– by Pete Snidal, FOI 415 (C)2007

When it’s time to let your Flx Coach go to a new owner, there are a number of pitfalls you will want to avoid. The most important of these is “Rose-Colored Glasses Syndrome” – you’ve likely had a lot of good times with your coach, and in your memory it’s still the shiny and lovely rig it was in its best days. But the prospective buyer may not see it this way.

Picture, if you will, this scenario:

Harry and his wife are thinking about a motorhome, and they’re considering a converted Flxi. Not too interested in building one from the ground up, they look at our aaf section, and see what appears to be a drop-dead beautiful Clipper, in the Road-Ready section. The paint looks to be fresh, the interior shots show a bus ready to move into, and the description says it’s ready to climb in, turn the key, and drive back to New Jersey. So they call the owner, who describes it as they expected from the pictures, and fly off halfway across the country to see this dream rig, fully expecting to be driving it home the next day or two.

Then, when they finally arrive to see the bus, they see a tired old Flx, with rust showing here and there through the peeling paint, the once-gleaming chrome or aluminum rims also showing rust, and the tires weatherchecked with age. When it comes time to start it up, the battery appears to be dead, and the owner ends up running down his car battery trying to get it started, which it finally does, (or not!) only to show a number of coolant and/or oil leaks in the engine compartment, worn belts and hoses, and just generally an engine you wouldn’t want to trust for a run down to the supermarket for some groceries, let alone a trip out of state.

The interior, so spanking in the photos and description, also turns out to have seen better days. The formica counter tops are peeling away here and there, there are tears in the once-splendid upholstery, wall or ceiling finish is peeling away, and a smell of mildew pervades the interior. The propane tank(s) is/are empty, so there’s no way to determine whether the stove works, or whether the water heater or furnace (if fitted.) Nor if the fridge even lights, let alone will get cold when turned up.

Fred and Julie, having travelled a long way to see this dream rig, are by this time so disappointed they can’t even see the good points – it may only need a week or two of fix-up to be perfectly useable once again, but are they at all interested? No Way! – They’re so bummed, all they can think about is getting back on the road – or in the air – for the trip home. This one is a total loser – at least for them! Harsh words are exchanged, there is definitely no deal, and they go back home sans coach, and will bad-mouth this rig on the various internet forums until the day they die!

Now, let’s consider what might have happened if the coach had been properly prepared, or properly described, or both.

The Smiths (as we will call Fred and Julie by now) read a description which describes the coach accurately. It contains contemporary photos, showing the paint condition as it is today. The interior shots show – or the description at least includes – the downfalls of the present condition, so they arrive realizing it’s going to need a little work – but if it’s accurately described, they won’t have come if they’re not prepared to do it. (some cabinet and upholstery repair, etc.)

The propane is topped up, and the appliances have been tested and can be demonstrated to work. Or they have been described as non-tested and the price reflects this, so there are no bad surprises there. And finally, the drive line has been checked by a local mechanic in advance, and the engine starts with the first turn of the key, and there are no leaks to repair; the belts and hoses are in top condition, the tires are aired up properly, with decent tread, and the rig is ready for a trip of 1000 miles or two. Even if it’s properly described as a “fixer-upper,” there will be people who are interested. But if it’s described as “Road Ready,” it MUST be ready for the trip. Very few people have the time, expertise, or tools with them to deal with mechanical problems before or during the trip home. If it’s going to need flat-bedding, you have to say so from the start!

Are these people going to go home disappointed? No, they shouldn’t, since they had no expectations the coach couldn’t fulfill. It is road-ready, as described. There is (or is not) some work to be done with finish and interior, and possibly even appliances, but they came expecting that, and prepared to pay the price asked – or close to it. This is a deal which will work, with both parties going away satisfied. How much better than if it hadn’t been accurately described as to today’s condition!

