AINsight: You Can't Pay This for That

 - March 1, 2019, 11:09 AM

I liken the process of how some preowned business aircraft buyers decide what they want to pay for an aircraft to blindfolding the buyer, spinning them around, stopping their circular momentum, handing them a dart, and having them throw it against the wall. They then take the blindfold off and say to their broker, “Offer them that.” Very seldom does the dart hit the bullseye. Most often, the wild throw hits as low as the baseboard or a foot or so off the floor—way too low.

I appreciate people wanting to be an opportunistic buyer or seller and making sure in either capacity they do not leave anything on the table. More often than not, however, one typically misses the opportunity due to a complete lack of reality mixed into the equation.

Today, many of us in the aircraft brokering business take great pains to distill markets for our clients. We do this to prepare them to enter as either a buyer or a seller. We make endless calls, compare multiple data points and try to conclude where to find the bullseye of the market. No one wants to go into a market with blind luck.

In fact, much of a broker’s value proposition is defining the bullseye. Why would anyone want to just ignore this critical data? The only thing I can imagine is those who are willing to ignore the input either do not really want to buy, or they are so afraid of overpaying or underselling that they effectively are not really buyers or sellers.

This is not the market of yesteryear—it is now a more balanced and predictable space. We seldom get to enjoy balance. Often, given the dynamic nature of the market, we are watching a pendulum swinging wildly and rapidly from one side to the other.

In a rapidly changing environment, it is still prudent to listen to a trusted sales professional, because data still can be gathered, analyzed, and processed to understand how to respond. A broker who has been in the industry for several up and down cycles knows what to expect.

How long might this period of market balance last? Using the same blindfold and spinning technique, our collective industry sees growth and balance for the next two years. Might that also be just an opportunistic assessment? Maybe.

Wise minds would say that short of game-changing events like a geopolitical catastrophic event or continued global stock market volatility due to overarching economic shakeups, there should be no reason for the confidence that most people now see and feel to erode.

One really important pricing phenomenon that is not occurring during this current growth and balance period is that no one is paying premiums for aircraft. That alone will protect residual values should there be and game-changing global events.

In the run-up to 2009, as much as 20 percent premiums were paid to buy like-new or new aircraft ahead of what was as much as a three-year wait for a new aircraft from the factories. When the market came to a screeching halt in 2009, just the premium loss alone contributed to one of the biggest overnight residual loss factors for aircraft values. This current growth and balance period has been void of those premiums, thus adding smart protection for us all.

So, when approaching the market as a buyer or a seller, remember you probably can’t just pay this for that, and you cannot get that much for this. It’s complicated; and not a game of darts.