sizes of boats are taking two to three weeks longer to sell, with the exception of boats over 55 feet, which remain the same as a year ago at 415 days.
In reviewing longer-term historical averages, we looked at both average units sold each year, by month, and also time to sell for each of the last five years; two revealing trends appear in the two graphs shown. Units sold have begun to diverge from 2008 and shown signs of tracking more closely with the three previous years. On the other hand, the time for units to sell remains consistently longer than 2008 and other years.
This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.