5 Lessons Learned from Car Shopping

I am in the market for a new car. Normally I lease my vehicles and so I trade in every 3 years or so. My 2008 Hummer H3 lease is up in 6 months, so I just started looking now. What I've learned in the past 3 weeks of shopping are lessons we can transfer over to the real estate industry. Easily. So here's what my SLIGHTLY FRUSTRATING month long search has taught me.

First, I will preface this with I am an online power shopper. I buy most of my clothes, shoes, sometimes food, and YES the last 2 vehicles I leased sight unseen (GASP) ON THE INTERNET. So that's where I start my search (like most HOME BUYERS).

Last time I searched 2 closest Hummer dealerships, stalked their inventory and waited until I found the exact new vehicle hit the inventory list. I called 1 of the 2 dealers, and the salesperson was not at all impressive. He told me he didn't have what I wanted and never bothered to ask my name or number

LESSON 1: Take all callers' info. What if you don't have a house in that subdivision right now in that price range, but tomorrow someone in your office lists one? If a caller calls in, take a name and number. Ask what they're looking for, and ask permission to email them homes they might like. Ask if you can call them if a new listing comes up. PUT THEM ON AUTO DRIP campaign for any new MLS listings that meet their needs. Don't just answer the question and hang up. You just lost a potential buyer! Maybe they won't buy for 3 or 6 or 12 months but work that lead and don't miss an opportunity. I actually settled on a house this month where the buyer emailed a simple question about a house now off the market. I replied then asked permission to email him listings. He hesitated and said they just started looking and weren't ready to buy. That was in MAY. Yes, I sold them a house in JULY and settled on it in AUGUST. They weren't ready, huh?

Back to my 2007 search. Dealer 1 didn't take any info and I never called again. On Dealer 2's site I found a maybe car. I emailed for info and the Internet Sales Manager emailed me immediately. Then he called to follow up. I asked questions and even negotiated price via email and phone, without seeing the vehicle. He jumped all over the lead. I spoke to his financing guy on the phone, faxed over my financials, got approved, and 3 days later drove an hour to pick up my vehicle. Sweet.

LESSON 2: Strike when the iron is hot. When a buyer or seller indicates they are READY TO BUY, jump on it. Don't say you'll call back tomorrow or visit their house in 3 days. Get there now. Get them on the phone with your lender. Make that showing appointment. I got a high end listing earlier this summer because I dropped everything and ran up to the house within a few hours of the seller calling. He said he was calling and would I have any time at all today to meet him, as he was traveling later the day and would not be back for a few weeks. I ran a quick preliminary CMA on the computer, gathered my contracts and was at the house 3 hours later. I walked out of there with the listing. He was ready, willing and able to sign immediately. Why make them wait?

Fast forward to my 2010 search. Remember how Dealer 2 got my fast and easy sale because he recognized I was ready to buy now and he let me work my preferred method of contact--via phone, email and fax? Yes I leased the vehicle without even seeing it, because he let me negotiate over the phone and he handled all my concerns/paperwork through the internet.

Well in 2010 I'm again ready to buy and I know what I want -- so I went back to Dealer 2. He has no inventory this time that matches my needs. I have 6 months to find another vehicle, but I actually LOVE this Hummer and my thoughts are to buy outright a 2009 slightly used model, or lease a 2010 maybe. I'd prefer to buy though. Dealer 2 says Hummers are now hard to find because they're no longer making them. I'd better find one I love and buy it.

I find one on Dealer 3's lot, on their internet inventory. Again, it's a 1+ hour drive from me so I'm shopping virtually. I can see on Dealer 3's website when someone is online at the dealership and most of the day -- no luck. Nobody is online to chat. So I call and ask for the Internet Sales Manager.

LESSON 3: Answer that phone with a smile. Bob gets on and doesn't actually have a very friendly sales voice! Years ago someone in my office read that people on the other end of the phone can HEAR if you are smiling or not by your tone. She bought me a mirror as a joke, as I was head of sales, and told me to keep it on my desk and smile into the mirror as I answered the phone. I still have that mirror. Bob wasn't smiling when I called. He sounded kind of gruff and young, but I was going to change his day. I was ready to buy!

I introduced myself and asked if the Hummer I saw online was still on the lot and available. YES. I told him I lease a current Hummer and my lease is up in 6 months. I am looking right now, and if I find the right one I will buy it now. Otherwise, if it's not the right one, I have 6 months to find a repacement. Can he help me?

He tells me to come for a test drive. I told him not right now as my schedule was full this week, but I can shoot for next week at the earliest. I'd like to start talking financing and price over the phone. He replies he'll send me email photos. I give him my contact info and emphasize I leased my last 2 cars sight unseen so can we just work online till I'm sure I want to drive down to see the car? He tells me the dealership hours and that I must have some time to come down. I emphasize again  my crazy schedule, and I'll buy online if possible, as I did the last two times, but coming down is not an option until next week. Then he makes my skin crawl: "Well the car might be gone by then but whatever you want."

LESSON 4: Never ever use scare tactics with a buyer. This is a $25,000+ purchase. A house may be 10x that. Or half that. But don't ever try to scare a buyer into putting in an offer, or rushing over to see a house before it is too late. It doesn't work. And if it DOES WORK later the buyer will hate you. Twice last week home sellers told me horror stories about agents who tried to scare them into putting in a higher bid, and they felt they got burned. That was twice in one week.

It didn't work with me. Bob emailed me the photos. I asked a few questions about financing. He didn't answer them but told me to come in to talk financing and price. That day he emailed me once, I replied, he emailed back, I replied and he never emailed me again.

LESSON 5: FOLLOW UP. It's been 3 weeks since our first contact. Bob has not called me back to check on me. He has my email, name and phone number. He could have called me in a week to see if I was coming in. Or a quick email to .... LET ME KNOW THE VEHICLE PRICE HAS COME DOWN. Yes, not once but twice in the past 3 weeks there was an online price reduction. I know this because I am like the typical home buyer. I am stalking the freaking vehicle at this point. I check in once a day or so, and see the price. It is now $1300 lower than it was 3 weeks ago.

Bob should have emailed me to see if I was coming in. He should have sent me price reduction notices, right?

Of course! But think about real estate again. When you lower the price on a house, do you call all the buyers who looked at it? Do you email the agents who showed it?

I probably will drive down there to see the vehicle this week. As the end of the month approaches. Maybe I'll buy it. I'll let you know! But it won't be because of Bob. It'll be because I kept contact up, I kept checking in on the inventory, and I did my homework.

Isn't that what today's homebuyers are out there doing?


PS--Before the jokes start flying about the gas guzzler I love, we do a lot of work in the country, in farm fields and going up mountains. So yes I love my HUMMER.












Erica Ramus is Broker/Owner of Realty Executives in Pottsville, PA. If you're looking for a PROFESSIONAL to represent you in all of your Schuylkill County real estate needs, call Realty Executives at 570-622-6006. Serving all of Schuylkill County ... Pottsville, Orwigsburg, Schuylkill Haven, Auburn, Pine Grove, Frackville, Minersville, Ashland, Shenandoah, Port Carbon, Palo Alto, St. Clair, Barnesville real estate. Click on the link above to search Pottsville PA homes for sale or any Schuylkill County homes for sale. We have all properties listed for sale in the Schuylkill MLS on our website -- free search! No registration is required!

We also run Schuylkill Appraisal Services, for all your appraisal needs in the area. If you need an appraisal, we are your Schuylkill County appraisal source. 


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Comment balloon 0 commentsEllen Dittman • August 22 2010 05:50PM