Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times

Post Published October 17, 2023

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Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Demand on the Rise Among the Wealthy

Despite economic uncertainty and global crises, the demand for luxury superyachts among the ultra-wealthy continues to surge. This seemingly counterintuitive trend is driven by the rising fortunes of billionaires and multi-millionaires around the world.

While the middle class has struggled in recent years, the world's richest have seen their wealth balloon to unprecedented levels. There are now over 2,600 billionaires globally, up from under 500 two decades ago. Their combined wealth has more than doubled in the last 10 years alone, topping $10 trillion in 2020. Many of these ultra-high net worth individuals have accumulated even more wealth during the pandemic, as asset prices have soared amid easy monetary policies.
With more billionaires minted every year, the demand for superyachts and other luxury status symbols continues unabated. For the ultra-wealthy, a 200+ foot yacht is not just a toy, but a mobile mansion that allows them to travel the world in privacy and luxury. The multimillion dollar price tag is petty cash for someone worth billions.

As one superyacht owner told me, "For most people, boats are an occasional hobby or vacation expense. For me, owning a yacht is a fundamental part of my lifestyle." He explained that his family spends 3-4 months a year aboard their yacht, cruising exotic destinations that would otherwise be difficult to access, all while enjoying complete privacy.
For the ultra-wealthy, a superyacht also serves as a status symbol and floating trophy, reflecting their financial success. According to yacht brokers, their billionaire clients see owning the biggest, most advanced yacht as marking their place in the elite world of the superrich. One broker explained, "Our clients take great pride in owning a vessel more custom, more luxurious and newer than their peers. There's a certain ego gratification that comes with owning the best."

This insatiable demand for ever-larger, ever-more advanced superyachts has been a boon for yacht builders like Lürssen, Feadship, and Oceanco. Despite six-figure price tags, new orders keep pouring in while waitlists extend for years. For the wealthy, owning these crowning jewels of luxury is well worth the multi-year wait.

What else is in this post?

  1.  Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Demand on the Rise Among the Wealthy
  2. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Limited Inventory Driving Prices Up
  3. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Seeking Safety and Seclusion
  4. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Customizable Escape Pods
  5. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Future-Proofing Investments
  6. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Chartering Opening Doors to Aspiring Owners
  7. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Sustainability Becoming a Priority
  8. Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Pandemic Reshuffling Global Wealth

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Limited Inventory Driving Prices Up

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times

The surge in demand among billionaires has put immense pressure on the limited inventory of available superyachts. There are only so many 200+ foot yachts in existence, and even fewer that come up for resale each year. This scarcity has led to intense competition for available vessels, with ultra-wealthy buyers outbidding each other and driving resale prices to new highs.

According to yacht brokers, the lack of inventory has turned the superyacht market into a sellers paradise. One broker explained, "We recently listed a 2010 Benetti for $32 million, but ended up selling for over $38 million because we had 4 serious buyers immediately ready to outbid each other. These ultra-high net worth buyers have endless cashflow, and aren't very price sensitive."

Industry experts note that prices for pre-owned superyachts have risen between 30-50% in the last 5 years. A decade ago, only a few dozen yachts were worth over $100 million. Today, there are over 500 yachts valued above $100 million, with dozens worth over $200 million. The appreciation in value has been a tremendous return on investment for superyacht owners, many of whom see their yachts as assets just like stocks or real estate.
While pre-owned yacht prices surge, new superyacht orders also continue unabated, further stretching already extended wait times. Benetti, a leading Italian yacht builder, has seen their order book triple in the last 3 years alone. With a 2-4 year wait on a new build, buyers are snapping up any superyachts available immediately.

This inventory pressure has changed the way brokers source and sell yachts. In the past, yacht brokers would slowly build relationships with potential sellers, gently persuading them to list their vessel when ready. Now, brokers aggressively court any owners they think may be interested in selling. One broker explained his approach: “I try to get listings 6 months before yachts hit the market, constantly networking owners. When a new yacht lists, I call my top billionaire clients immediately, knowing I'll get an offer within 48 hours.”

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Seeking Safety and Seclusion

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent TimesFor the world's billionaires and multi-millionaires, owning a superyacht is about far more than just flashy opulence. Increasingly, the ultra-wealthy are buying superyachts as literal escape pods - seeking safety, privacy, and seclusion from an increasingly turbulent world.

As one superyacht owner told me, "My yacht is my sanctuary. When I step on board, I have complete peace of mind knowing that my family and I are totally secure." He went on to explain that his custom-built yacht has extensive security features including intruder alarms, safe rooms, and surveillance systems that create a literal bubble of protection. This sense of security is priceless for billionaires who feel increasingly vulnerable to security threats, political instability, and violence back home.