So please, prospective sellers, be very careful to be very accurate about condition and readiness! If it’s under-described, most prospects who arrive will be pleased and favourably disposed towards a deal; if it’s over-described, there will just be hard feelings all around! The most important thing you can do is to provide a:

Realistic Description

  • 1. Photographs: these should be recent photos, not some shot right after it got back from the paint shop – in 1991! You can only make a first impression once, and if the impression you’ve made in the mind of the prospective buyer proves to be more than the proof of the pudding once he arrives to inspect, your sale will be difficult to impossible. Far better that it should look better “in the flesh” than it does in the photos, rather than the other way around.
  • Interior Trim: once again, photos mustreflect current condition. If the Formica is peeling, or the upholstery is torn, you DO NOT want the prospect to arrive expecting these to be in No. 1 condition!

Photo “Size”

This refers not to the actual size of the photo, but rather to the filesize. A digital photo can be of a wide variety of file sizes. Typically, a photo of 75-100 Kilobytes (K) is plenty large enough for computer screen display on the web. Yet, especially with today’s modern digital cameras, photos of filesizes of 2, 3, 4, or even 5 MEGAbytes can be generated. Capable of being enlarged literally to billboard size! – but of no additional value over a 75K photo when displayed on a computer screen, yet it will take many hundreds of times longer to squeeze through the line between servers on the internet. And it will be ‘WAY too big on the screen of the viewer, unless compensated for by the writer of the web page. (me!) Since your webmaster-in-charge of the adopt-a-flx section still uses a dialup internet connection, such large photos are virtually impossible to inhale as well, so they MUST be in the 50-100K range.

You can find out what size your photos are by right-clicking on the filename or photo thumbnail and selecting “properties.” If it’s larger than 150K, it simply won’t be acceptable, so you’ll have to resize. How to do this? Well, if you set your digital camera before taking the photos to “lowest quality,” or “lowest filesize,” they’ll be about right. If you already have the photos, you’ll have to use a photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Exif Viewer etc. to resize them.

  • Glass: Most people attach great value to glass condition – probably having had to have some replaced at some time. Be sure to report realistically all glass damage – from holes to scratches – in all windows – windshields, and side and door windows. You DO NOT want your prospect to be disappointed on arrival!
  • Appliances: Does everything still work? You should have the rig propaned up and testable. Test all the appliances before you speak to any prospects, so you can tell them for sure what still works and what doesn’t – or just tell them, “I don’t know” This is a good way to reduce the price the buyer will have in mind significantly. A time-honoured way to test – and prove – a refrigerator is to place a can of water in the freezer compartment the day before the viewing. If it’s ice the next day, you have a fridge! (And if not, you don’t.) Test also the stove, oven, and furnace, if any. If you have a genset, get it running and test it – will it still run the Air Conditioning? If you have an Air Conditioner. Test it if necessary by plugging into shore power.Remember: if it can’t be demonstrated as working, the prospect will not be willing to pay for it. It may as well not be there.
  • Drive Train: If you’re advertising as “Road-Ready,” it MUST start and be ready for a comprehensive road test the minute the prospect arrives for inspection. Dead battery, engine leaks, anything that would kill the confidence for a highway trip which may well be thousands of miles will kill your sale! If it’s not ready for this, it’s NOT “Road-Ready,” it’s a “Rescue Project,” meaning it will require anything from a day or two of mechanical monkeybusiness to a flatbed haul to its new home.
  • Tire Condition: Are the tires modern tubeless, or old split-rim style? Don’t forget that tires age like the rest of us, and tires older than ten years will require replacement soon – the fussier buyer will want to have new tires and rims installed before embarking on any kind of a trip.
  • Body Rust: Describe and disclose any and all body rust, from just peeking through the paint, or in a seam or two, to all-out holes which will require metal replacement. Not a deal breaker if the buyer expects to see it, but it can be a real buzz-killer if discovered after the fact!
  • Chassis Rust: This is most important of all. The prospect will check for chassis rust in the important places, and there’s just no sense in anything but full disclosure in advance of any trip to view.

These considerations are paramount in selling your Flx. Please remember: a straightforward and brutally honest description is your best guarantee to a quick and mutually satisfactory passing on of your beloved old friend to a new family!

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