“I need more listings!” Mark Elliott jests, but with a hint of seriousness, as we discuss his current challenges as a superyacht sales broker in the United States. That comment alone sums up this bustling market geographic fairly well: performing strongly, but perhaps depleting of inventory.
“I think the inventory is shrinking,” continues Elliott, sales consultant at IYC, “but that tends to firm up pricing, which is a good thing”. By ‘firm up’, Elliott means: “If someone wants $20 million for a pedigree yacht, six months ago sellers might have been willing to accept a heavy discount, but with the lack of inventory now, sellers are becoming less willing to take a discount because they know they’re the only game on in town.” Now is evidently a good time to list a top pedigree yacht for sale in this market demographic.
“When the supply of yachts to the market is low, their prices stabilise, but when supply is high, the prices go down. Currently, the prices are way down – we’ve seen a lot of big pricing adjustments and people becoming very realistic about the pricing in order to sell.”
With the stock market and economy in a very good position in the US, Elliott’s five sales for the year thus far are proof of the buying confidence in this market. “Big money buyers are feeling comfortable and you can buy a lot of boat at the moment for very little. We’re on high – it’s not quite record-breaking, but it’s definitely getting close to the highs of 2007.”
"Six months ago sellers might have been willing to accept a heavy discount, but with the lack of inventory now, they are becoming less willing to take a discount."
Elliott adds that their domestic-built second-hand product line in the 50m+ range is very slim: “The Trinitys, Christensens and Deltas are gone – and in Europe, also, there are few Feadships and other good pedigree boats available.”
He’s positive, however, that American builders will step back up soon in the new build sector. “I’d like to see a resurgence, of course, but again, it’s all supply and demand – as US boat builders shrink up, there will be more demand for US products, but US builders are not building spec boats, that’s the problem.”
Elliott is also very optimistic that the foreign-trade zones at Lauderdale Marine Center (LMC) and Bahia Mar – allowing the local brokerage community to sell foreign-flagged superyachts to US citizens while in US waters – will “really open the door” to a greater brokerage market and counter former yacht sale prohibitions.
“If you keep the boats in your backyard, of course it’s beneficial – you profit from all ancillary spending, groceries, fuel and electricity etc. Before, you had to send foreign-flagged boats to Freeport [Bahamas] to be sold, but buyers don’t have a very long attention span – they want things sorted straight away.”
However, Elliott does consider there to be some nuances that need to be ironed out: “At the moment, at LMC, you have to commit to several months of dockage to qualify for foreign-trade zone status. I think that needs to trim down, but right now the benefits are much better than the drawbacks.”
Looking forward, Elliott is certainly not alone in having great concerns over the political conflicts between the United States and North Korea, which could have catastrophic effects, far beyond any market considerations.