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TOPIC: State of the market for used barges

State of the market for used barges 08 Jan 2018 06:10 #96177

Having spent over 30 Years in commercial real estate in the US, and the last 18 months intensively seeking a barge, I don’t see this as a simple question to answer.

First, the UK and mainland Europe markets are different markets. Given the “continuous cruiser” loophole in the UK, small, inexpensive barges there seem to be the burgeoning “off the grid” affordable housing option of the day. In the UK. Brexit means nothing if you plan to remain in UK waters.

On the continent, the distinction between part year and full time live aboard is one key, as is experience. Those with a commitment to full time cruising with experience are willing to cross the 20 meter boundary and accept all that comes with it. Those without go smaller. For those of us limit to part year cruising, the 20 meter level is a real hurdle.

I agree with the view that the market is influenced by the fact many boat buyers are at or nearing retirement, and poor health appears as a cause of sale in many ads. One boat I was considering a year ago as a backup buyer is already back on the market as the new buyer learned of serious health issues. One ignores this influence at one’s peril, in my opinion.

There is also a lack of transparency in the market. In real estate, one can readily find sales “comps”, and some digging allows for the same in the barge market. Despite this, or due to the lack ef effort seeking transparency (and comps) many boats appear to be listed at prices well above that at which better boats are selling. It seems the market would be better served with more public data on prices achieved at sale, but I’ll let someone else take up that task. As a rule, I,be been advised that most boats listed are 10% to 20% (or more)above actual selling prices, which I regard as a clear sign of a less than transparent market.

On exchange rates, yes, the GBP/EUR relationship has changed for the worse lately, but the USD/EUR and USD/GBP rates, while tightening some, are still at lows for the last decade. And then there is the AUS dollar to consider. One could argue that at least the GBP/EUR relationship seems closely tied, over time, and reverts to the norm from time to time. Less so with the other currencies.

On old adage in the real estate market states simply “Things don’t sell for one reason only — price”. Given all boats and boat sellers exist within an identifiable market and regulatory environment, they all have the same starting point. The reason one boat sells while another doesn’t is a matter of how the features and condition of a given boat are marketed and priced, relative to a comparable boat.

And don’t get me started on the number of ads showing boats with rust, a rats’s nest of wiring, cluttered engine rooms, or simply multiple (uninformative) shots of the boat while cruising, expecting the viewer will somehow conclude those images translate into a perception of a well cared for and maintained barge for which one should offer a high price...

Like any other asset offered for sale, one must do their homework, know their target buyer, present the asset in the best possible light, offered through credible, effective channels, priced at an appropriate level. If the Brits aren’t buying, figure out how to market to the Aussies , the Yanks (fleeing Trump), or others. just saying something bought years ago in a multi- currency, multi-national market should somehow sell for more today doesn’t make that true. With more retiree aged buyers out there than ever before, I have to believe the buyers are there. What I’ve had to wade through over the last year plus to get into an agreement to buy suggests it is far more an issue of pricing and presentation than anything more complex.

Jim Carswell
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State of the market for used barges 07 Jan 2018 13:15 #96169

Kevin Bond wrote: ... it only takes one buyer that likes what they see ... There will always be people wanting to live the dream.


I think this point validly made by Kevin early on, and in another way again by Jan, has been slightly overlooked. (Like Kevin, I am just putting my boat on the market, so maybe we are a little biased)? I bought my boat in 2008 (i.e. at the top of the market) for €175,000 and in those 10 years have spent an estimated €75,000 on improvements, repairs and upkeep, in addition to normal running costs (recognising the vagaries of what is an “improvement”, a “repair”, “upkeep” or “running costs”). I budgeted €10,000 p.a. overall from the outset, so am still more or less quids in. Nevertheless, the boat is going on sale for a “mere” 2/3 of that total. Why? Well, primarily of course, the market, for all the good reasons mentioned in previous posts. Will I be able to achieve this price - who knows? I’m lucky enough to have bought the boat out of what was at the time ‘disposable income’ (savings, pension lump-sums, etc.) and have a pension that, despite the lamentable Brexit vote and its subsequent handling by the UK government, is enough to get by on, so will just wait things out for a year or two and will continue to enjoy barging in the meantime! In my experience it’s that “Aha moment” that swings the deal at the end of the day, whether it be a business, a house, a car or a boat that one is buying. I checked out at least 100 boats through adverts etc. at the time I was buying and viewed at least 20, and then one day: “Aha!” Sheer heaven!

