"Builders need to be careful or risk sitting on unsellable boats": Mark Elliott and Carrie Freeman on brokerage in 2022

There are few duos that have such a story of success as Mark Elliott and Carrie Freeman, yacht and charter brokers with IYC. Having started out in the industry as Mark’s assistant, Carrie Freeman has taken leaps and bounds in her career over the last 10 years, while Mark has built a reputation of excellence in yacht brokerage over the last two decades. 

2021 was a bumper year for them both, with Mark closing the deals of no less than six superyachts in December, while Carrie sold more than 115 charters. In Q4 of 2021 the pair were awarded the Top Charter Broker and Top Sales Broker awards at IYC respectively, recognising their collaborative success. I sat down over Zoom in Amsterdam, with Carrie and Mark dialling in from opposite sides of the States, to find out a little more about their recipe for success and the power of this formidable pairing. Highlander yacht cruisingSo let's start off with a quick recap of your careers in yachting, how did you get here?

Carrie: I actually started off onboard yachts, I was a stewardess for 10 years on charter and private boats and then seven years ago I joined IYC as Mark’s sales and charter assistant. My role was assisting him with his workload with yacht sales and managing clients charters. With his support I was promoted to charter broker. Mark and I work together managing the all of our clients sales and charter needs.Carrie Freeman charter broker IYCMark: Well, I grew up in Miami and got involved in yachting at a very early age, becoming a captain when I was still very young. I was a corporate charter captain for 20 years and combined that with a love of flying, which saw me flying helicopters off the back of superyachts. 22 years ago I retired from life on the water and joined IYC and I have been with them ever since. Mark Elliot yacht broker IYCWith six sales in one month and more piling onto your order books, how do you two manage so many clients?

Mark: Well, first, when you're juggling so many closings, you don't get a lot of sleep and you need a good support team, as in the amazing Carrie Freeman, and also we have an assistant named Aly Merrill. Between the three of us we stay on the phone and stay busy. It also wasn't just six closings in December. It was multiple charters and contracts that Carrie was doing as well. So it was a crazy, crazy time. I don't think I slept well since the beginning of September because while even those deals closed in December, the work had been running for months before that! 

Is the volume of sales and charters that you are currently experiencing usual for your 22 years?

Mark: I would say there hasn’t been a market like this since 2008 when the last market correction happened. It is really a seller’s market and it has been for the last two years, but I don’t expect it to last, the market always swings, as is its nature. For us this activity has been highly unusual.

Carrie: We are absolutely seeing that echoed in the charter market, particularly with first time charterers entering the market for the first time. We are also  thankful to have a good amount of referrals coming in.Rhino yacht anchored with toysPhoto: IYC YachtsWhen you have those first time charterers, how do you approach that client, someone who may be unknown to yachting, in a unique way?

Carrie: Yeah, starting off with talking about the experience that they're going to have and finding out what they're looking to get out of their charter is so important. This helps to set the charter up for success, and it also helps us match the clients with the right charter yacht that’s going to meet those expectations. So if it’s kids, you’re looking for a boat that has all the water toys under the sun and an incredible crew that are really kid focused. It is really about tailoring the experience so that they keep coming back.  We're having great success with clients wanting to charter again and incorporating different parts of the world. 

So do you foresee challenges this year with matching the right available yacht, both for sale and charter, to those clients?

Carrie: Oh absolutely, with Covid there were so many rescheduled charters from the previous years, filling the booking calendars early. Most of the best boats in the Mediterranean are sold out for 2022 already, there are owner’s already booking for 2023. Greece is booking particularly quickly because it is so popular. We are currently jumpstarting the process with all of our clients because otherwise we will be late to the party! 

Mark: In sales it is literally a case of hunting. We have a list of yacht types that various clients are looking for and it's really a case of being on the ground and finding those boats. Inventory is low and clients are paying a premium – a true seller’s market! You have to find out what motivates people to sell and also to buy. Covid has kind of been a silver lining for yachting because people have realised it's a safe bubble onboard a yacht. Consequently, it has evaporated the market for quality yachts for sale. I make routine visits to marinas and shipyards, talking to captains and owners and discussing if their yachts could be negotiated for sale. Moni yacht cruisingPhoto: IYC YachtsBut despite this much competition, you’ve both done fantastically, what do you think the secrets to success in the superyacht industry are?

Mark: Carrie and I have a background in yachting that means we know the nuts and bolts behind the boats. We know what we are talking about and I think when you truly know a product, you have a huge advantage. We also follow the yachts, we are always on location and nearly never at the office and that is vital, it is really important to keep your name in the game. It is also important because we manage crew and knowing the captains helps us stay on top of that process as well. 

In terms of charter location, there has been a lot of talk about people travelling further afield, have you seen this reflected?

Carrie: It is definitely a trend we’ve seen, people are chasing something unique, looking to get further from the norm and though the usual spots are still popular, we have a growing interest in the Arctic and Baltic areas. The nice thing is that we have a brilliant network to call on whenever a client is looking to charter somewhere new to us, and we will always ensure there is a strong support around the yacht when they go somewhere new. Limitless yacht saloonFinally, what are your predictions for 2022 and 2023?

Mark: As long as the stock market is strong we are going to see this bull market. Manufacturers supply to demand and right now there is massive demand, and it's going to take a while for them to meet it. However, that is usually around the time that the market changes, so builders will need to be careful not to create too much stock or they risk sitting on partly built or unsellable boats.

Carrie: We have had such an increased interest in charters, I don't see any slowing down at all. In fact, I will say several of our charter clients have turned into owners and are looking at getting on the ownership side of our industry, which is natural when they are chartering multiple weeks per year. It's also impacted the supply of yachts on the charter market side with really popular charter boats selling and going private. 

Mark: I don't see the charter market demand ever diminishing. I see it increasing, whereas in sales that buyer's and seller's market will have a swing. 

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