Buying car

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Our life experience makes us better at helping buyers stay even-keeled during their house hunting and buying. Buying a house is the biggest purchase most people ever make, and most people do it a few times in a lifetime. As exclusive buyer’s agents, we do it all the time.

It is humbling, in a good way, when we find ourselves on the brink of an important purchase, and we remember what it’s like to be a buyer. Barbi Harrison, our broker associate, had that experience this winter, when she bought a new car. This is her story:

I went to a highly-regarded car dealership. Their team had excellent customer handling skills. But that’s the thing: I was their customer, not a client. They work for the dealership to get the highest price for the vehicle. They are not my ally, no matter how nice they are.

I will work with them again and happily refer business to them, the job they were hired to do by the dealership was done seamlessly. But I had to negotiate against them to get what I wanted and needed.

As a car buyer, I noticed that I was ill-equipped to handle sudden changes. The original vehicle I wanted was sold by the time I arrived. I had to choose another car.

Takeaway for buyer-agent me: Sudden changes in available choices are hard. This happens to my clients all the time.

I became hyper-aware of effects of the additional products offered while we were writing up the sales contract. It all happens fast and will have an impact as long as I drive this car (which I hope will be a long time).

Should I get the extended warranty? How can I know when I don’t know what it covers, whether it is likely that the car will fail in ways that are covers, can I trust the company to honor the warranty without hassle? Should I take on the extra cost? Can I afford the extra cost?

Takeaway for buyer-agent me: There are lots of little decisions that go with a purchase. Researching them before is important. We tell our clients that, but did I do it for myself?… well.  The vehicle I wanted I thoroughly researched down to where the oil changes were done, but once this vehicle sold. I had the choice to start the entire process again, and risk losing the next option, or perform my due diligence on the fly.

Just like when our clients buy a house, I got a long tally sheet with costs that I had to review. But with a car, there’s no exclusive buyer’s agent who could tell me if these are typical costs, or whether the dealership was padding my bill. I had no Good Faith Estimate that I could prepare to pay at closing. Everything was happening now, today, and I was alone.

I read through the purchase and sales contract thoroughly. All the numbers that were discussed over many hours were accurate to my knowledge; the products I wanted included, and the items I opted out of were not added back in.

Takeaway for buyer-agent me: Long tallies, like this car Purchase and Sale, are like the long tally that my clients see on their Closing Disclosure. By the time they get to closing, they have had a Good Faith estimate a month ahead of time, they have a lender who reviewed the items on that estimate, they have an attorney to review the items on that estimate, and then they have us. The estimate is regulated by law, so that it doesn’t change much.

I was there for a total of five hours. The salesperson was a salesperson, looking for the most money he can get from me. I had to keep reminding myself that I was working with a person who does not have my interests at heart or any fiduciary duties to me. Yet here I was, getting myself into a big loan for a big new car. It will impact my financial future. I was not only just doing it alone, I was negotiating against someone who does this all day long.

Decision-fatigue is totally a thing. He wore me down, in those five hours. I was exhausted from all the decisions and contract review. How could I feel certain my best interests were protected? I didn’t know the process timeline. So I didn’t know what to expect. The process seemed designed to keep me from protecting my financial interests.

Takeaway for buyer-agent me: I feel even better about my job as an exclusive buyer’s agent in real estate. I wish I had a car buyer’s agent when I bought this car. The car buyer’s agent would help me negotiate. She’d tell me if the cost of the warranty is typical, or not. She’d tell me if the car was well priced. She’d have prepared me for this process. I might have gotten a better deal. I definitely would have had more confidence and less stress.


Barbi HarrisonBarbi Harrison joined 4 Buyers Real Estate in 2018 as a Broker Associate. After over twenty years in the real estate industry, it’s second nature to Barbi to think of your purchase as a quest for the best property to suit your needs at the best price.