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Gulf Coast, national sales show flicker of hope

Figures from U.S. YachtWorld brokers show boats were moving a little better in March, but at lower prices

As the first quarter ends, the yacht brokerage market in the United States may be showing a small sign of improvement against 2008 unit sales. As reported to SoldBoats.com by member brokers of YachtWorld.com, sales were off 25 to 30 percent in January and February against both 2008 and a five-year average of sales in those months. In March, however, 2,040 boats were sold, which was down only 15.9 percent against March 2008 and 24.4 percent against March's five-year average.

Boats may have started selling a little better - a total of 4,613 boats were sold through the first quarter - but the prices they brought were significantly lower. The overall expenditure for boats sold in the first quarter was 45.3 percent lower than in 2008 - a decline from $793 million to $434 million.

Powerboats did better than sailboats by unit measure in March, selling 1,652 boats against 1,887 a year ago. However, the net value of those vessels was down more than 50 percent. By comparison, the 388 sailboats sold (down from 539 in 2008) delivered a dollar value down by about 30 percent.

This month, we took a snapshot of sales on the Gulf Coast, the relatively small market region from Alabama to Texas. In those states, 245 boats were reported sold year-to-date, down 27.9 percent compared to 2008. Powerboats have taken the biggest hit in unit sales, off 32 percent, while sailboats were down less than 20 percent.

The decline in value of all boats sold on the Gulf Coast has been in keeping with the national average. However, in March, dollar value was down only 17.5 percent, which could be a sign of improvement. Or it may have been an anomaly due to the Gulf Coast region's size and the sale of a few boats in the 55-foot-plus category.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue.

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