Pete Clark
Nooit Gedacht
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Pete Clark
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State of the market for used barges 07 Jan 2018 11:51 #96168

Pete

my point is...cruising is a great pleasure.....try doing a similar lifestyle for a car / motorhome based. most likely the cost after the years of cruising is lower on water than land... Yes we already anticipate a price equal or lower than we paid for even though we did thousands of upgrades. The cost is/will be worth the peace and tranquility. keeping a boat in Europe while the other times enjoying our home and boat in the USA is a joy. So what that you have to deal with some regulations, just enjoy the little hurdle as a challenge.
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State of the market for used barges 07 Jan 2018 10:13 #96167

  • Simon Jenkins
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Pete Milne wrote:
I disagree that "Legislation is a nightmare ... and I reckon that this is enough to put most folk off the idea!". It's really not that complicated until you hear 50 incomplete answers to three questions! There is quite a lot to understand though, varying with circumstances, which is why DBA continues to improve the Knowledgebase as an accurate reference.
[Anyone with suggestions for improvement, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The KB relies on members' feedback as well as the legislative research of senior members]



Pete


I say that the Legislation is a nightmare as on the face of it-it does initially appear to be a convoluted, but not insurmountable, not just the legislation but also things like finding moorings when you are based in the UK- Its easy buying a narrowboat in the UK, or for that matter a sailing boat, and its really easy to find a mooring for it, you google marinas or boat yards in your chosen area and Viola! You but a boat up to 70ft step on it and off you go, and that includes yachts up to 70ft.

Lets be honest, buying and keeping a boat on the European waterways you need a bit of tenacity.

A. finding a suitable boat in the first place, and the cost involved in looking at several ones in different countries (I know I have spent thousands on that already)
B. buying the boat, with the surveys, and certification, and or the registration
C. the language barrier
D. dealing with a notary with regards the sale
E. finding a mooring in your chosen area LOL unless of course you plan to go cruising from day one of stepping aboard your new ship.
F. making sure you have the correct qualifications to skipper said barge, and also are they right for your chosen country.

When I said legislation I should used a different word to which covers all of the obstacles.

We want the buying process to be much simpler so that anyone wanting to buy a barge and cruise in Europe aren't put off by any hurdles, that means that prices on boats will stay higher as there would be more potential buyers.

The DBA is without a shadow of a doubt a guiding light through most of these processes.

As I said just my opinion.
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State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 20:21 #96163

  • Peter Cawson
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One thing that you haven't mentioned is that inland waterways boats are likely to be the last boat people own. As you say, barges are generally bought late in life (often after decades of sailing) and sales are frequently initiated by ill health or just getting too old to cope with the physical activity involved. These sellers don't re-enter the market by buying a replacement boat. This makes the barge market always a buyers' market. Used boat prices are also influenced by the addition to the available pool by new or recent builds. Steel-built boats last for many decades. so extra boats are not replacements for ones being scrapped. This is another factor for the continuous buyers' market.

The only factors that will improve the situation for sellers (excluding Brexit uncertainty) would be an unexpected increase in the number of new people going barging, or a significant improvement in the value of buyers' own currency compared with the Euro, although even that just means that buyers will think they are getting better value. They will still be able to negotiate good deals unless supply is reduced - surely highly unlikely with so few boats being scrapped while new boats are still being built.

This is all good for buyers and OK for sellers who bought well and don't expect to get a price that bears any relationship to its perceived value in terms of facilities and condition or replacement value.

Peter

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State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 19:31 #96161

Most of what Simon says rings very true.

