Monday, December 29, 2014

Real Estate and Selling Cars

Today we went out looking at properties just to see what you could buy and use as rental property in the 200K and below range.

Boy was it a pitiful selection! Out of the twenty houses we did drive bys of only about five were good enough to consider going inside.

One was extremely unfortunate, a beautiful brick bungalow with a fully finished basement perfectly maintained. The unfortunate part is that the sellers bought it back at the very highest point in the real estate cycle, paying 180K. They have had it on the market for nearly a year asking 190K.

The house is beautiful, and it has almost 3000 square feet counting the gorgeous finished basement. The problem is that it is sitting in a crummy neighborhood surrounded by other houses for sale in the 120K range. One of the hard realities of the real estate market downturn is those poor folks that bought high and are now just trying to break even in a bad market.

Gave Jim and I some food for thought, another thing to consider, possibly buying rental real estate in our town to have some monthly income.

We also had a long discussion about my time selling cars. For a year back in college and ten years ago for six months, I worked at a car dealership as a licensed new car salesman.

One of our friends from church, who's had a bumpy up and down teaching career path, is going to sell cars now. He's going to be working at the dealership that was in direct competition to the one I worked at last.

I fear for him. He's beyond competitive, hot-headed and has a big temper. He doesn't suffer fools easily and he's clashed with every supervisor he's ever had. He's also giving up on working on his PhD in working with emotionally disturbed children, which has long been his dream. I hate to see that. He's put in so much work towards his education.

We talked after church for awhile and I tried to impart the things I learned selling cars.

I loved selling cars, and it was something I was pretty good at. But then again I've always believed in listening to the customer, putting their needs first and I am honest. When you sell cars your reputation for being fair, honest and helping out the customer the most goes a long way. You're not just trying to score a sale, you're building a client base. Even if your customer has no need for another car, they will send you friends and relatives if you do a good job.

Not everyone is well served by the fanciest brand new car. Some folks really need a good used vehicle. Listening, and steering them to what best fits their financial situation and life is of the utmost important. I've sold piles of young families used vans instead of the brand new top of the line van they qualified for because they shared they're trying to save up to buy a house.

The down side is those folks that have been screwed royally by other sales people, who are upside down on their car loans and cannot get any financing because of that. You want to make sure you don't add to the problem or turn someone into an upside down deal because they want more car than they can afford.

You had to balance this all with whatever model that month that Detroit was pushing, knowing that selling certain models would net you front end and back end moneys. Fine line between helping someone and pushing them into the Wagon Queen Family Truckster because you know the main company in Detroit is going to pay you an additional 500 bucks if you move that Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Yes, yes, the salesman in the original "National Lampoon's Vacation" movie pulled a switcheroo, likely for back end money, on the Griswolds.

The Wagon Queen Family Truckster - so damn ugly!

The other people at the local dealership ten years ago were the problem for me and the reason I ultimately quit selling cars. I was the only female working in an all male sales staff. I got the smart remarks thrown my way constantly and some very shitty happenings. Like the guy I shared an office with would immediately ball up my winter coat and throw it on the floor the second my back was turned.

My first two hours on the sales floor I sold an expensive diesel truck to an older couple. Asked the sales manager where the forms to write up the sale were only to be told, "You think you so smart, with your college education, you figure it out." I did, but I never forgot that even the sales manager wanted to put me down because I possessed a vagina in an almost entirely male world. It was the put downs, the remarks, the times they would sent me to McDonalds to buy breakfast for the entire staff, with the exception of me, that I suffered. But I smiled and sucked it up and kept outselling many of them.

Forget the rampant sexism at this one dealership, which I did not experience during college at the dealership in South Louisiana, just here in small southern town redneck Virginia. Even without the sexism it's a very competitive field, to the point where the second someone drove onto the lot the sales manager would start screaming and frothing at the mouth if you didn't flat out run out to the customer.

Men have that competitive thing going on in the first place, so it really carries over to the sales thing.My friend the former teacher is also going to be selling with another mutual friend who's also very competitive. I'm curious to see if the running and fighting for customers might dent up their friendship. I hope it doesn't but from where I sit and my experience with it I'm betting it might end badly. Another truth of car sales is that a lot of people try to do it and fail miserably. Sales agents either generally do it for years and years at the same dealership or try it and either quit mere months later or dealership hop like mad. One of the guys I worked with, the one that loved to scrunch up my coat and toss it to the floor, he'd worked at 6 different car dealerships in 8 months.

I remember my last day selling cars all too well. It was a Thursday and I had a young couple coming in that were saving towards a house that were buying a two year old PT Cruiser that still had factory warranty on most of it. That was my morning appointment. My afternoon appointment was a young family with a baby and a toddler who were buying a van I'd taken as a trade in from another customer. It was very gently used and would be a great deal with that family, who was also saving up for a home.

Both couples qualified for new cars, but both wanted to go conservative with smaller spending so as not to derail their budgets. But both times the dealership manager showed up in the middle of my deals and started high pressuring each couple to buy new. I lost both sales! Both! Because of my jackass boss interfering in my sale at the very last second. He started screaming at me in a way that just scared me silly and I calmly packed up my desk and walked off the lot forever.

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