‘Where is it?’ I ask, always keen to spend time with S, purely in a motivational/mentoring capacity, of course. And she reaches across to her filing tray, causing a distracting gravity versus blouse material phenomenon that would have focused Isaac Newton’s attention more forcefully than a Cox’s Pippin smacking him on the forehead.
S tells me the address and I groan. It’s a soulless bland-faced blemish, the sort of character- free rabbit warren that appealed to all the amateur buy-to-let investors who piled into the market and bought off plan a few years ago, when they realised some light-fingered chancellor had raided their pension funds.
‘Beggars can’t be choosers.’ Chuckles S her chest heaving with mirth. I swallow harder than I’m likely to when I chew on the paper-like nourishment of a no mayonnaise chicken and sweetcorn sandwich, in a moment.
‘Pass it over then.’ I say reluctantly and she hands me the valuation form, a whiff of her perfume comes with it and briefly distracts me from the fruitless task ahead.
‘You should have an apple or something with that.’ Suggests S, looking at the thin offering in my hand, balanced against the plain yoghurt and pre-carbonated flavoured water. An absurd and potentially ruinous vision of a teacher’s pet and some extra-curricular activity the training department would definitely not approve of, dances before me - unless I’m hallucinating from hunger.
To get myself back on track I read the information she’s culled from the potential vendor. She’s good, but then I’ve taught her all I know – well most of it anyway.
‘Only bought it a couple of years ago.’ I say gloomily, realising that no matter how slick my pitch the owner will be disappointed with my likely price suggestion.
‘Yes but they are keen to sell.’ Chirrups S. ‘They’re fed-up with the tenant and the economy, and want to buy abroad.’
I’m hard pushed not to laugh in S’s face. But it’s not her fault I’ve heard it all before. One property recession was bad enough. Two is just an unwelcome reminder I’ve not progressed at all. I’m still making all the same mistakes the owners do.
The block I’ll be visiting could be in any town in the country. No hint of a nod to regional styles or materials, just flung up in a mad dash to what seemed like a one-way bet for instant no-risk profits. I’ve built Lego constructions with my sons, with more architectural merit than this vacuous concrete and glass excretion.
‘Are they realistic about the market for these places?’ I ask S vainly.
‘Oh yes,’ she gushes. ‘They know they have to price sensibly if they want to sell.’
I seriously doubt their realism will match mine when push comes to shove but it’s not S’s fault, so I smile thinly and trudge to my office to try and break into the plastic meal packaging, without using an audible swear word.
As I pick unenthusiastically at the food, I rustle up some comparable evidence of recent similar sales to underpin my price recommendation. If they really want to shift the box and not still own it when some myopic local historian pleads to have the carbuncle Grade Two Listed - alongside a 1960’s multi-storey car park - a sharp dose of realism will be needed.
I’d speculate I have nothing in common with Prince Charles other than male genitals, but I’m broadly with him on a dislike of balance sheet driven aesthetics in construction. I’m just not sure who’s the bigger prick.
‘How much?’ Snaps the vendor angrily as we stand in a sterile magnolia-washed rectangle, a few hours later.
‘There are three others on the market in the building for similar prices.’ I respond. And the man utters a familiar well-worn phrase, just as my lunch semi-regurgitates and a lump of sweetcorn rises uncomfortably in my gullet
‘I’m not giving it away.’
No, you’re not.