I disagree that "Legislation is a nightmare ... and I reckon that this is enough to put most folk off the idea!". It's really not that complicated until you hear 50 incomplete answers to three questions! There is quite a lot to understand though, varying with circumstances, which is why DBA continues to improve the Knowledgebase as an accurate reference.
[Anyone with suggestions for improvement, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The KB relies on members' feedback as well as the legislative research of senior members]

Barges are certainly bought or built by non-British Europeans but most will be members of their national organisations in NL and BE, with traditional boats, rather than members of DBA. The last, excellent DBA members Survey showed DBA members' origins as 7% Mainland, 77% UK, 16% RoW.

Pete

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Pete Milne, Quo Vadis, Europe

State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 18:41 #96159

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I have a brokerage company that sells boats on the UK canals and in the past 12 months the opposite has happened and the demand has risen, stocks have fallen to an all time low and prices have have been quite high compared to previous years. I have friends that are brokers for sea going craft, anything from sub 100k to well over several million, and they are reporting the same findings. with this in mind it makes me think that it is the continental market for barges that is suffering.

I have been following the continental barge market for the last few years and tried to buy one boat 2 years ago but it fell through, and I am now in the process of buying another one.
I think the issues are Brexit and the uncertainty over how Brits will be treated afterwards, the weaker pound doesn't help either.

The fact that barges in general are bought by people with a disposable income in most cases, I do not have a pension and I think that our generation (51) didn't make the same financial plans as a slightly older generation did so with that in mind I don't think that people have the financial freedom as an older generation that are already boating on the continent did (please don't take offence if you are the older generation on a barge)

As I said I am 51, have no dependants, I am finically secure, I love boating, and buying on the continent is the next step for me, how many people out there want the same, the numbers are dwindling.

We have seen over the years people having children later in life, this means people are getting much older before the kids leave home, again having an impact on when the parents can take more time out to enjoy them selves, and maybe sell the house to release enough money to spend on a barge. How many younger people do you see on there own barge cruising around?

Legislation is a nightmare as I have been finding out, and I reckon that this is enough to put most folk off the idea!

Getting a loan isn't that straight forward, so again financing them has to come from ones disposable income or selling assets.

New boats are much easier (size dependant of course) as they come with an RCD which is recgonised in Europe, can have all of the modern gadgets that the owners want and be designed to have what the owner wants, and a warranty etc, etc. with historic boats there is all of the uncertainty of an old boat (even with a survey)

Buying second hand boats is all about compromise and being prepared to either live with someone else ideas or make modifications to suit-thats not everybody's cuppa

Barges don't really seem to be bought by Europeans.

With these in mind and what other have said then the pool of potential buyers is getting smaller leading to longer that the boats are on the market which in tern leads to prices being dropped until a sale is achieved.

All my humble opinion of course.

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State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 17:52 #96157

  • Peter Cawson
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> Five years ago barge prices had dropped considerably from the high point around 2007 .

My first inland waterways boat (20m built in 2004) was for sale in late 2007 listed at €695 000. I didn't even look at it although it ticked all the boxes. As I had not cruised inland before, my boxes were pretty vague as long it worked well and could carry a car - which this boat did. The following year it was still for sale with a more realistic price of €495 000, but still far too much for me. A bit of serious negotiating with the owner (with the broker's knowledge) and we agreed a price of €380 000 - a real bargain as it happened as it was later sold for a good profit! So even in those days, it was a buyers' market.

I'm sure you're right in saying that it's far worse for sellers now and that uncertainty, mainly over eventual Brexit conditions, has much to do with it. Apart from the Dutch domestic market, I guess that more Brits than any other nation go cruising in Europe and the prospect of time limits for staying in the EU is a serious concern to many potential buyers. Prices will stay deflated until we know where we stand and how much more the £ may fall (or possibly rise) once we have left.

