The Business of Brokering Dreams
- June 1st, 2012
- in Lifestyle
How yacht brokers stay afloat in a drifting marketplace
The current economic climate has dictated the decline of many industries across the world. But in the BVI, where many find their sailing Mecca, those in the aquatic industries continue to report a healthy market. April hosted two boat showcases as part of events that consistently promote yachting trade in the islands.
The Bitter End Yacht Club, which has prospered for 37 years as a luxury water sports resort in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, was proud to hold its first annual BVI Yacht Brokerage Showcase. Exhibiting 19 boats intended for purchase by private owners, the Quarterdeck Marina received a full set of slips.
On the same weekend, The Moorings, which have been hosting yachting vacations for over 40 years, presented their new yachts, entering their 420 strong fleet at their location in Road Town. There, Richard Vass, who manages the yacht brokerage side of the Benetau heavy fleet, expressed his pleasure at the global demographic their sales have reached.
“This year, I have seen more speculative buyers than ever,” he explained. “The last three boats were sold to South America. Also Norway, South Africa and Australia are on at 30-strong sales so far this year.”
In the North Sound, BVI Yacht Sales, The Moorings and 123 Hulls, displayed their clients’ prized vessels during the four-day boat show. Representatives from each firm revealed varying perceptions of the BVI boat brokerage market—an industry all agreed remained ripe with opportunity.
Chris Simpson, owner and broker of BVI Yacht Sales, explained that the charter market is still highly competitive, allowing for buyers to acquire great value boats. Subsequently, business has been good for his company.
“The boats in the BVI are a pristine fleet and we are very proud of that; it has kept us in business for 25 years,” said the BVI Yacht Sales owner. “This year has been good; we currently have 28 boats that have passed through our books, and that’s a few more than last year.”
Rourke Henderson, Managing Director of 123 Hulls and a Yacht Broker with over 20 years of experience spanning Fort Lauderdale and California, shared a perspective as a newcomer to the BVI market. Since joining 123 Hulls in December 2011, his impression of the industry has been relatively positive. “There’s a really good market here, not just in the BVI necessarily, but in the whole Caribbean,” he said.
Continuing, Henderson commented that the aesthetics and geographical location of the BVI is a major allure for boat buyers and sellers, sustaining the yacht brokerage market. “They want to buy a boat that’s already here and get sailing…It’s one of the top three sailing destinations in the world,” he said, adding that he was recently able to sell three boats for asking price.
Henderson, who stressed his commitment to the Yacht Brokers Association of America—which upholds ‘professional competence and ethical conduct’ regarding brokerage—remains optimistic about the local market.
He reiterated his ambition to take advantage of the territory’s large selection of boats that he believes are currently selling below market value. He also suggested that larger vessels—those above 50 feet—remain a target for 123 Hulls, since they are noticing a lack of representation in this niche market.
Bitter End’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Glynn reflected on the North Sound brokerage event, explaining that it was organized for people to relish boat hunting while enjoying a great vacation spot.
The VP, who has 25 years of experience with Bitter End, said that although in the boat show’s first year – “there [was] room for improvement,” – he received positive responses about the concept, and added that potential buyers expressed their desire to return for a second year.
The Bitter End executive concluded that he believed the event granted brokers a good level of exposure with fringe benefits that would be revealed in the future.
In aftermath of the events, a representative from BVI Yacht Sales – the longest standing Yacht brokerage in the BVI since 1981 – provided further information on general aspects of the yacht brokerage industry’s current state. Brian Duff, a broker who has been selling boats with the company for 3 years and spent 15 years as a sailboat rigger, explained that the broker-client relationship is governed by excellent customer service.
“[We] specifically, [recognize] that most buyers are buying a boat in a foreign country for the first time and thus a higher degree of hand-holding is required to ensure the buyer is comfortable with the ancillary arrangements concerning such things as dockage, maintenance,” he said. “This means we end up becoming good friends with our buyers and sellers and have a high rate of repeat sellers and buyers.”
This careful relationship—the one that brings prospective buyers together with their nautical dreams—continues to evolve in the BVI. In a place distinguished as one of the sailing capitals of the world, little introduction is needed to describe the vested interest instilled in our cherished waters. It is up to the yacht owners, brokers and buyers to maintain the business with resilience.
Owen Waters contributed reporting to this article