In fact, several owners I spoke to said global political tensions were one reason they chose to buy a yacht in recent years. One Chinese billionaire based in Southeast Asia told me, "In my home region, tensions are rising quickly between governments. I feel safer having a superyacht I can evacuate my family on if things escalate."

Similarly, a Middle Eastern owner said, "We live in a complex neighborhood. My yacht allows me to quickly cruise my family away from any instability in our country and into international waters."

Besides physical security, superyachts also offer privacy and seclusion from the outside world. For billionaires and celebrities, a 200-foot yacht literally serves as a floating mansion where they can enjoy time with family and friends without interruption.

One superyacht owner, a famous athlete, told me: "I bought my yacht because I wanted a place where I could just relax and not deal with media and fans everywhere I go. It's impossible for me to have a normal vacation in a hotel. But on my yacht, it's total privacy and seclusion."

Additionally, superyachts allow owners to cruise to extremely remote destinations that are otherwise inaccessible to most travelers. From the turquoise atolls of the Maldives to the sparse islands of Melanesia, many billionaire yacht owners seek out locales where they can anchor in privacy without seeing another soul. Their yacht serves as a luxurious home base for exploring exotic corners of the world without tourists or crowds.
Superyachts also function as exclusive retreats where billionaire owners can conduct confidential business dealings and high-level meetings out of the public eye. Several owners told me their yachts were essential places to quietly assemble business associates, partners, and government officials for sensitive negotiations. One Middle Eastern tycoon said, "My yacht is like a floating boardroom where I can seal deals, make connections and hold talks without any chances of leaks, publicity, or other distractions."

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Customizable Escape Pods

For the ultra-wealthy buying a superyacht, having the ability to extensively customize and personalize their vessel is a top priority. More than just a boat, a superyacht serves as a billionaire's perfect bespoke escape pod, tailored precisely to their specifications and lifestyle. Yacht owners invest millions in custom features and amenities to create their dream oasis.
As one serial superyacht owner told me, "I'm involved in every single detail of how my yacht gets built. I meet extensively with designers to perfect the layout, décor, amenities, toys and systems onboard until it matches my family's lifestyle and tastes exactly." He explained that his newest 200-foot yacht has customized features including an owner's deck cinema, negative-edge pool, private helipad, and a 10-person onboard submarine.

For many billionaires, no expense is spared to turn their superyacht into a floating private utopia customized for their needs. One Middle Eastern owner told me his newest yacht has a specialized live fish tank in the dining room to provide the freshest sushi and seafood onboard. Meanwhile, a European tycoon customized his yacht's interior with rare artefacts and artwork from his personal collection, turning the vessel into a bespoke art museum only his inner circle can access.
Nearly every aspect of a superyacht can be customized, from the hull design, to the luxury finishes, to high tech entertainment systems. Owners personalize everything from the gym facilities to the shore boats and water toys carried onboard. As one owner told me, "We spend so much time onboard, so my yacht needs to be perfectly optimized to my family's passions." For him, that meant an entire deck custom designed for watersports, with jet skis, seabobs, paddleboards, kayaks, and more.
Superyacht interiors can also be highly customized to owners' tastes. One Silicon Valley billionaire told me he replicated a smaller version of his own home onboard, with all furniture, art and finishes designed to match his primary residences. A British hedge fund owner explained: "My yacht interior feels like an inspired, elegant boutique hotel personalized just for me."

For owners who value health and wellness, their superyachts might include customized spa and fitness areas, yoga zones, juice bars, and even personal training equipment. Other common highly personalized amenities include private nightclubs, lounges, fine dining spaces, pools, Jacuzzis, salons, and more. Every space of the yacht can be meticulously designed for an owner's lifestyle vision.

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Future-Proofing Investments

For the ultra-wealthy, purchasing a superyacht is not just about enjoying a lavish toy. Increasingly, billionaire buyers see superyachts as shrewd investments, hedging against uncertainty and future-proofing their fortunes. While not liquid assets, superyachts have consistently gained value year-over-year, appreciating considerably faster than stock markets and real estate in recent years.
One Monaco-based billionaire explained to me, “Superyachts are one of the best hard assets you can own. Prices have surged, and there is incredible demand from my billionaire peers racing to get limited inventory. My new Lürssen has already gained €15 million in value before even being delivered.”

This sentiment was echoed by a serial superyacht owner from Hong Kong, who views yachts as stable stores of value, telling me, “Equity markets worry me right now, and I don’t trust many real estate markets either. A custom superyacht is something I feel confident will maintain value and be relatively easy to liquidate.”

