Business aviation is a dynamic industry that continues to grow worldwide. With a pronounced interest in private jet travel, the industry is adapting to the recent upsurge in demand.
Interested buyers are coming out of the woodwork – encouraged by expanding business and lower corporate tax rates. This booming demand has resulted in a sense of urgency from business jet buyers, not seen in over ten years. Preowned aircraft up for sale are no longer lingering for months.
A transition in the business jet market to a seller’s market occurred around the end of 2017, leaving the business aviation sector with a very light amount of inventory. The inventory of preowned business jets for 2018, including light, midsize, super midsize and heavy, is approximately down to 1,800 aircraft, the lowest that it has been since 2008. Preowned aircraft make up nine percent of the total business jet fleet. Navigating this narrow inventory can be daunting for aircraft buyers. Purchasing an aircraft is a major investment that requires a lot of thought, consideration and expert advice from a team of industry experts, particularly in a seller’s market.
With limited inventory, potential aircraft owners need to understand the dynamic aircraft market trends. Jet Linx San Antonio Base Partner Jason Leavelle encourages interested private jet buyers to educate themselves and be prepared. “In order to get a good deal, you have to know what a good deal is,” advised Leavelle. “If a buyer understands where the current market stands and where it’s heading, when an aircraft becomes available, you’ll know if it is a good deal or not.”
In order to receive proper education and preparedness in making an aircraft purchase, buyers need to assemble a reputable team with knowledge in the aviation industry. “I would highly recommend that an aircraft buyer establishes a buying team to avoid the pitfalls of making a bad buying decision,” suggested Jet Linx Vice President of Sales Ray Bennett. “Your team should include a tax attorney, a reputable aircraft broker and a trusted aircraft management company, like Jet Linx.”
Purchasing a business jet can be a complicated and cumbersome process. With a stacked team by their side, potential buyers can feel more confident about their decisions. An accountant can provide tax and financial advice and a credible lawyer can assess legal contracts, including the critical purchasing agreement. One common mistake that aircraft buyers make when searching for an aircraft is not fully understanding their individual needs and requirements. A reputable broker can help provide tools to determine what those needs are, including budget, travel needs and whether to buy new or used. Even a qualified mechanic can perform inspections on the preowned aircraft. One of the most important members on this team of experts is who to entrust with managing and maintaining the newly purchased aircraft. Jet Linx’s Aircraft Management is a turnkey solution that business jet owners trust – providing pilots, hangar, fuel, maintenance, insurance and even guaranteed charter-revenue to help offset cost of ownership.
In addition to a narrowing inventory, the current market trends have also slowed aircraft depreciation substantially. In some cases, well-maintained, preowned jets have actually appreciated in value, simply due to pedigree, supply and demand. Hours flown, overall condition of the plane and pedigree are all factors that can affect the sale price. Pedigree reflects the owner’s commitment to how well the aircraft was managed and maintained. Providing records, preventative maintenance, proactively caring for the paint and interior of the plane, and entrusting a reliable aircraft management provider like Jet Linx, are all ways to create a good-standing pedigree. While seemingly more expensive along the way, these actions can end up saving aircraft owners money by preventing bigger issues to occur in the future and can positively affect the residual value of their plane.
“THE MARKET HAS CLEARLY SHIFTED TO THE FAVOR OF THE SELLER.”Jayson Hatt
Once a buyer and their team find the right plane at the right price, they need to be ready to make an offer. “If a buyer finds the right airplane with good pedigree and good value, they need to be prepared to move quickly and not hesitate,” said Jayson Hatt, Vice President of Sales with Hatt & Associates, an independent global aviation sales company. “We have seen first-time buyers reluctant to move quickly because they are new to the industry. With a NARA [National Aircraft Resale Association] certified broker by their side, buyers can trust that they are finding the right aircraft for them, especially in the current market conditions.” President and CEO of OgaraJets Johnny Foster shared the same sentiment, adding, “Focus on value, not price – cheap is cheap. Quality aircraft supply is in high demand. The very best aircraft and the very best values will often trade before they come to market.”
Settling for less expensive aircraft can sometimes lead to lower quality and more costs and frustrations for the owner. Foster warns buyers of aircraft that is for sale, but off the market. “Be very aware of the pitfalls of ‘off market’ aircraft. While this type of representation may seem like an opportunity for no one else knowing about the aircraft, it is often a recipe for lack of control and lack of transparency,” cautioned Foster. “Do not be fooled into believing you are being offered a special opportunity the market does not know about – this simply does not exist.”
As the current market stands, there is great value in preowned business jets of all sizes, from light to large cabin aircraft. “The best value in the preowned aircraft market depends on the buyer’s mission and budget,” divulged Hatt. Although an aircraft may be of great value, it may not always fit the buyer’s particular mission or budget. Foster gave insight on two particular aircraft in today’s marketplace that hold great value, the Gulfstream G200 and the Hawker 850/900XP. “The Gulfstream G200 has a very quiet and comfortable cabin, affording two distinct configuration options, significant baggage capacity and world-renowned Gulfstream support. Ample supply has kept prices very reasonable, especially compared to other similar make/models. A good level of supply of the Hawker 850/900XP has also kept purchase prices very reasonable on this versatile aircraft. It provides the most comfortable cabin in its class, late vintage production (2008- 2012) and exceptional range/ mission flexibility. For the money, the Hawker is a hard value to argue with, especially compared to the balance of the midsize segment.”
What does the future hold for the preowned business jet marketplace? Hatt projects the market will continue at this pace through 2019. However, with any presidential election year, there will be uncertainty about future shifts in policy and in the marketplace – leading to a possible slowdown in aircraft transactions. “We believe the market will maintain this pace through year-end, however, the dilution of quality (primarily domestic) supply will slow transaction volume,” said Foster. “The market has clearly shifted to the favor of the seller. That is not to say there are not great value opportunities. Despite the activity and firming prices, in general, today’s prices still represent extraordinary value in comparison to pricing just two years ago.”