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A little backstory here – our family had our very own little Gilligan’s Island adventure this past Easter weekend, because of course all of these fun sagas happen on holiday weekends! What was supposed to be a “three hour tour” to the Poconos (about 90 miles from our house) turned into an epic journey home and quest to buy a new car.  We were just going for the afternoon to meet and visit our new puppy, Winifred, who will be joining us in a few weeks. Seems simple enough, right? Winifred was a hit with the whole family, so we loaded up in the minivan to come back home.

Two miles back on the turnpike, our car sang its final swan song and deposited us on the side of the road. Let me tell you, sitting on the side of the turnpike with two kids and cars whizzing past at 80 miles an hour is NO JOKE. We called the turnpike commission for a tow truck and hunkered down to wait.  PSA- AAA Plus is the only roadside assistance that can come onto private roads like the turnpike- who knew?

We loaded up in the tow truck and went to the Lehigh Valley Airport to rent a car, and our car went on its way to a dealership in Allentown (about 90 minutes from our house) to wait for news on Monday of the fate of the car.  Long story short (I know, it’s too late for that!) the Frain family has to/gets to buy a new car.

I like to think of myself as pretty savvy when it comes to negotiating large purchases.  After all, I do this every day for my clients, right? Let me tell you something, buying a car is COMPLETELY different than buying a house with the representation of a Realtor.  Buckle up, because here are my two main takeaways from this process thus far.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist a car-related pun!

#1 Having an Expert Confidant

The most frustrating part of this process is that we have no one to confide in who is an expert.  We feel the need to guard what we truly think, and avoid asking questions that might tip our hand and weaken our negotiating position.  The person who knows about the car is the one trying to close the deal for the most money, so we don’t want them to think we’re too interested, right? This makes for a very stressful process.

To contrast, buyers ask me all kinds of questions about the houses we see, from the cost to replace siding to what the local schools are like, to how the location will hold its value. And I don’t hesitate to tell my buyers if there are red flags with a house, like a roof that needs repair or a funky basement.  They share their feelings, telling me what they love, what they hate, and sometimes they walk in the front door and tell me they HAVE to have the house no matter what!  They envision where they’ll put the Christmas tree, where their favorite piece of art will hang, and where they’ll have their morning coffee.   None of this weakens their negotiating position because they’re telling ME, their agent, who represents THEIR interests in the transaction.

#2:  Wheeling and Dealing

I just couldn’t help another pun- sorry!  Sitting down to determine what the payments on a new car will be is very similar to a dizzy bat race- you’re not entirely sure where you’re headed or how you will get there, and there’s a pretty good chance you might throw up. There’s this constant up and down and coming and going and checking with managers.  You don’t actually get to know what your interest rate will be until you commit to that particular car, so you can’t be entirely sure what your payment will be. So you have to agree to buy this car before you know exactly how much it’s going to cost you. It puts you in the untenable position of making this huge financial decision without having all of the facts.

When buying a home, my clients always sit down with a loan officer BEFORE looking at homes!  They know what their ballpark interest rate is going to be depending on when they make an offer, and they know what their ballpark payment will be, with changes based on real estate taxes and sale price. Once we’ve found “the home,” and we sit down to write an offer, we go over what the closing costs and monthly payment will be for that specific home.  We work in concert with the loan officer to make sure that they have the most accurate picture of what they will be paying every month. Seems reasonable to have all of the available information so that you can make an informed decision, right?

To sum this all up, when buying a car, it’s hard to feel like there’s anyone actually looking out for you or your wellbeing.  As a disclaimer, many of the salesmen we’ve talked to are wonderfully nice, but it’s hard for us to be sure that they have our family’s interests as their number one concern.  But as a Realtor, my main job is to look after my clients’ interests when they are buying or selling their home. I enjoy being in their corner and going to the mat for them. And they appreciate that they have someone fighting for them instead of with them.

Hey, I’m starting to think that a good side gig would be a buyers’ agent for people buying cars. But then I’d have to learn about cars, and I think I’ve learned enough about cars this past week to last me a lifetime! I’ll stick with what I know, real estate, and try not to think about buying a car again for a very, very, very long time.


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