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Superyacht brokerage sales up record-breaking 46%

30 April 2021By Nic Robinson

Superyacht brokerage sales continue to boom, with the first three months of the year showing a record number of vessels changing hands following a strong end to 2020, exclusive BOAT Pro data can reveal.

Combined sales for January, February and March this year showed a 46% increase compared to the same period last year, ending the first quarter of 2021 with 133 brokerage sales versus 91 in 2020.

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Only in 2018 did first quarter sales reach a similar level when the number of superyachts changing hands stood at 115 for the period.

Record levels for yacht sales in Q1 2021

Brokerage experts say:

  • Increase in new superyacht buyers
  • Interest in larger vessels on the up
  • Growth driven by travel frustrations
  • Boom likely to continue into H2 2021 and possibly beyond
  • Concerns over Q3 and Q4 stock availability

The coronavirus pandemic has, in part, led to a change in perception of when to buy a superyacht, claimed Camper & Nicholsons chief executive Paolo Casani, who added there is a realisation the ramifications of the virus are something that will have to be lived with long-term.

“People have become even more committed to invest in yachting as it offers an escape from the pandemic,” he said. “The economy has also always been strong – apart from the first few months of the pandemic, 2020 was a fantastic year for the Stock Exchange. There was, and is, money available.”

Economists estimated households globally had squirrelled away an extra $5.4 trillion in savings, much of which had been amassed by the wealthy.

Availability of funds and rising demand for yachts resulted in brokers from most territories experiencing a strong Q1, particularly at Denison Yachting whose president Bob Denison said: “Our industry is still riding the great wave of 2020. Our first quarter numbers set new records for us organisationally across all revenue categories.”

As Denison outlined, the market remained optimistic from the end of 2020 after a lift in sales following the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

An explosion of brokerage activity late on in 2020 resulted in December becoming the strongest single month for brokerage sales, with 57 boats sold compared with 42 the previous December.

“The first quarter of 2021 has been strong due to continued demand from 2020,” Denison continued. “Yachting’s competitive industries, such as skiing and higher-end vacation experiences like cruises, are still being affected by extended lockdowns which have created a special opportunity for our industry.”

Garçon was sold in January after being listed by Burgess and Fraser

Strong sales momentum was welcomed by Fraser chief executive Raphael Sauleau who, as well as acknowledging the boom’s finite length of time, said: “What we have seen is this upturn started in around July last year and it has continued, so much so that our industry has seen its strongest first quarter for sales since records began. We can see this continuing through this year and beyond.”

An increase in units shifted saw total asking prices rocketing from €763M in Q1 2020 to just under €1.2bn this year – up over €433M year on year.

The average asking price in Q1 this year shot up by over €600,000 to shy of €9M compared to the same quarter in 2020, showing limited or lack of significant discoutning.  

Average and total asking prices for 2021 are also more in line with those of 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and show further signs of a bounce back.

Sovereign was listed with Michael Mahan at Worth Avenue Yachts and sold in March

Burgess Yachts sales broker Ian Sherwood indicated the market currently favoured sellers and believed a proportion of the sales rise could be down to an increase in a new wave of buyers. “Personally, I’m seeing a shift in the type of buyer and lead,” he said.

“There’s an awful lot of first-time buyers approaching the market and that’s people who have maybe chartered in the past and are frustrated that availability is different this year, because there are boats in the wrong parts of world and boats booked. But owning your own means there’s no problem with availability.”

This belief was echoed by Fraser's Sauleau who, over the past few months, saw a shift in how buyers were thinking. “In the conversations we are having with our buyers, many have thought for years about one day buying a yacht. But the events of 2020 made many people realise the right day to buy a boat is today.”

Olivia was listed with Burgess and Fraser and sold in February
Image courtesy of Guillaume Plisson

For length, buyers mainly snapped up yachts between 24 metres and 40 metres, with the 30-40 metre category just stealing the show at 50 sales versus 49 in the 24-30 metre category.

Sales of superyachts 50-70 metres more than doubled during the period to 11 versus five in the previous year but were also higher than in Q1 2019 when just three of this size were sold.

Sales of vessels above 70 metres rose to 2019 levels, with four sold in the first quarter of this year.

24-40m yachts were the most popular in Q1 2021

Size has and is likely to continue to play into buyers’ decision making as they look to use superyachts in new ways, according to Burgess Yachts’ Sherwood.

“On our database there are at least 50 yachts for sale, or the owner is open to considering an approach for a sale, of between 50m and 60m. For us, the end of last year was very busy for 50m and 60m sales,” he said.

The total length of boats sold in Q1 reached 4,785 metres or the equivalent of over 503 London busses end-to-end. This was an increase of 1,551 metres on the same period in the previous year.

Fraser's Sauleau experienced a similar trend and said although sales have increased across the spectrum, no one style of craft was emerging as being more popular. “The motor yacht sector has seen the strongest number of sales, and the greatest increase has been in the 24-40m size range,” he said.

“Although this size range usually represents 70% of sales in any year, the fact it has seen the largest increase [recently] shows more people than ever are entering our sector for the first time. In addition, we have seen strong sales in the 50-60m and the 70m+ brackets.”

Blue Eyes London was sold in January after listing with Burgess

Yet, Camper & Nicholsons’ Casani indicated buyers could now be less likely to acquire exceptionally large vessels. “After the last decade, when we saw the average size of yachts increasing every year to well past 100m, the trend [we have seen] is now for yachts in the 40-60m range. This may or may not be Covid-related, but it is definitely related to running costs and increased awareness of protecting the ocean.”

There had also been a movement towards buying long-range explorer yachts, particularly because they consume less fuel, as a result of their speed, and therefore cause less of an environmental impact, he added.

Meanwhile, Sauleau’s nod to the increase in popularity of motor yacht sales is notable as the turnover of sail yachts was down for the quarter compared to previous years, at four in 2021 versus eight in 2020 and nine in 2019.

Octopussy was sold in February after listing with Moran Yacht & Ship

Looking ahead, Sherwood raised concerns about the availability of yachts for sale in the second half of the year. “The challenge will be will there be enough stock and inventory to replenish what has been sold and that’s something we’re conscious of, what are we going to sell in quarter three,” he said.

“We have a fair idea of quarter two, but it’s something we’re working on and will need to address and hope the good times continue.”

Denison Yachting’s Bob Denison also echoed this point, saying: “New construction opportunities and good deals on the brokerage market are very hard to come by. I expect this to be the great challenge our industry faces in 2021.”

Sunseeker London Limited's group brokerage director William Burns believed sales would remain strong throughout the year. "There is a consensus that as people prepare for the big escape and for travel restrictions to lift, buyers will become users and the market will quieten down whilst everyone starts to enjoy their freedom in the summer."

He continued: "With everyone in the industry hoping for a full boat show calendar in September and for us being able to display our five brand new Sunseeker models to the public in the Mediterranean, we believe we will enjoy further success in sales through the end of Q3 and Q4." 

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