To many real estate agents, their car is not just a means of transportation: it is their livelihood, the thing that allows them to visit five properties with clients in an hour and a half; it is a mobile office, equipped with cell phone, laptop, even a scanner; most importantly for some agents, their car is their image.
I know agents who buy or lease BMWs before they are really able to afford such a car because they feel it projects an image of success. Other agents drive Range Rovers not because they need such a large, gas-guzzling vehicle, but as a sign to potential clients that they are making money.
I’ve always gone a different route. For years I drove a very un-sexy navy blue Toyota Tercel. We are a two-agent family and therefore of necessity a two-car family. During my Tercel years the second family car was usually something more presentable that I would use if I needed to pick up clients. Otherwise I was happy with the reasonably fuel-efficient little car I dubbed Denzel.
Unfortunately, Denzel recently gave up the ghost, so I am considering my options. I don’t like to think how much having two cars adds to our carbon footprint. Remaining a one-car family is not possible since when our business gets busy, my partner and I are frequently heading out in opposite directions to show houses or meet with clients. Taking public transit as a realtor is not an option either (see above re: visiting five houses in an hour and a half). I have been known to show up for notary dates or home inspections on a bike, but that is somewhat limited by geography and weather.
As for needing a fancy car to impress clients, I’m not sure that’s a game I’ll ever play well. I’m not someone who pays enough attention to what other people drive to be impressed. Obviously anybody who hired me as their agent while I was still driving Denzel wasn’t looking for an ostentatiously “successful” agent. I attract the kind of clients who would be appalled at the idea of an agent who drives around all day, alone, in an SUV. I have worked with clients with small and large budgets but most of them seem to share a sense of moderation. They want to buy good houses, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be brand new and top-of-the-line. I feel similarly about my car.
I recently joined a car-sharing service called Auto-mobile. It is ideally suited to making short trips with not-very-much notice. With an app on my phone I can locate the closest available car and “block” it, giving me time to walk to it. Then I use my Opus card (bus pass) to unlock it and I’m off! The best part of the service, from my point of view, is that all the cars in the Auto-mobile fleet are Hybrids or electric. Most, and the only ones I’ve driven so far, are the Prius. I was already a Toyota girl, but this car is a revelation. Turning the key to start it and not hearing a sound except a few musical notes as the dashboard lights up is a kick, but the part I really love is knowing that when I’m stopped at a light I’m not burning any fuel; zero smoke is belching out of my tailpipe!
So I’m launching an experiment to see if we can get by with one family car and a membership in Auto-mobile. I’ve been monitoring the availability of cars near my house and there are occasions when there’s nothing less than 8 blocks away. Realtors tend not to get enough exercise so for now I’m looking at the walking as a plus. When winter comes I may not be as delighted by that aspect.
Stay tuned for updates on how the experiment is going, and keep your eyes open for the green Auto-mobile logo on Montreal roads: it could be your local eco-agent coasting silently by.