The Marina Fetch Adjustment

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Of the many marina appraisals I’ve reviewed, I must admit I have only seen fetch mentioned once or twice.  Courtesy of the International Marina Institute’s Marina Dictionary, page 20, fetch is:

The length of open water surface, usually expressed in miles or kilometers, across which winds may blow before contacting land at the point of observation.

The area in which seas are generated by a wind having a rather constant direction and speed.

So I started to give this some thought.  For powerboats marinas, it’s no big deal.  For marinas that have a significant number of sailboats or all sailboat marinas, it’s important to boaters.  Just like a sailboat has to catch the wind correctly to go to a certain point, the same observation holds when trying to dock a sailboat with rough seas and/or high winds.

Some marina owners have mentioned fetch to me.  It’s usually something like “the wind blows steadily from the east”.  All marina owners know about fetch but is it worth of an adjustment in the sales comparison approach?  Is there a difference in occupancy or slip rental rates?

When Little Things Become Big Things

About a month ago I unintentionally realized that there are times when I have to consider fetch.  I was having a conversation with a marina manager who was gentleman enough to talk about the business.  I asked him about the water depth at the marina, which he kindly replied.  After telling me the average depth, lows and highs, he said that the fetch blows strongly from the east and during low tide it’s not uncommon to find water levels well below the height of the dock.  Sometimes the marina almost bottoms out.

As you can tell, this marina was not located directly on the ocean or a lake.  It was located in a natural cove.  Still, the idea that a marina could bottom out from a strong fetch pushing the water out of a cove got me thinking about this topic.

Dealing With Fetch in the Sales Comparison Approach

I have one example of a sales comparison adjustment for fetch and no, it’s not mine.  ‘Sure looks like the author knows about it.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe a stand-alone adjustment is proper procedure.  Here’s why:

  • Many marinas along the same body of water are affected in exactly the same way (i.e. in my example the competitive marinas also had the same easterly fetch).
  • Would a buyer even recognize that fetch and low tides could drop water levels at a marina?  How different is this from another marina they would consider buying?  Would they care?  Would it affect their offering price?  I really don’t think so.
  • This item of adjustment just seems too overblown to qualify as its own adjustment.

It’s a lot like a location adjustment for a marina.  The term “location” could mean demographics, proximity to a major city, location on a body of water, distance to the ocean, travel time to the ocean, distance from “town”, distance from a low height bridge that limits boat sizes via mast height, etc.  If you use the same logic of having a fetch adjustment in the sales comparison approach then any of these items deserve their own adjustment.  As you can see, we’re double-dipping, triple-dipping, etc.  Clearly it’s better to discuss all these items and use them as support for a single “location” adjustment.

Fetch in the Income Approach

Now we really enter the realm of the nebulous.  This is a job for my crystal ball.  If the analyst used fetch in the sales comparison approach, shouldn’t it be important enough to be considered in the income approach?  Well, I have to admit I have yet to find slip rental rates affected by fetch.  Pricing is based on slip availability, dockside services, upland services and other individual boater-specific factors.  Fetch just isn’t one of them because it applies to all the slips at a marina, not just any one individually (similarly, it applies to many other marinas you would use for competitive slip rental rates).  Even if it were, I doubt it could be unbundled from this short list of slip rental related factors.  Perhaps this provides yet more support that fetch shouldn’t be an adjustment factor in the sales comparison approach because it’s not a factor in the income approach.

So there you have it.  Right from the source, for what that’s worth.  If it’s significant enough for consideration, roll it into your location adjustment along with the other factors that affect marina location.  Maybe even do a qualitative grid where you show the components of the location adjustment using pluses and minuses.  That way you can show the reader not only that you considered it but how important it was in relation to the other factors that constitute a marina location adjustment.  Don’t forget to give me intellectual property rights on that idea!

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