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Big-boat sales spur brokerage gains

As the first quarter of 2010 ended, yacht brokerages in the United States closed nearly 30 percent more boat sales than in the same period in 2009 and at a total valuation 70 percent higher.

Close to 6,000 boats were sold, compared to approximately 4,600 in 2009, according to YachtWorld.com member brokers reporting sales in the proprietary database, SoldBoats.com.

The broker reports showed that unit sales for March increased from 2,037 in 2009 to 2,574 this year, and valuation grew from $167 million to $326 million. Driving the dramatic increase in valuation was the sale of bigger, more expensive boats. In March alone, for boats more than 55 feet long, sales were up from $41 million in 2009 to $148 million in 2010, with 89 boats changing hands compared with 51 boats a year ago.

While the number of brokerage boats less than 45 feet sold in March increased about 25 percent - from 1,893 to 2,356 - larger boats sold at a rate about 50 percent higher than March 2009, with 218 boats sold, up from 144. Clearly, some of those larger boats were more expensive units than the ones selling 12 months ago.

Brokerage sales have been stronger than the previous year's benchmarks for several months. However, for the first time, in March 2010, unit sales not only beat those of March 2009, they were actually 150 boats (6 percent) higher than sales two years earlier (March 2008). And for the first quarter of 2010, with 5,943 boats sold, sales were almost even with the first quarter of 2008, when 5,985 boats were sold. That's a big improvement, although still about 1,000 boats short of the number sold in the first quarters of 2005 through 2007.

A more detailed report on March 2010 brokerage sales, including a special report on sales in the Northeast region, will appear in the May issue of Soundings Trade Only.

— John Burnham, YachtWorld.com

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