If ever there was a sellers’ market this was it! I don’t think in 18 years at my desk at Berthon I have ever seen such a year. Buyers driven to compete with each other as demand outstripped supply. It was also the motivation to buy that was interesting, with long held dreams to undertake more challenging and offshore sailing en-famille suddenly crystallising into firm plans, making yacht purchase a necessity.
What yachts were selling? There was quite a bit of up-sizing going on with families having loved (or in some cases endured) a smaller yacht reaching the decision that if they were going to spend more time afloat, they were going to need a bigger yacht. Across the board and even for UK based sailors, there was a desire to push beyond local sailing grounds and to go further. As always, we are heavily involved with the sales of bluewater yachts and this market remained as strong as ever. A glance over the ARC entry list confirms the desire to cross oceans is very much alive and thriving. Of course, you can cross an ocean in pretty much anything that floats, but our advice is that a proven, well-appointed bluewater cruising yacht is the best option.
VAT changes because of Brexit coupled with Covid travel restrictions meant buying locally in the UK became the norm. It was a pretty open and shut case for anyone wanting to cruise here in the UK that the yacht had to be UK VAT paid, which in most cases meant staying within the domestic market. While Covid restrictions have eased, travelling is not the fun it used to be, so whilst a few brave souls did travel, by far the majority preferred to stay within the local. This was also the trend in our offices in Sweden and the USA.
As mentioned previously, UK yacht owners now have the opportunity to keep non-VAT paid yachts in the Mediterranean and this can apply to both new or brokerage yachts, but we did spend quite a bit of time explaining the current rules to both buyers and yacht owners and it is only recently that HMRC have clarified the inverse position. VAT paid yachts are now allowed to return to the UK from the Mediterranean via Returned Goods Relief, provided that prior to Brexit they have been in the UK. For more detailed information about this, see our article by Simon Anslow.
Was it a good time to sell? Very definitely if you were choosing to take a break from yachting, but more of a challenge if you were changing for a larger or smaller yacht. Unless a replacement was in the bag, in 2021 you ran the real risk of a season (or more) without a yacht.
This buoyant market was definitely reflected in both asking prices and selling prices. As is always the case in setting an asking price, you have to look at the market, weigh up the alternatives and the rest is down to experience and good instinct. Were prices too high during 2021? I don’t think so. Certainly, some owners did very well and in many cases had their choice of any number of buyers.
There are numerous aspects to successfully marketing and ultimately selling a brokerage yacht. Price, location and condition are one of our favourite mantras. With our brand, expertise and experience we have the wherewithal to present, promote, negotiate and administer a sale. The one area for which we rely on an owner is presentation and condition. As with any year good or bad, a number of yachts stood out for sheer level of enquiry and speed of sale and this was universally based on their presentation and condition. Equally, a poorly presented yacht will struggle even in the best of markets. This is a theme running through every review that I have written for Berthon and however hot the market, the same applies – a small or relatively sensible investment in presentation prior to marketing is key.
A footnote from Sophie Kemp
The wish to get out on the water that we saw in 2020 continued tenfold in 2021 with the time that yachts remained on the market at an all-time low. Yachts were snapped up left, right and centre. Brexit played a part, together with the C word and this increased the demand for yachts in the UK. At the start of the summer some were selling at asking price within a week of coming to the market, which proved that pricing was correct.
As the summer progressed and we all got jabbed, demand started to ease and the sun didn’t shine as much as we had hoped (it is the UK after all!). However, with still limited numbers of yachts on the market, well-priced yachts, were still snapped up in no time. Demand here in Lymington was mainly for family cruising yachts and once again, the average length of yachts I sold stuck at the 40 foot mark. However, yacht sales elsewhere have shown an increase in length, as demand for bigger yachts continues to grow. The rise in sales of multihulls continues and we are getting some traction in this sector of the market, especially with cats of over 60 foot.
To repeat what I wrote last year, the number of clients who are now able to work from the comfort of their yacht wherever they are in the world has grown exponentially. I saw evidence of this during the summer months as I watched the hoards descend to their yachts in the marina from the magnificent view that my desk offers. The new superfast WiFi-6 installed at Berthon in 2021 was certainly a big help to all those WFH types joining us in Lymington and becoming WFYs!
Our support of the World Cruising Club continues and we ran a successful virtual, week long event called Cockpit Conversations in place of our usual Bluewater Weekend at Berthon. This was an interactive event with a variety of guest speakers with question and answer sessions. Whilst the event lacked the wine, face to face chats and Saturday night dinner, it enabled people to join from all over the world. The event was received incredibly well and hopefully proved useful for those with future plans to head off, and more so for those leaving for the ARC last November. On that note the ARC and ARC+ were filled to maximum capacity and for the first time ever, WCC introduced a further January 2022 event to meet demand. Sadly, I didn’t make it out to Las Palmas for the November start for the second year in a row, but we wished all our clients well on their voyage from our chilly Lymington office.
One of the reasons to not go out to the start of the ARC was of course the lack of parties, but I was also 6 months pregnant in November and wandering the docks of Las Palmas didn’t seem the most sensible idea. So on a personal note, 2022 brings a rather large change for me as I welcome my first child (and future yacht broker) and will be heading off on maternity leave in the spring. Having spent the last 6 years on board the Berthon bus, I will now be taking a year off on this new voyage. I would like to introduce Harry Lightfoot who has jumped aboard and he will be on hand to help with any of your cruising yacht needs, whilst I am cruising!
A footnote from Harry Lightfoot
I joined Berthon in January 2022, and have now settled into the famous sailing yacht division based in Lymington in the UK. I worked at Discovery Shipyard previously and so joining Berthon is a natural fit. My time at Discovery Shipyard was cut short unexpectedly for reasons beyond my control. Over the last three years, I was selling new and pre-owned Discovery and Southerly Yachts, and I am passionate about these brands and know them inside and out. I am accordingly excited about extending my knowledge of the bluewater cruising yacht market at Berthon.
Before my time at Discovery, I lived and worked in Vancouver, Canada as a yacht broker dealing within the North American market selling both motor and sailing yachts. Working with the Berthon home and overseas Sailing Yacht Team, I am looking forward to a successful year and particularly increasing the number of Southerly Yachts that Berthon sells. If you are looking for your next yacht or would like to talk all things Southerly, do get in touch; I need no excuses to talk sailing yachts and I look forward to chatting to you.