Now it’s best not to insult owners if you hope to gain their business, so a certain amount of flattery is de rigueur. Pointing out the mould on the bathroom tiling might not enhance saleability, or that clearing the Lego and piles of unwashed clothes from the kid’s bedroom could just possibly ease the path to an acceptable offer, is at best risky. After all some people might like to have discarded white goods in their garden, might consider it a quirky modern art feature….
‘I’m not interested in all the flannel,’ interrupts the husband abruptly as I start to run through my corporate presentation folder. Not too bothered about a vacuum cleaner either I yearn to say, as he continues with a curt. ‘Just tell me how much it’s worth.’
All eyes are on me, including the beady canine one’s, as I gather my thoughts and wonder just how improbably high I can push the price and still retain a modicum of credibility. I’ve learnt from bitter experience that being too accurate on price costs you the business. Never underestimate the lure of an inflated figure, however improbable. How else would Katie Price have a career?
As my eyes begin to water and the dog encroaches into my personal space one paw at a time, I lean forward earnestly. One for maximum sincerity and two to minimise my suit’s contact with the hair-encrusted sofa - I’ll be brushing long wiry tresses off my trousers for hours before I can go home. Traces of an old dog’s hair on your clothes can cause no end of misunderstandings and I only need matrimonial disputes for work purposes.
The number I have in mind for this pigsty would cause any sane man to choke with embarrassment but still, as a phlegmy substance rises in my gullet, I feel I’ll need to go higher if I’m not to be trumped by one of the three - at least - other agents who’ve been round. I managed to pocket one of the other firms’ business cards as I walked past the kitchen table, but there’ll be others. There always is.
‘How much?’ Snaps the man incredulously, as I think yep, you’ve gone too high this time mate.
‘You can’t be serious,’ interrupts the woman, speaking for the first time and spilling an urn’s-worth of ash onto the already burn-marked carpet, from her cigarette. ‘We’d be giving it away for that.’
‘How much did you have in mind?’ I coax half-heartedly, knowing I’ve already lost them even before I tell them my fee. In some ways I’m better off letting another agent waste their time. I can come back once reality and some elbow grease has arrived. I’d like to say you wouldn’t keep a dog in a place like this, but then….
‘Well ours is much nicer than the one three doors down,’ begins Mr Deluded. Isn’t it always? I think morosely, as I fumble for a tissue and begin one of those out of body experiences - the type where you are almost floating above the conversation as a third party observer. Then he does the reveal and I’m back with a bump.
‘So you don’t want it then?’ Asks the man aggressively. He’s insulted and his wife’s teeth are more bared and yellowing than the incontinent pooch is managing to present.
Gently I tell them the price is probably a good fifteen percent more than even the most optimistic – and there are not many of those around – surveyors, would value it at for mortgage purposes. They won’t be moving and I need to – fast. I feel like crying.
‘It’s what the other company offered us.’ Chips the man defensively as I fumble for the front door catch, eyes streaming, throat thick with mucus.
We’ll see if anyone coughs up.