Everyone who knows me knows how much I love cars. I told my roommates in college that I would be driving a ’69 Camaro by the time I was 30 — a really hot one with a great sound system.
I bettered that. I married a man with classic cars. Besides the fact that he’s my best friend, I must say, it was a great car decision. Why? I’ve got the best of both worlds.
During the work week I drive a very conservative four-door sedan. And then, in my free time I do burn-outs in the ’63 Impala.
This is a very good compromise because if something goes wrong with my muscle car I must choose one of the three following options: call Husband, call Dad, call AAA. I don’t even know where the oil pan is, and I don’t care to find out.
So, while driving clients around in a hunky piece of muscle sounds great, it isn’t practical. Yeah, I still need the conservative sedan.
There are great parallels to be made between buying cars and buying houses. Both are emotional purchases and extensions (let’s be honest) of our egos. Both are super-duper-expensive in comparison to our everyday expenditures. And most people go into debt to buy one or both. We also have some of the same questions to ask about each before signing on the dotted line.
Here’s my three-point short list:
1. How does it handle the weather?
When buying a car, it is vitally important to drive it in both the sun and the rain. I have found that some car manufacturers do not believe in rain gutters — and for Oregonians, could there be anything worse than getting your entire back soaked when buckling in a baby? I also like to try cars out in the middle of the summer heat. And not just from the driver’s seat. It’s important to sit in the back and turn the AC on high. Can I even feel it?
My homebuying comparison: exposure. How is the home situated on the lot? Does the afternoon sun blister into the kitchen windows? Will the winter snows EVER melt off the driveway? Know the compass directions as you tour homes. It’s so simple to download a compass app on your smartphone; there’s no excuse not to.
Climate: You work in a specific area. My area of expertise is the Willamette Valley. We get a lot of rain. A lot of rain. New buyers might not realize how important deep overhangs and covered porches are, but I (as their professional Realtor) can help them identify these vital must-haves. Oh, and don’t forget gutters and mud rooms.
What should your clients look for in your climate?
2. You sure you don’t want the four-door?
Cars come in all different shapes and sizes. Big ones, small ones, really big ones and really small ones. Before I had two kids, two car seats, diaper bags, snacks and a dog, I thought that my perfect car would be a sport wagon. Compact, great gas mileage and spunky! Well, huh. You try to fit it all in there. IMPOSSIBLE.
Help your clients make informed, realistic decisions regarding their home purchases. Sure, they are giddy over that two-bedroom short sale, but they have three kids. I’m not advocating steering or trying to argue with your clients, but you might at least bring up the space issues. You are there to be their advocate, not just a mindless cheerleader chanting, "BIFF BOOM BAH, BUY BUY BUY!"
3. Cost to own and operate
Owning a classic car is commitment. It’s expensive! Fifty-plus-year parts and technology require upkeep and maintenance. In contrast, you can buy a brand-new car this year and receive three years of free maintenance, including oil changes and wheel alignment — not to mention a manufacturer’s warranty.
Apply this mindset to a home purchase. There is a very real difference in home maintenance costs between old construction and new. Older homes cost more to heat and cool. Just like an older car, older homes have parts that wear out and require replacing: roofs, electrical wiring and plumbing — just to name a few. In contrast, new homes typically come with a one-year (if not more) builder’s warranty and cost significantly less in monthly utilities thanks to new energy-efficient building techniques.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying an older home as long as the buyer understands the costs involved. Help them do the math.
I am still looking for my elusive ’69 Camaro. She just hasn’t come along yet. But I’m willing to wait for the perfect fit. I don’t want to merely keep her polished up in the garage — she’s gonna be driven! We will roar down the streets in all types of weather. And my clients will be forced to listen to classic rock and hold on tight in the corners. Just a warning, folks.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.
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