Friday, March 05, 2010
Wanted Poster - Friday
As a worryingly quiet week staggers on, I decide to review our stock of homes for sale. It’s a paradox that agents battle tooth and nail to win instructions from reluctant owners, and other agents cutting fees and inflating prices, only to find certain homes become a millstone and just don’t shift, no matter how many times you advertise them.
Needless to say the vendors aren’t too pleased after effusive promises there are buyers chaffing at the bit, to find the endearing smell of deep-fried food and unwashed occupants isn’t exactly twanging punters’ collective wire.
‘Well these three are overpriced.’ Concludes assistant manager T unhelpfully, as he sweeps a dismissive hand over the office filing cabinet, while we stare at the hanging folder-tags morosely. By a spooky coincidence I listed the trio of homes and uncomfortably he’s probably right, but then I was up against several other agents all whispering the sort of over-inflated promises an eager potential lover with halitosis and a hard-on, might employ.
Churlishly I tug open another drawer and point out a brace of properties T brought to the market, both of which are sticking like turds to a shoe. ‘Perhaps you could trim ten grand each off these.’ I snipe ungraciously, tugging out the contact details and handing them towards a sullen-faced T.
‘God I don’t even want to speak to them,’ confesses T glumly. ‘I’m just going to get grief as to when we’ll put them in the paper again.’
It’s a common misconception amongst vendors, that estate agents do little for their money other than to run an occasional advert and sit drinking vending machine coffee all day. Like a swan on a lake, we might appear serene in freshly laundered shirts with colour co-ordinated ties – although not in trainee F’s case – but in fact underneath we’re paddling like hell for survival.
We spend hours every week with time-wasters who have no real intention of buying, some encouraged, I’m sure, by the plethora of television property porn shows running relentlessly on daytime schedules. If there are two people most agents would happily throttle, other than the prime minister and chancellor of the day, it’s probably that supercilious coupling of Phil and Kirstie. Surely the bastard offspring of a twisted Nazi, perfect property race, experiment?
‘So why do some properties just not get any interest? Asks F gormlessly, as I look again at his crumpled collar, and food-flecked tie. For an in-bred buffoon it’s not that bad a question. Much as I hate to even quote the title of the afore-mentioned duos show, it’s often location. It includes a further alchemy of orientation, décor, square footage, garden, lease length and numerous other variables, but ultimately it’s one thing. ‘Price.’ I tell F curtly. ‘It’s down to price.’
‘Of course we’ll be reluctant to sell.’ Blusters a man later, as his wife nods in agreement while we wander around their cramped basement flat as I begin to speculate there might have been an unexpected eclipse of the sun since I entered the subterranean space. It’s a common ploy from prospective vendors to eulogise about the home they are planning to sell, as if they are flogging it to the agent rather than waiting for a troglodyte with a mortgage in principle and an aversion to sunshine, to appear.
As we shuffle in to the one and only bedroom and the man continues to enthuse over the proximity to local amenities, I spot an ugly bloom of damp behind the headboard.
All basement conversions attract moisture. Fact. In my experience no amount of tanking to the walls, or dubious insurance backed damp-proof guarantees from long- defunct firms, negates the fact the space was meant for coal, wine, or domestic staff at best. Promoting the Dulux-washed dungeon as a “garden flat” is risking the wrath of the Trading Standards Officer, even if I can demonstrate how readily fungi grows in the bathroom.
As the owner drones on I begin to think I can see a shape emerging from the wall-growth. A unique selling point the marketing men might call it. Just need to see how I can convince gullible religious nuts, that a penicillium picture of Jesus warrants a premium on the price.