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Sailing through economic headwinds

Will Christie shares his thoughts on the outlook for the brokerage sector in 2023…

The brokerage market has reported strong numbers in the face of turbulent external factors in recent years and the number of second-hand brokerage yacht sales has remained high. However, it is showing signs of plateauing as we head into 2023. Speaking with typical candour, Will Christie, founder of Christie Yachts, shares his insights.

The mainstream media dialogue associated with the superyacht industry and the brokerage market specifically has been one of a never-ending upwards trend in terms of sale volumes and values. Many market commentators have given soundbites reflecting this ever-optimistic narrative. To take one example, Bob Denison, as quoted in the well-publicised article ‘The haves and have yachts' by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker, stated that we are living in the “greatest boom in the yacht business that’s ever existed...every broker, every builder, up and down the docks, is having some of the best years they’ve ever experienced.”

While this was certainly true in the immediate post-Covid era, the perception of continual growth may now be misleading, as Christie explains; “I am not trying to be hyperbolic either way, just realistic.”

“The market is strong but not as busy as it was in 2021. The supply of yachts for sale just isn’t there, so by default I just can’t see the number of sales in 2023 being as high as in 2021 or 2022. The conflict in Ukraine also had a stifling effect on demand.”

"The simplistic balancing effect that we have observed is that, yes, there have been a significant number of Russian clients leaving the market, but that has been somewhat counterbalanced by the number of Russian-owned vessels that are now not available for sale."

Speaking of the wider effects on supply due to the economic climate in 2023, Christie continues. “The new build market and associated pricing has been greatly affected by inflation. Unfortunately, the shipyards are facing real and unavoidable inflationary pressures. Prices across the whole supply chain from raw materials to sub-contractors have risen and this has had a limiting effect on the number of existing owners looking to sell.”

"A simple hypothetical example is of an owner of a 50m that is contemplating upsizing to a 60m. They are now quoted twice the price they paid for their existing yacht from the same shipyard with a 4-year delivery. The basic consideration is – that seems like a lot of money and time for an extra 10 meters. So, they just decide to keep their current yacht,” explains Christie. This factor alone is severely limiting the amount of new supply that we are seeing coming onto the brokerage market.

Simple economics would suggest that with fewer yachts entering the brokerage market, the options for prospective buyers are restricted, leading to premium prices. However, as Christie clarifies; “Some lower quality and older yachts have been coming to the market with unrealistically high asking prices, perhaps reflecting the bull market that we enjoyed in 2021-early 2022."

"We are now starting to see a few price reductions for those sorts of yachts that we rarely saw back then.  The situation is very dynamic.  Our industry has always taken rather a long time to adjust to changes in market conditions, so I see the price curve for those yachts gently falling this year.”

"I am not being contrarian for the sake of it," concludes Christie, "I remain very positive about the market as a whole. High-quality, pedigree yachts in good condition will still sell well in this market. We are constantly struggling to find good yachts for motivated buyers present. Owners of these yachts can hold firm as the options available are so limited and new build prices high with long delivery times, but pricing realistically from the outset is still so important." 

"There is a limit to how much people will pay, so you need to set the price where you get the value you deserve while attracting buyers to investigate further in the first place. That is always a tricky balance to strike. My main prediction however is that trade volumes will be down as a whole this year, due to this restricted supply."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christie Yachts

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