Big-boat sales spur brokerage gains

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Among boats larger than 55 feet, U.S. yacht brokerage sales surged in February, the third month in a row that big-boat sales have outpaced the same month a year earlier.

Sales recorded by member brokers were up by more than 50 percent compared to February 2009, and the valuation of those boats increased by more than 100 percent.

Across all sizes, unit sales grew by a third, from 1,323 in February 2009 to 1,759 boats last month, and the value of those sales increased from $132 million to $221 million. Combined with January, the number of boats sold was reported at 3,367, a 31 percent increase over 2009, and valuation was $411 million, up 55 percent.

Sailboat sales, after lagging behind the rise in powerboat sales in January, were up sharply in February, leading the market with unit sales 41 percent higher (at 367 boats) and valuation up 77 percent (to $28 million).

All sizes of boats sold better in February than the same month a year earlier, with increases in unit sales of at least 29 percent. And while boats over 55 feet made the largest gains, strong sales were also recorded among boats 36 to 45 feet long, with 364 boats changing hands - 44 percent above February 2009.

The only negatives in February's report were that unit sales overall lagged slightly behind the five-year average for the month, with 1,759 total boats sold, compared to an average of 1,888. Also, as a reflection of the slowness of the big-boat market throughout the recession, it's not surprising that the average time on the market for the boats over 55 feet sold this year so far is up about 40 percent, to 515 days.

A more detailed report on February 2010 brokerage sales, including a special report on Gulf Coast sales, will appear in the April issue of Soundings Trade Only.

— John Burnham,