Two solid signs for the future

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Call them signs of the times or “good times to be in the boat business,” as National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich said in his recent State of the Industry report in Miami.

Truth is, it’s been some time since I’ve seen any bank aggressively pushing boat loans, especially on their big outdoor signs. But these are good times, so I was happy to see a major bank like BB&T seeking boat loans. I just had to pull over shoot a picture. And I’ve since seen a similar sign at another BB&T branch. (Based in Winston-Salem, N.C., BB&T operates 2,220 centers in 15 states and D.C.)

Equally notable, on the other side of the same BB&T sign was a pitch for low-rate home equity lines. There’s no question the increasing value of homes and the resulting availability of equity loans plays into our hands, too.

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Overall, we have recognized what happens in the housing market has a significant impact on our boat sales success. That’s why the report that new home sales were up 3.7 percent in January came as good news, albeit new-home sales account for a small share of all home sales. They do, however, correlate strongly with new-boat sales.

But there’s even better news coming from existing home sales. Prices are surging and, therefore, value and equity are increasing. While there will be wide variations across the country, of course, all single-family home closings in my area in January were up 10 percent and fetched an average of 11.4 percent more than a year ago.

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For example, to be very specific about the four-county greater Tampa Bay area, the median price for a house in January was $194,990, up nearly $20,000 from a year ago. In Pasco County, the gain was a whopping 24.2 percent to $177,000 median; in Hernando County the jump was 12 percent to a median of $138,700; Pinellas County enjoyed an 11 percent increase to a $215,000 median; and Hillsborough County rose 7.7 percent to $210,000.

Nationally in January, existing home sales were at the fastest pace since 2007. Home sales reportedly rose 3.3 percent between December and January with the median price jumping 7.1 percent to $228,900 from a year ago.

Now, let’s add to the good news in housing. The consumer confidence index continues to be at a 10-year high, according to reports from the University of Michigan. So people are feeling good about the economic future. Their homes are becoming more valuable, increasing the equity they can tap. If BB&T is any indicator, banks appear to be recognizing that boat loan portfolios have traditionally produced good yields with low risk. And judging from sales reports coming from our major boat shows nationwide, our products are moving at a healthy pace.

Definitely a good way to start off this week.

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