Largely with that in mind, I've sold two quarter shares in my current boat and I suspect this may be a possible alternative route both for sellers and buyers. It doesn't work if you want to live aboard, but for holidaying for 8 to 15 weeks a year, it is something both buyers and sellers should consider. Sellers should be aware that brokers don't like handling part-owned boats which is why my co-owners and I have agreed to sell the boat at a particular time unless we all agree to an extension. This will mean that 100% of the boat will be sold and the broker will be happy to handle it. For buyers, it seems to offer obvious advantages, particularly as it hugely reduces the initial outlay and annual running costs. With small syndicates (3 or 4 shares), cruising areas should be easily agreed and arguments avoided.

Peter

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State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 16:32 #96156

Hi Kevin
Interesting that you say the exchange rate is the same as when you bought five years ago. I presume you mean the GBP - Euro rate.
Five years ago barge prices had dropped considerably from the high point around 2007 . When a Euro was worth £0.68. in 2012 it was £0.79, today it's £0.89.
Or the reverse £1 brought 1.40 - 1.22 & 1.13 respectively (source Bank of England web site).
Therefore £100 000 in 2007 brought a Euro 140 000 barge. Now it'll buy a E 113 000 barge.

BREXIT - no one can say what the future holds for any of us, the only thing for sure is that things will change. Hence uncertainty on the part of individuals.

Pipers - Bluewater and other new builds, generally a different subject to the original question of the price of second hand barges, I only included new builds to show that a list of " must haves" is oftentimes not findable on other than a personally commissioned vessel, however, it also is a fact that the importance of"must haves" often in practice become very much less important.

I am not being negative, I extol the barge life, I am just being honest in my observations and opinions.
You are quite correct, a good barge will always sell, but it is a buyers market, so the final price may fall well short of the vendors expectations, I've seen it with friends boats on several occasions.
Good luck with selling your boat.
Paul Hayes
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State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 11:42 #96155

Betty, When you put the boat back on sale, place a free advert in the DBA website, where it can be seen by non-members as well as members.

Jonathan, tick the box in 'My Details' to to be notified about new adverts and you'll be told as soon as Betty (or anyone else) advertises.
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Pete Milne, Quo Vadis, Europe

State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 10:53 #96154

Hi Jonathan
I have taken her off the market briefly to carry out minor repairs (plumbing). She is small, 14.3 metres long and 3 metres wide, but she has a great engine and everything works on board. She is moored in Roanne in France. I have taken her across the channel and all through the waterways in France.
I will put her back on the market in the Spring and if you are interested in a small barge then, do get in touch.

Good luck!

Betty
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State of the market for used barges 06 Jan 2018 10:18 #96153

A few negative comments happening here.....the world hasn't changed that much and Brexit wont be that catastrophic. Stock market currently booming. Exchange rate is the same as when we bought 5 years ago.
People just fear the unknown and don't like change. Reality is it worked fine before UK entered the EU and it will work fine when it exits.
We have just put our barge on the market because there doesn't appear to be as many on the market. I think it only takes one buyer that likes what they see and there appears to be many new builds from Piper and Bluewater happening. I personally think the market is moving along fine. Good quality built barge will always sell. There will always be people wanting to live the dream.

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift & that's why they call it the present"
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Kendra Erin 20m Luxmotor Replica Dutch Barge

State of the market for used barges 05 Jan 2018 23:09 #96152

Jonathan,
Any DBA member's barge for sale should be in the DBA Adverts section so I hope you'll find Betty's there.
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Pete Milne, Quo Vadis, Europe

