"Sign here, sign here, sign here and sign here," Sahid said as I initialed each paragraph in the leasing agreement at the Lexus car lot near the Oakland Coliseum. I should preface my story by saying that I hadn't necessarily intended to look at new cars except that the last time I took my Audi in for maintenance, it was no longer under warranty and the "fixes" were $7500, not a few hundred as I'd expected.
Since I never really loved the wagon to begin with, and as it had been recalled three times, I finally threw in the towel and joined the ranks of those who lease their vehicles, instead of buy them. (Leasing is a foreign concept to me. I'm the gal who typically buys a used car and then drives it for years.) But with all the technological advances cars are making, I'm loathe to buy a vehicle if it's likely to be obsolete in a few years.
Three hours later, I left the Lexus dealership securely belted in my brand new, "atomic silver" compact SUV (hybrid no less), and drove home.
Do I love the car? I think so. (I'm still figuring out the controls to be totally honest.)
Is it affordable? (Yes, it is.)
Does it serve my needs? (Absolutely.)
Did I get a screamin' good deal? (Probably not.)
Which is my way of saying that perhaps this car doesn't need to be the steal of the century to serve my needs, but it does need to bring good value to my business. It also needs to be reliable, easy on gas, and presentable enough that I can tour my clients in it. It needs to meet my budget, haul "For Sale" signs to and fro, and be a work horse on occasion. But between you and me, cars don't really float my boat (houses do) so leasing a brand new automobile - no matter how flashy - is totally out of my comfort zone. I've never had a NEW car before and I'm well into my fifties. (That goes no farther than us, right?)
As I have also never leased a car before, I went online and printed out the 10 questions you should ask before signing . . . (I'm no dummy.)
And so it went as I worked my way down the list of FAQ's, pausing to pull up the Blue Book value on my trade-in while shopping online to make sure the price of the car was competitive; negotiating as best I could with what little information I had via Google (Actually, there's A LOT of information out there.)
"Wow, this is taking a long time," I said to Sahid as we went line by line through the documents, the early evening giving away to night . . . (uhhh, patience isn't my long suit). "Really?" Sahid said, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "How many documents to buy a house?"
Did I read every word in the contract before signing? No way.
Sahid had this amazing "desk-top" system that took desk-top computers to a whole new level, and he encapsulated the clauses in a few short sentences, while I signed away my first born with the magic pen without a piece of paper in sight! (Sorry Case, it was you, or the car.)
Did I trust that he had my best interest at heart? (Actually, I did.)
"This one says you're going to carry insurance."
"This one says you aren't going to drive more than 15,000 miles a year."
"This one says there's a $350 restocking fee when you return it . . ."
Having walked my own trusting clients through their contracts and disclosures for nearly 15 years, I can attest to the fact that Buyers and Sellers DON'T read every word either. Given that disclosures, by and large, are hundreds of pages long, and that much of the language is boiler-plated, who can blame them? (Not me.)
Do I do my best to educate them? You bet.
However, with the advent of Docusign, we can literally send complicated documents via the Internet for your quick, electronic signatures. To be sure, there's probably no technology that has made our jobs easier, but it's not without its risks; one of them being, that Buyers and Sellers probably aren'treading the documents as they should . . . relying instead, on their Realtors to do much, if not all, of the job for them. That's a mistake.
"Sign here, sign here, sign here, sign here. Congratulations, the house is yours!"
Hmmm, it's important to note that the ease of signing (and our excitement) doesn't absolve any of us from knowing what we're agreeing to, even if its someone you trust explicitly that's explaining it to you. Moreover, it's not your Agent's money, nor their risk - it's yours - so take it seriously.
Which is my long way of saying; read the fine print AND the disclosures (at least until you're familiar with the process) because you're buying more than a automobile and you can't easily return it three years down the road for a fancier, hipper, more technologically advanced model, should you regret it.
Just remember that homes are long-term investments! (Cars are not.)
Get the point? (I knew you would.) Time to get your motor runnin'!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.