Five years ago, we conducted a survey that asked captains and crew how they defined “home”. We were curious if it was the yacht, or some land-based spot they returned to.
Turned out then that most of the people who took our survey lived in houses in Florida that they owned.
With the economy and real estate market in such upheaval these past few years, we thought we’d revisit this topic to see where yacht captains live and if they still own homes.
Turns out, they do.
How do you define your primary residence?
Nearly 80 percent of our respondents said they consider their primary residence the home or condo they own.
“Having a home where your furniture and belongings are is comforting,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “Once in awhile, you will be without a job, and having a home is a huge help mentally once you lose your yacht ‘home’.”
The bulk of the rest considered “home” a place that they rent (11 percent) or the yacht they work on (9 percent).
Though once common, a few captains still live in places provided by the yacht owner, including an apartment over the garage and a villa.
Next we wanted to learn Where are these home bases located?
Considering that the bulk of the captains who take our surveys tend to frequent Ft. Lauderdale, we weren’t surprised to learn that nearly half make their home there. An additional 20 percent are in another part of Florida, and 20 percent more are someplace else in the United States. That leaves just 13 percent scattered around the world. Half of those were in Europe, with 4 percent on the continent in general and 3 percent in Antibes specifically.
Beyond merely calling a place home, we asked Do you own property?, both to live in and as investments.
More than 80 percent own their home, with slightly more than half of those owning other properties as well.
“Long term, real estate is still probably the best investment,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years who owns a home in Ft. Lauderdale. “Plus, you can always have a place to keep your stuff and a place to go to.”
About 8 percent do not own property, and just 4 percent own property that isn’t their home.
Among those who do not own property, 80 percent said they plan to but haven’t gotten around to it yet. The remainder said they have owned property in the past and that they are investing their money differently now. Not one captain selected the other options for this question, that real estate was a poor investment with too little return or that it was too difficult to manage while working in yachting.
We next wondered if yacht captains were like regular people and owned their homes because it’s sort of what you do, or if they were making deliberate investments so we asked Why do you own property?
Three quarters of our property owners said they were making purposeful and deliberate purchases as investments.
“Built a home back when I was at the beginning of my career, when I did not know how long I would last,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “My second home (a condo in Ft. Lauderdale) I use as a closet. I’m still going after more than 30 years.”
“Absolutely a good investment,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet who owns a home in Florida. “My advice is to purchase it while you are young and live on boats 99 percent of time. You can afford it then. This will help you later on in your career when maybe you will settle down with a partner. You will have collateral for the future.”
Not all investments are without emotion, however.
“I wanted to establish roots,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years who owns a home in West Palm Beach.
“Primarily, I wanted a home to pay down and live in rent-free in old age,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years who owns a place in California.
Just 10 percent said it was time, that they got tired of paying rent.
And 6 percent admitted they needed something to do with their money.
Living a yachting lifestyle often means being away from a land-based home for months, even years at a time, so we asked How do you take care of your property when you are away?
The ways captains choose to maintain their homes and investments were pretty evenly split.
About 30 percent rely on their partner or spouse to do it.
“It is a great investment as long as you have someone you trust to oversee and weed out the bad tenants and do repairs,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years and now running a yacht 100-120 feet.
“You need a spouse or partner to handle it while you are gone, or else it ends up too expensive to manage and too stressful,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
But that spouse isn’t always left behind, however.
“My spouse takes care of all of our rentals and is traveling with me,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years who owns several properties, but considers the yacht home. “We make sure we have great tenants, which helps.”
Almost as many — about 27 percent — hire a manager.
“You have to hire everything: managers, agents, bookkeepers, accountants, gardeners, pool people, etc.,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years who owns several pieces of residential real estate.
About 20 percent rely on friends or tenants to maintain their investment.
“I handle it with help from partner, friends and family,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “I am away nine months a year and vacationing away for another month.”
Another 20 percent take care of it themselves.
“It’s a closed community,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “The outside is taken care of so I just close up the inside for the season.”
With so many yachties in the real estate market and with the changes to that market recently, we asked Have you ever lost money on property?
The largest group — 44 percent of our respondents — said they haven’t lost money on their real estate investments, at least not yet. They noted that while the value may be down from its peak before the financial meltdown, they are still ahead of when they bought.
About 30 percent have lost money.
“I think I am the only person that lost money in Southern California in the 1980s,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
The remaining 25 percent have made money.
“I’ve done far better than any mutual fund or stock market investments I see friends in,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years who owns several pieces of residential and commercial real estate.
“It is a good investment,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “Slow like the turtle wins the race.”
Among those captains who have investment real estate property, not just their homes, we were curious to learn if it was scattered around the world, perhaps as second homes or as a way of balancing the changing values of currencies. So we asked Is your investment property in the same area where you live?
It usually is. Sixty percent of our property owners who invest in properties in addition to their homes own in the same general area as their home.
Twenty percent own within 2,500 miles.
Just 20 percent own in a different part of the world.
And we also wanted to know if captains made these investments solo, so we asked Do you have unrelated partners in your real estate investment?
Almost all invest by themselves or with a family member, leaving less than 5 percent who have investment partners.
We were curious if commercial property held as much allure as residential, so we asked Do you currently invest in residential or commercial property?
The majority — 63 percent — invest in residential real estate alone, with most of the rest investing in both residential and commercial.
Just 3 percent invest in commercial real estate only.
So although the yachting lifestyle makes it challenging to maintain real estate, the availability of cash makes this industry a perfect one for investing in it.
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at email@example.com. We conduct our monthly surveys online. All captains and crew members are welcome to participate. If you haven’t been invited to take our surveys and would like to be, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to be added.