PALMETTO -- It's been said that the best two days in a boater's life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. This won't be entirely true for Casey and Karen Lauro if they sell their boat this weekend.
The couple have a 50-foot, 1985 Huckins power yacht for sale at this weekend's Regatta Pointe yacht open house and, like the owners of about 50 new and used boats on display, they do hope to sell. They just hadn't expected to do it so soon: They bought the boat in January with plans to sail it extensively, but a sudden degeneration of Karen Lauro's eyesight has made it impractical to keep.
Having put over $100,000 into remodeling the yacht, the Lauros and their broker, Ed Massey, say the buyer will get a great deal if they purchase at the list price of $200,000. New floors, custom under-stair storage and kitchen upgrades are just a few of the extras that will come with the spacious vessel.
"I have everything on this boat," Karen Lauro said.
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Massey's company, Massey Yacht Sales & Service, is one of four Regatta Pointe yacht brokers opening boats to the buying public today and tomorrow. Every year, Massey, Whiteaker Yacht Sales, American Marine and Shippey Marine hold three open houses and two nautical expos to spur sales and build interest in boating. This mid-summer event will feature a mix of new and used sailboats, power yachts and fishing craft priced between $50,000 and $500,000.
Those attending the event will be able to tour every inch of the yachts so they can get a feel for what it could be like to live the life of a weekend mariner.
Ed Massey, who has run his brokerage out of Regatta Pointe since 1977, said he can see the brokerages selling four or five boats this weekend to an expected crowd of more than 100. Since bottoming out in 2009, the yacht sales industry has rebounded to the point where buyers are once again able to get the financing they need to buy their first boat, or move up to something bigger and newer. It's taken time for the buyers to be willing to spend big again.
About 35 percent of Massey's customers finance their boat purchases, up from 10 percent a few years ago. The remainder pay cash.
What all those buyers have in common is that they want to feel the freedom of getting out on the water and have a good time.
"Nobody needs a boat, obviously," Massey said. "This is a lifestyle investment."
That investment is one more people seem to be willing to make. In 2013, 161,200 new and used power boats sold in the U.S., 2.4 percent more than the previous year and the highest total since 2008, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Just over 5,600 new sail boats sold, totaling about 3 percent of the new boat market. About 550,000 boats are currently on the market worldwide, the bulk of them in the U.S.
Massey, whose company concentrates on sail yachts, said his 102 sales last year were about 25 percent less than pre-recession annual sales, but up from a low of 90 in 2009. Massey yacht sales prices are also up, averaging about $300,000 per new boat sold and $150,000 for pre-owned, a jump of more than 50 percent in the past five years.
What are boat buyers getting for the money? Once a boat shopper decides between sail yacht, power yacht, catamaran and fiberglass hull versus steel or aluminum, features including complete kitchens, GPS navigation and auto pilot tend to be standard on newer models. Even a 40-foot sailboat can include two sleeping suites and separate heads.
For the traditionalist who eschews such things as electric winches and mainsails that automatically wind inside hollow masts, the open house is offering a pre-owned New Zealand-made, steel-hulled schooner that requires sailors to know how to use a block-and-tackle to get the canvas into the wind.
Brokers participating in the open house expect to see potential buyers who are serious about boating. They should be, since the cost of boat ownership extends well beyond the purchase price. Massey said boat buyers should expect to spend anywhere between a few hundred and $1,000 a month to rent slip space in a marina and insure and maintain a yacht.
The open house will run between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. today and on Sunday.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.