Live-aboard Trends, from the Perspective of a Yacht Broker.
As most of you know, I’ve been selling boats the last four years in Everett, part-owner of Port Gardner Yacht Brokerage. I call this my “twilight job”, meaning my last job at a stage that seems similar to the end of a day, with dusk signifying the end of one state and the start of another (retirement is like the setting of the sun on one phase, and a very nice sunrise for the next phase). It’s been four years now (amazing), but as they say “time flies when you’re having fun.”
Selling used boats does give one another perspective on boating. We see a whole range of people, some of whom are selling, others buying, and some selling one boat in order to buy another. Some are well-to-do, others not so much. Some young (not enough of these) and some over 50 (most of our audience, I’m afraid.)
Another distinguishing characteristic are those eager to buy a live-aboard boat, cut their ties to land life, and join the small minority of boaters who live full-time aboard their boats. I was a live-aboard for 10 years, in the 1990’s. It was a great experience, one that I’m glad that I undertook and which I can now use to relate to those we encounter who are eager to take on this lifestyle. And it is a lifestyle, to be sure.
I was recently divorced when I took the plunge and 36 years old. I ended up with the house and while that was a good financial result, I wasn’t too thrilled with continuing to inhabit that place by myself. A good friend suggested “you love boats so much, why don’t you just sell the house and live on a boat?” That suggestion, when my friend made it, created a dual feeling of excitement and big anxiety. Yes, I was excited to think about doing it – very excited in fact. But, I had huge doubts – would I be happy in such a small space? What would I do with all my stuff? Would I come to regret this impulsive-sounding, non-normal choice?
The typical live-aboard wannabe that we see coming in our door is a younger couple or a young single male. Let’s define “young” here, a relative term as most of us know. In this case, I’m saying “young” means under 40. These are people who have built enough of a career, in most cases, to have the financial means to elect to enjoy a period of living on the water, not worrying about whether it may or may not be the best financial planning decision of their lives. But, in most cases, they are pretty darn committed to the idea and very excited about it.
But a new group of live-aboard wannabes is now appearing. Most, but not all, are still under 40. But the new twist is that this group has figured out that renting an apartment or other land-based living situation has gotten quite expensive. They either don’t have the financial means to purchase a house or don’t want to commit such a big chunk of their estate to owning a home. It’s as if a realization has hit them – “Heh, we could live on a boat, have a helluva lot of fun, and it would cost less than our current expenses on a monthly basis.” And, they’re right. Paying a monthly mortgage on a used boat, plus moorage, insurance, and boat maintenance is often less money than what it now costs to rent an apartment (and pay your monthly utilities bill.)
Marinas have been feeling the pressure. Additional monthly fees to live aboard have been regularly increasing. Pressure to stay within the guideline of no more than 10% of a marina’s slips being “live-aboard” are also quite evident. A wait list for “live-aboard” status is a growing list.
In our case, an amazing example of this trend is a couple in Everett who have now bought four boats from us – a 38′ trawler for this late-50’s couple to live on themselves, another trawler for their daughter and her friend to live aboard, and two sailboats for the two sons. I call it “the family plan” group. They have had some boat experience, but not a lot. And while the economic argument was an initial motivator, life on the water has become something the whole family is now enjoying greatly, in other words, no regrets. And they haven’t even had the chance to do a family summer rendezvous at a local anchorage yet!
Our world is changing all around us. As real estate prices go through the roof, more people are figuring out that living on the water can be not only exciting, but economical. It isn’t the way I had thought we would encourage more people to get into boating, but what the heck!