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Northeast sales lag behind rest of U.S.

Yacht brokerage sales have increased steadily in the first four months of 2009, but measured against 2008 and a five-year running average, the picture hasn't improved. As reported to SoldBoats.com by member brokers of YachtWorld.com, 2,308 boats were sold in April against a year ago, when 2,897 boats were sold.

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However, one bright spot appeared for brokers selling boats of more than 55 feet. Although they only sold 67 big boats in April against 86 in 2008, the combined value of those sold was $127 million - $7 million more than in 2008. As a result, for April, the value of boats sold in the United States was off only 23.7 percent, reducing the year-to-date valuation decrease to less than 40 percent.

Compared to April 2008, powerboat valuations in April 2009 were off only about 20 percent, a big improvement against the year-to-date drop in powerboat sales values, which are off 37 percent. The value of sailboats sold for April was down nearly 43 percent against the previous April, which is in line with the reduced valuations in the sail sector for the year.

Our regional snapshot this month looks at the Northeast, an area we defined as New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, not including Great Lakes brokerages. This area typically has an active smaller-boat market, with roughly 30 percent of national sales for boats under 35 feet in 2008, but sales have been much slower this year. While unit sales nationally in the small-boat categories are off 17 percent in 2009, in the Northeast they are down almost 33 percent, with only 1,187 boats sold. The region did reasonably well in sales of bigger boats, but its fraction of the national big-boat market in those categories is relatively smaller.

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In total, 566 boats were sold in the Northeast in April - a solid gain considering that a total of only 1,412 boats have sold since January. However, the region still fared worse in April unit sales than the national market by 7 percentage points; for the year to date, it's off 33 percent, compared to 22 percent nationally.

The lower value of boats sold in the Northeast has been even further behind the national averages. For the year to date, valuations are down 43 percent, compared to a national drop of 39 percent. The 36- to 45-foot range has lost the most dollar value, from $45 million in the first four months of 2008 to $23 million in 2009. And in what is traditionally a strong sailing area, powerboat valuations were holding up somewhat better than sail - 31 percent versus 41 percent. However, discussions with a few brokers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts in early May indicated that activity may be picking up among all smaller boats, particularly sailboats.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue.

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