This isn’t my first rodeo.

rodeoI am sure that you have all heard that memorable phrase in one form or another.  Although often and sometimes inappropriately utilized, to me it is artistically coined, perfectly succinct, and the embodiment of colloquial Southwest American slang, suggesting the benefits of age and experience.  It is far more palatable to me than many others that attempt to convey the same message, such as “don’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs” which was originally put into print several centuries ago.

Experience is generally agreed to be a good thing as one can usually recognize something that did not work in the past and, hopefully, avoid repeating that same error.  In the homebuilding industry, however, it appears to me that often times experience is lacking or, if not the actual experience, then at least the inability to have garnered any knowledge from that experience.  Times have changed and we need to change with those times, putting to work what we have learned from our experience. 

I am not a car enthusiast and do not enjoy performing any of my own car maintenance so several years ago I decided to begin leasing my wife’s and my cars, trading them in every three years so that all of the upkeep that I basically am required to do was have someone change the oil every so often.  The lease on my wife’s car was up this month and although she really liked her vehicle, an Aura TSX, and the car was in excellent condition as the mileage was minimal, the actual value of the vehicle was less than the residual so purchasing her car made little financial sense.  And as this model is no longer in production, replacement in kind was not an option so we had spent the past several weeks test driving replacement cars and began in earnest the process of buying a new car.  My wife and I are fortunate in that price, at least on an absolute basis, is not a prime determinant in a car purchase decision so the choices were limited only to selecting the car that she liked and felt most comfortable driving.

In many ways, auto manufacturers and homebuilders have evolved in recent years along somewhat similar paths and both industries’ available products within given “lines” (be it “entry level”, “move-up” and “luxury” – i.e., car sizes or home sizes within brand names and market positioning) are quite comparable among manufacturers or homebuilders, respectively, although the options included in the “base” price or given package levels may tend to differ slightly.  After driving about a dozen different vehicles (it seemed like many more), this time around my wife had narrowed her choice to the Acura ILX or the Lexus IS, two entries in what I would classify as the “compact luxury sport sedan” field of vehicles, perhaps equating in housing to an “empty-nester move-down luxury patio home”.

Although price was not the prime consideration, just like every other purchaser of any major consumer good we did not wish to overpay and, as we have probably purchased over 20 new cars in our lifetime, we had the process down fairly well.  Prior to going back to the two possible dealers to finalize the choice, both of which we had done business with before, we did our homework – researching costs and local prices on all of the major car buying sites, soliciting bids from the on-line programs at several dealerships, verifying residual values and money factors, etc. so by the time we walked in the door ready to buy we knew what the cost should be within a few dollars for the two cars with the options (or “packages”) we wished.

The variance in the cost of the two cars was slightly under $25.00 per month, less than $1,000 over the three year lease term so, again, price was not a major factor.  What the buying decision came down to in the end was the buying process:

  • At the first dealership we were given an initial price that was slightly outrageous and then, after more than 1-1/2 hours of “haggling” with multiple representatives of the dealership needlessly involved (a process I personally despise) and a lot of what could, at best, be considered poor communication (which I prefer to hope is the case in lieu of intentional misrepresentation or “bait and switch” tactics), the dealership finally arrived at a reasonable price but one I still thought was slightly too high. The sales manager then asked my wife if she was ready to buy that day, insinuating that an even better price could be obtained, but, already seriously disgusted with the day’s experience, she replied “no” and we left.
  • At the second dealership we were given an initial price that I thought was slightly high and when I informed the salesman of that he said, “Let me see what I can do” and we left to go to lunch after having spent a total of twenty minutes. About fifteen minutes later as we were eating the salesman, the only person with whom we had been involved, called me on my cell phone with a lower price, one that I thought was reasonable.

We accepted the deal from the second dealership, returned after lunch and signed the papers and my wife had her new car.  As either car would have been acceptable and either price affordable, the decision solely came down to the “process”. 

When the salesperson from the first dealership called me the next day to see if “we could make a deal”, I replied that we had already purchased another car and I took the time to try to explain why we had chosen the other vehicle (and dealership) over theirs.  But I am not expecting that anything will change at that dealership as they are apparently successful, or so they believe, in doing business with their current methods.   

Amazingly, my wife was on the phone this morning with an old-time friend and during the course of the conversation when she told her that she had just gotten a new car the friend responded that she had recently purchased the other make of vehicle, the one that my wife did not buy, and that she was unhappy with it and sorry that she did not instead purchase the same car as my wife.  I wonder if this was serendipitous or, instead, a sign from the heavens suggesting that the message of this blog needed to be told.

processI believe that a proper “process” is equally important to the homebuilding industry and critical to making the sale.  We are not the auto business but we do sell the most expensive consumer products on the market and our buyers also take the time to do their research so that when they walk in the door they are ready to buy and will do so if they are treated properly, with respect, and they experience what they believe is the appropriate process. 

But that’s just my opinion!

By the way, writing this has suggested to me another blog on the concept of “process” which will be forthcoming in the near future. 

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