Participants at the recent National Marine Bankers Association conference expressed confidence that stability is working its way back into the boat loan sector.
About 100 people took part in the 31st annual event, which ran Nov. 7-9 in San Diego.
"The number of marine funding institutions, including major national banks, has settled in around a half-dozen, reflecting what's found in the broad financial market," association president Karen Trostle, of Sterling Acceptance Corp., said in a statement.
"Financial service firms, which act as agents for the funders, have seen some attrition in the past year, but still serve most active boating markets across the U.S.," she added. "We see some hopeful signs of new boat loan and refinance activity, especially resulting from the fall boat shows."
Trostle shared the results of a recent anecdotal "how's business" survey comparing this year's fall boat show season with last year's season. A roughly equal mix of 50 dealers and manufacturers and financial servicers/banks were contacted.
New boat sales:
- Northeast: up 25 percent
- Mid-Atlantic: up 30 percent
- Southern California: no change
- Northwest: up 10 percent
- Southeast: up 10 percent
- Refinances up 22 percent overall
- Used boat sales: up 35 percent
- Retail sales for boat show vendors: up 30 percent
The association's board approved actions during the event in response to market conditions:
- Continue to get the message out to consumers that funds are available.
- Conduct regional round table dialogues with dealers, manufacturers and lenders to encourage new sources of funding for boating.
- Form a new service company committee to address changing legislative and other needs of these firms.