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When refurbishing your business jet, how far should you go? How can you anticipate appealing to future buyers, and what should be the priorities with a sale in mind? Arc & Co’s Gary Crichlow shares the insights of Tobias Laps & Iain Houseman
Refurbishing or upgrading an aircraft is a very different investment proposition compared to refurbishing a property. While property generally appreciates in value over time, aircraft are fundamentally depreciating assets. Outside of very specific, often unpredictable market conditions, aircraft will lose value as they age. Any investment into a business aircraft therefore needs to be looked at from the point of view of slowing that value loss as much as possible and extracting maximum utility, rather than expecting a positive financial return. The most effective way to slow natural depreciation is to ensure the aircraft is desirable to the market so it sells quickly when the owner decides they want to upgrade or generate some cash. Mainstream, sought-after aircraft models in top maintenance condition that have undergone a high-quality cabin refit don’t tend to stay on the market for long (unless they’re unrealistically priced).
What Makes an Appealing Interior?
Naturally, when considering how to fit out the cabin of a private jet, it’s crucial to make choices that not only align with your current needs and desires, but also account for your future buyer’s mindset as much as possible. Decisions made now often have a sizeable impact on the future point of sale. The one similarity with selling property is that a well-executed interior should enable the buyer to visualize himself or herself in the cabin with little or no change rather than having to consider the cost of ripping it all out and starting again. Following are several themes that are important to consider when it comes to the perceived value that a well-executed cabin refit generates at the point of sale from a buyer’s perspective. Note: With our use of the term ‘value’, we encompass not only the actual return by way of an increased sale price (which tends to be the exception rather than the rule), but also the impact on the time it takes to sell the aircraft, thereby minimizing the detrimental effects of depreciation and time on the market.
Aircraft Condition Over Aircraft Style
Generally, aircraft in better condition tend to be easier to sell. A relatively new interior that’s in good condition can markedly increase an aircraft’s appeal, but its impact will be very much dependent on the basic aircraft ‘metal’, i.e. its age, hours and maintenance condition. Tobias Laps from Comlux Management AG notes that on Large Jets and Bizliners, the design of the interior, the layout and materials tend to have a much bigger impact on the buyer’s decision-making than on smaller aircraft. “In our experience, when buyers walk onto an aircraft, they typically know within the first few minutes whether the interior will work for them or not,” Laps explains. “If they don’t like the interior at all, they will often walk away from the deal. If there are only certain aspects of the interior that they don’t like, they will then have to decide whether changing those aspects would be worthwhile. “It is at this point that they weigh up their view of the basic aircraft, the metal versus the cost of changing the interior to better suit their needs. If the metal is relatively new, in good condition, and is worth significantly more to the buyer than the cost of the interior upgrade, then that’s what will tend to drive the decision,” Laps continues. It is therefore of key importance for a seller to understand the interplay between the technical and the cosmetic, which will depend heavily on the specific details of the aircraft.