‘Which one is that?’ I ask cautiously, as I wonder if anyone – other than me – will think to get the vacuum cleaner out. ‘Yeh which one?’ Echoes trainee F, his face colouring – that investigation into his browsing history still fresh in everyone’s memory. I’m still not sure how he circumnavigated the filters the group IT geeks installed, but it would be useful to know.
‘The police one, where you can check out the crime statistics for your area.’ Informs M with a chubby-jowelled shake of his head. ‘That’s all we need. Just another excuse for punters to pull out of a deal.’ M has a point. The deluge of information now available on-line has changed the industry since I started with a clipboard, manual tape measure and a dusty filing cabinet with a few out of date sales, to refer back to.
Now you can enter property details into a floor plan creation suite in real time. Then measure a room without hooking your tape-end to a clothes-strewn radiator, dodging the furniture and stretching to the far wall before the clasp parts company with the heating panel and drags a pair of panties with it. I’ve had some awkward explanations along the way there.
People can look up the price their neighbour sold for online and the open to all Land Registry information gives prices achieved, ownership and lenders details, all with a few brief clicks. Now it seems you can see a street level crime map to see who has been, burgled, mugged or turned over by a confidence trickster (or as I like to call them - other estate agent) in your area.
‘It’s information bloody overload,’ gripes M moodily. ‘It’s going to affect house prices if you get a spate of break-ins isn’t it?’ he looks at me pointedly. Everyone looks at me.
‘Information is power.’ I state obtusely, trying to buy some time.
‘What the f**k does that mean.’ Snaps lettings lush B fiercely. She’s just been jilted by another internet-sourced boyfriend so I’m guessing her support of new, full-disclosure technology, is ambivalent at best – imagine if her dating site listed all the areas her past indiscretions took place in…..messy.
‘Well what do you think?’ Probes negotiator S gently, as I fleetingly think about reciprocating. ‘Well,’ I finally manage, as she looks at me disarmingly. ‘I’m guessing it might deter a few buyers.’
‘Damn right it will,’ interjects M decisively. ‘You’ll end up with ghettos where nobody will buy and nobody will lend.’ We already have those, I think gloomily, as S responds. ‘I think people should have a right to know though.’ S is almost from a different generation to me, something I have to regularly remind myself of. M scowls in her direction then shakes his head and waddles to the kitchen.
‘What do you think?’ Asks S, as assistant manager T breezes through the door, head down, thumbs tapping furiously at his iPhone. T multi-tasks as she relays the discussion, his fingers sweeping across the screen confusingly as pictures and text appear, stretch, tilt and turn then disappear again. I feel a headache building.
‘Thing is,’ he concludes distractedly, as the wretched phone-cum-computer bleeps and shakes in his hand. ‘Once the technology is out there you can’t turn it back.’
‘Genie and bottle.’ I tell him sagely and he stops and stares at me, and once again all eyes are focused my way.
‘Wasn’t that a song by those old guys?’ Questions T, brow furrowed with more concentration than the hand-held demanded.
I haven’t a clue what he’s talking about and the conversation meanders in a rather old-fashioned, quasi-charades, non-digital way as we try to reach a consensus on what turns out, when M see-saws back into the room thighs chafing, to be: Message In A Bottle - by The Police.