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Florida leads brokerage sales increase

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Unit sales beat previous year for second month in a row, and total valuation also rose

The market for brokerage powerboats and sailboats continued to strengthen in July, surpassing unit sales for the same period a year ago and falling only a few percentage points short in total value for all boats.

In aggregate, that's what the member brokers of YachtWorld.com reported to the Web site's Sold Boats.com database during July. Another bit of good news was the fact that Florida, the primary engine for U.S. brokerage sales, recorded 15 percent higher unit sales than a year ago.

As reported previously, the overall value of boats sold nationally in 2009 has lagged well behind throughout 2008. In June, the gap narrowed to a single-digit percentage, and in July the difference was only 3.8 percent.

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Still, 2009 year-to-date sales through July stand at only $1.55 billion, 29 percent lower than 2008 sales of $2.18 billion. And Florida brokerages have felt roughly half of that pain, with the value of boats sold down more than $300 million, or 34 percent, across the Sunshine State.

Despite the losses in Florida, however, brokerages in the state still hold the largest market share in the country, with roughly a third of all dollars spent on brokerage boats.

Nationally, small and midsize powerboats continued to be the strength of the current sales rebound, and Florida brokers were particularly effective at selling boats 26 to 35 feet - roughly 60 more boats than a year ago. So far, roughly 350 more powerboats have been sold in 2009 than in the first seven months of 2008.

Sales of larger boats have remained depressed, which is a big reason why Florida sales are so far down year-to-date. Although sailboat sales have remained stubbornly slow - 28 percent fewer units year to date - a slight improvement in valuation showed up in July, down only 21 percent compared to 36 percent year to date.

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Based on a five-year average of U.S. monthly brokerage sales reported to SoldBoats.com, May is the high point for unit sales, with slight declines through August and a steeper decline into the fall. Because July unit sales held even with June, the number of boats sold is now only 6.3 percent less than the five-year average for July.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.

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