State of the market for used barges 05 Jan 2018 23:07 #96151

Hi John
All of the following is personal opinion / observations, which will be different possibly in each market place / country.
My tuppence worth (Mooring very close to the largest inland waterways brokerage in France -( arguably), and watching prices, UK and France over about twelve years) is as follows.
1) BREXIT - with it's possible implications for UK Citizens .
2) BREXIT - The effect of the GB Pound against the Euro after the referendum.
3) World economy not too buoyant - When things get tight, toys are not purchased.
4) European Terrorism - There is a perception (wrongly in my opinion) that there is a danger for non Europeans in coming to Europe. Look how cheap air fares from the USA are, passenger numbers coming to Europe are down.
5) About twelve years ago a famous British chief cruised the Canal du Midi, a TV series was filmed and shown world wide. Australians Americans and New Zealanders flooded to France over approximately six years after seeing the delights of canal life, a lot of of these have finished their adventure and placed their barges on a depressed market and have gone on to "do" something else.
6) The implication of legislative requirements for barges over 20 metres long added an extra cost, and another perceived hurdle for potential buyers to overcome. Also adding to the running costs as periodic renewing of certification is necessary.
7) Lots of people have preconceived ideas of what a "perfect" barge is, size, accommodation, gadgets etc. and when looking at secondhand boats, cannot find one that exactly matches these exacting criteria, which after a few months cruising turn out to be not so important after all, therefore they commission a new vessel to be built including all of their "needs".
8) The Internet - As with everything in life, we all go on the net and surf for whatever we are wanting to buy, barges are a typical example, people look at ten to twenty photos and dismiss a ship that in the real world is really a very nice buy, sometimes for a reason as simple as the colour it is painted!!!!
9) Supply and demand - There are simply not enough buyers after any particular vessel.
10) Engine Size - There is a false "urban myth" that even a barge as small as 15 metres long needs an engine in the region of 120 h.p. and longer ones much more powerful, simply not true, 38 metre commercials pushing 300 tonnes often have engines around the 160 to 200 h.p., and "pusher twins" i.e. two 38's in tandem in the region of 250 - 300 h.p.
Well that's my tuppence worth, bet I get slatted for some of the points raised.
Now is a good time to buy, there are some really nice boats available at good prices, both "Old hulls" and "New builds". I hope your search goes well, and you join the world of "Slow Floaters" soon. Remember your "Must have list" should be flexible, and you won't go too far wrong. A good hull, machinery and services are an absolute requirement, other things can be more flexible.
Hope this helps,
Paul Hayes
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State of the market for used barges 05 Jan 2018 21:49 #96149

Two obvious reasons to deter Brits from buying (and so depress the market in any country) are
- The large drop in exchange rate of GBP to EUR pushes up the cost (or pushes prices down).
- Brexit uncertainty. At worst, Brits could be on the same travel rules as our US/NZ/AU/SA friend, subject to 90-day-in-180 visas. There are ways round that but not simple.

I'm not sure if there is hard evidence of a depressed market. Sellers often feel that way because their price expectations are over-optimistic. When I bought a barge in Netherlands in 2009, the Dutch seller complained about having to drastically reduce the price over two years trying to sell. It often seems to take a couple of years to sell a boat, perhaps to get the advertising and the price right.

If I were thinking of buying now, Brexit with (at worst) restriction of movement would bother me most. With a boat I'm used to living on most of the year in Belgium I'm bothered!

Pete
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Pete Milne, Quo Vadis, Europe

State of the market for used barges 05 Jan 2018 21:04 #96148

Hi Betty,
I am visiting France next month to look at some Barges that are for sale.
Do you mind me asking what broker you are using for the sale of your boat?
Or can you send me a web link where it is listed .
Thank you
Jonathan

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State of the market for used barges 05 Jan 2018 20:53 #96147

Hi JOhn,

I think it is to do with Brexit and the general economic uncertainty. People don't know if they will be free to roam France indefinitely post BRexit even though the odds are there will be little change.
My little barge is in Roanne and is for sale and there are no bites.

Good luck!
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State of the market for used barges 05 Jan 2018 20:14 #96146

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I fear that my topic will prove as appealing to DBA members as a polka band at a funeral, a dyslexic judge at the spelling bee, or Donald Trump nearly anywhere. But I gotta ask. There appears to be widespread agreement on the forum that the market for used barges is in a depressed state. Why? Brexit appears to play a role (actual or anticipated). But what else is at work?

My particular concern is used barges for sale in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

I am considering a purchase (could be a great time), but want to know why the tide is falling before I jump in.

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