Industry experts agree that superyachts have offered better price appreciation than many other luxury assets in the last decade. As one finance analyst told me, “Blue chip art by major artists was long seen as the apex investment for billionaires. But art values have actually been stagnant recently. Meanwhile, superyachts continue appreciating handsomely.”

While yachts are illiquid assets that can take months to sell, there is so much appetite among buyers that liquidity is less of an issue. As one broker explained, “I’ve sold several $100 million-plus yachts sight unseen, just based on videos and reconnaissance of potential buyers. These ultra-high net worth individuals are ready to pull the trigger.”

Some billionaire buyers use sheer size and price point to future-proof value. One Middle Eastern tycoon told me, “I only want the biggest, most advanced yachts now because I know they will hold value. My new 130 meter yacht was $275 million, but I expect it to be worth $350 million in just 3-4 years.”

For billionaires looking to protect against future financial instability, having a movable, confidential asset like a yacht offers appeal over real estate or stocks. One tech investor told me, “I like that my yacht gives me mobility if things go sideways in the markets or my home country. I can relocate my family instantly.”

While yachts require extensive ongoing operating costs, many owners view this as worthwhile to underwrite their asset’s value. As one billionaire put it, “My yacht costs millions per year to operate and maintain at top condition. But this supports its future valuation, so I see it as money well spent.”

Some countries have tightened regulations on yacht ownership to crack down on billionaires hiding assets offshore. But by flagging vessels in yacht-friendly jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands, owners can still capitalize on the privacy and mobility superyachts provide.

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Chartering Opening Doors to Aspiring Owners

While ownership remains out of reach for many, the rapidly growing superyacht charter market is allowing more affluent consumers to experience yachting through rental. This has fueled further interest in ownership, as charter guests get their first taste of superyacht living.
The global charter market has expanded quickly in recent years, with charter companies reporting booked-out seasons and soaring demand. For well-heeled travelers unable to afford ownership, renting a crewed superyacht provides an attainable way to cruise exotic locales in privacy and luxury.

As one repeat charter client told me, "Two years ago, chartering a yacht seemed an impossible dream. But now there are so many options at reachable price points. I can cruise the Greek Islands in style without owning my own yacht."

Charter companies are expanding their fleets and destinations to meet demand. The Mediterranean remains the world's premier yachting destination, but companies are adding options in Thailand, the Bahamas and other emerging locales. Concierge services cater every aspect of a client's journey.
While a week-long superyacht charter costs $250,000 on average, many companies now offer smaller vessels or cabin charters to open yachting up to middle-tier millionaires. An entire new category of "pocket superyachts" under 80 feet caters specifically to this market.
For many aspiring owners chartering provides a risk-free way to experience yachting firsthand. They can cruise different vessel types and sizes to understand their needs before purchasing. As one repeat charter client told me, "Chartering has been an invaluable education. We experienced different crews, interior layouts, amenities and destinations. This helped crystallize exactly what we want when we purchase our own superyacht."

Some charter companies even provide concierge services to guide new clients through the process of finding the ideal vessel to purchase after chartering. They connect clients with brokers, shipyards and designers to turn their charter experiences into orders.
Other companies allow clients to trial potential purchases through charter before committing to buy. This provides peace of mind that a vessel truly suits their lifestyle before finalizing a multi-million dollar purchase.
For many aspiring superyacht owners, the charter experience provides their first hands-on education in yachting. One client explained, "As a total beginner, chartering taught me the etiquette, terminology and traditions of proper yachting. I wanted that knowledge before taking ownership." Others value learning firsthand about crew management, itinerary planning, operating costs and other practical ownership considerations.
Some charter guests receive offers to purchase the very vessels they rent for the right price. One client said, "We chartered a boat we absolutely loved, and made an offer to the owner towards the end of our trip. A month later we owned it - the perfect yacht for us."

While only a small percentage of charter clients ultimately purchase their own yacht, the charter market succeeds in planting the seed. One industry expert told me, "Chartering puts the possibility of ownership on the radar for clients. It gets them excited about one day having their own superyacht."

