If you live in South Florida, odds are you are retired, and maybe even a former attorney, investment professional or realtor. Now we can add yacht broker to that list. When I first moved to Palm Beach 25 years ago, there were a handful of reputable boat-brokerage firms, and most of them had only a dozen or so brokers associated with them. Today, it seems there is a yacht broker on every corner. Is this good for the industry, or not?
This got me thinking about the boat market, especially right now. Over the past few years, the prices of new and used boats have skyrocketed, and there seems to be several reasons why. Low-interest rates are making it more cost effective to own a boat, which is driving up demand. The cost of materials is driving up prices, and the number of people getting involved seems to be growing as well.
New-Build Wait Times
What if I wanted to purchase a new boat today? Well, once you narrow down the list of actual boats you want, good luck finding it. The wait time for new boats is likely at an all-time high. Many of the high-demand custom-boat builders have quite a long waiting list. For example, F&S is about three years out, and Michael Rybovich & Sons is also three years out on a new build. I spoke with my brother, Pat Kelly, at HMY, and he mentioned that Viking, the premier production boatbuilder, has a wait time of 12 to 16 months on its new 64-footer, which was introduced at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this past October. Viking already had a list of potential buyers prior to the show, and the boat hadn’t even been released yet. I can’t recall the new-boat market ever being this strong.
Used Boats Remain Scarce
The story is similar to purchasing a used boat. I scour the marketplace almost daily to see what’s coming up, and you would be surprised by how low the inventory is. I think there are several reasons why. First, if you have a quality boat in high demand and work with an experienced broker, he probably already has a buyer in mind for that particular boat before it even hits the market. If that broker doesn’t already have someone in mind, the network within his company or his circle of other brokers most likely does. I’m guessing that the top brokers aren’t in a hurry to put your boat on the listing service because with the demand so high, they want to keep their seller’s relationship very close.
I frequently follow the used custom-boat trends, and this niche market certainly has fewer options from which to choose. If you find a builder from whom you really want a boat, you either need to contact them directly or find a good broker who has a personal relationship with that builder. The only other option would be to use your personal network to put the word out to other owners in that same camp who might be able to give you an in.
Like many markets today, the sportboat market is not that much different. Inventories are low, the demand is high, interest rates are favorable, and it’s a great time to be traveling the world marlin fishing. Now that it’s boat-show season, put in your research and determine what boat works best for you. Once that’s figured out, find a good broker and start the process. There are plenty of opportunities, although you might have to turn over a few more stones than you normally would.
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 print issue of Marlin.