Can a Top Yacht Broker be Virtual?

Fort Lauderdale-based Kent Chamberlain ditched his office — and big clients followed.

Van Mill Starship

The 143-foot Van Mill Starship is listed for sale with broker Kent Chamberlain at an asking price of $6.5 million.Courtesy Kent Chamberlain

Kent Chamberlain, the owner of Chamberlain Yachts International, had a primo brick-and-mortar office in Fort Lauderdale for more than a decade. It was next to the Bimini Boatyard restaurant — arguably the epicenter of America’s yachting industry — and for quite a few years, it was worth keeping.

“But in the past three years, there has been virtually no walk-in traffic that converted to a sale,” Chamberlain says. “I was reviewing expenses and marketing dollars, and I decided that having that office wasn’t the best way to spend money. I moved the dollars from the office rent to the Internet, to working with a daily SEO expert. I’m very happy with the choice. The world has definitely changed. We don’t sell new retail product. We sell brokerage product, and that market has gone very virtual.”

Within 30 days of eliminating his office presence, Chamberlain says, he sold two solid-size motoryachts, a 145-foot Cheoy Lee and a 115-foot Northcoast. He’s also working with a Middle Eastern client on the largest transaction he has ever handled, and he says the client could not care less about the lack of a physical office in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Chamberlain has been talking to other seasoned yacht brokers about how his shift has worked, and more than a few, he says, are interested in following his digital path. Chamberlain is the founder of Superyacht Network, an invitation-only group of leading yacht brokers who get together several times a year to discuss business and other common interests. He says he’s talking with some of those brokers about forming a “virtual network” of sorts, one in which the brokers all work remotely, without large management companies, and end up keeping more of their commissions.

“Instead of them collecting 50 percent or 70 percent of their commissions and giving the rest to the house, they’d collect 90 percent of their commissions, because I’d be the house taking only 10 percent,” he says. “This is a method for the broker who works hard and spends years closing a single deal to preserve more of his fee, to keep more of what he’s earned.”

Chamberlain is currently trying to set the example yet again with the sale of the 143-foot Van Mill Starship, which he currently has listed for sale at $6.5 million.

“I sold her to the current owner about 10 years ago, and he did a refit of more than $14 million,” Chamberlain says. “It’s a 1988 boat that looks like a 2006, and he’s added even more since that refit was done. Plus, she’s a successful charter boat. That owner is absolutely still with me. And I’m also signing a 120-foot-range boat and a 105-foot-range boat in the next 30 days, probably. They don’t care that I have no office. They know what matters, and that’s not it.”

Learn more at chamberlainyachts.com.