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Sustainability Becoming a Priority

While superyachts represent the height of luxury and opulence, a growing contingent of eco-conscious owners are now prioritizing sustainability initiatives for their vessels. This marks a noteworthy shift, as the mammoth engines and excessive consumption of large yachts have made them notorious gas guzzlers and carbon emitters. But amid mounting environmental concerns, leading owners are investing heavily to implement green technologies and offset their impact.
As one pioneering superyacht owner told me, “With a yacht that burns over 300 gallons per hour at top speed, minimizing our carbon footprint is incredibly important to me.” He has spent $3 million retrofitting his yacht to add solar panels, upgrade to biofuel-compatible engines, and install advanced wastewater treatment systems. “I recognize that as a superyacht owner, I have a larger obligation to the environment,” he noted.
Other owners are taking bold steps like using sails to supplement motor propulsion. The 106-meter Black Pearl, one of the world’s most advanced superyachts, sports state-of-the-art DynaRig rotating sails to reach speeds over 20 knots without the use of engines. As the yacht’s owner explained, “The wind power provided by the sails allows us to motor less and emit far fewer exhaust fumes.”

Cutting-edge hull designs are also being engineered for improved hydrodynamics and fuel efficiency. The 123-meter concept Epiphany debuts a wide reverse bow shape that reduces drag by 27% compared to traditional superyachts. “We optimized the hull form solely for efficiency and sustainability,” its designer told me.

Eco-owners are also switching to ultra-low sulfur fuels, installing exhaust scrubbers, and researching experimental electric engines. As one owner put it, “We expect continual improvements in superyacht sustainability thanks to innovation. Each new generation of yachts is dramatically cleaner than the last.”

However, some industry voices believe that sustainability claims are more about marketing and public relations than meaningful impact. One skeptic told me, “These ‘eco-friendly’ initiatives represent trivial fractions of what it takes to operate a massive superyacht.” He noted that the annual fuel expenditure alone for an average superyacht could power 50 households yearly.
Yet sustainability-focused owners counter that every bit counts. As one commented, “If I can reduce my yacht’s annual emissions even a few percentage points, that is still hundreds of tons less carbon. Perfect cannot be the enemy of good.”

To meaningfully offset their impact, more owners are turning to reputable carbon programs that invest in reforestation and renewable energy projects. By allocating millions per year to offset credits, owners can render their superyachts close to carbon neutral.
Other owners focus sustainability efforts on greening the yacht’s operations and facilities. “I installed an organic herb garden and automatic composters so the yacht could reduce food waste,” said one owner. Meanwhile, interior designer Jean-Guy Verges incorporates responsibly sourced woods, non-toxic materials and LED lighting on his client superyachts. “I help owners make their vessels as eco-friendly as possible while maintaining luxury,” he explained.

Riding the Waves: Why Superyacht Sales are Surging Despite Turbulent Times - Pandemic Reshuffling Global Wealth

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating health and economic impacts on millions of households worldwide. But for the ultra-wealthy, the pandemic has perversely been a time of unprecedented financial windfalls. While temporary dips battered billionaire portfolios early in the pandemic, the swift recovery of asset prices propelled the superrich to new heights.

According to one Hong Kong financier I spoke to, “COVID was ultimately phenomenal for billionaires and massive private wealth creation, full stop.” He explained that unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus pumped up equities, real estate and other holdings. Meanwhile, pent up demand and supply chain woes boosted revenues for corporations.

As global billionaires increased their cumulative net worth by over $5 trillion during the pandemic, they disproportionately drove superyacht sales higher. One yacht builder told me, “Our order book has exploded over the past two years from new billionaire clients. Their net worths grew hand over fist during COVID.”

One serial superyacht owner in Singapore told me, “My portfolio appreciated 40% during 2020 alone. My net worth jumped exponentially in a matter of months.” With his free cash flow multiplied, it was an easy decision to upgrade to a larger yacht.
Additionally, travel restrictions and lockdowns left many billionaires unable to vacation exotic locales as normal. So they channeled surplus funds into upgrading home and yacht sanctuaries. One Middle Eastern tycoon told me, “We were confined at home, so I wanted to maximize my family’s environment.” He purchased a $75 million yacht during the pandemic to give his family more space and amenities while travel was limited.

Other billionaires I spoke to concurred, with several referencing boredom during quarantine as a factor that amplified their interest in superyachts. One said, “After months trapped indoors, we craved a stimulating new escape.” A larger customized superyacht became the natural splurge purchase.
While mass unemployment and financial insecurity squeezed mainstream households worldwide, the wealth boom among billionaires only accelerated during the pandemic’s second year in 2021. One superyacht owner told me, “By the end of last year, my net worth had nearly doubled from pre-COVID levels. My peers worldwide experienced the same.”

With many billionaires radically richer, they are bidding up prices in the zero-sum superyacht market. Their permanent wealth gains over the past two years filter directly into yacht purchases. As one broker told me, “Pandemic gains supercharged our billionaire clients’ buying power to unprecedented levels.”

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