‘What have you got?’ I ask her, internal voice offering a lewd comment I have to stifle almost physically.
‘A nice lady wanting to downsize.’ Replies S enthusiastically, as another inappropriate comment rises like reflux. Deep swallow later I get back on track. S is yet to realise even the nice ones turn nasty at some stage in the transaction – at least the majority do. It might be the lack of buyers, it might be too many buyers; it could be a broken chain and broken dreams, or it may just be the size of my invoice if things go unusually smoothly.
‘Give me the details.’ I tell S warmly, pulling up a chair at her desk and trying to look her in the eye. She’s good. I’ve trained and mentored her as closely as possible - without resorting to hands on. Unlike imbecile trainee F, she has the intelligence and street-smart awareness to make a great estate agent if she just sticks with it and doesn’t get pregnant.
S reels off the basic information, the house address, accommodation, contact numbers, then takes me through the more useful stuff. The motivation, finances, time scales. I end up with a pen-picture of the potential vendor. All the nuggets a good operator will mine with a seemingly benign conversation, allowing me to have a competitive edge when I carry out the appointment.
‘I’ve already given her details of smaller homes and a couple of nice flats if she goes the buy abroad keep a base here route,’ informs S as I throb with pride at her growth and try to ignore my own. ‘You could ask her what she thinks about them when you go.’
‘Husband?’ I quiz, knowing she’ll know.
‘Yes, still alive this time.’ I go to add something but she’s ahead of me. ‘And before you ask he’s going to be back from golf in time to see you.’
Told you she was good. With both parties on hand it will be much easier to get some commitment. I just need to work out which one is the decision maker.
‘And this is my daughter’s room.’ Announces the nice lady proudly, later in the day. Fortunately I already know it’s not one of those creepy shrine bedrooms. The girl, well woman to be more accurate, has been to university and is now married and has been working in the city for several years. She’s not coming back - at least not until the divorce. I just have to get the parents moved before then.
‘I like to keep it as she left if just so she knows it’s always here.’ Says the mother wistfully. I need to offer alternatives or I’ll never winkle her out. The fading Westlife and Blue, through to All Saints and Manic Street Preachers posters on the walls, chart the daughter’s musical progression. She’s moved on, the mother hasn’t – yet.
‘I’m sure you can have a nice room for her at your new home, when you relocate.’ I venture, putting a definite on the transaction rather than a maybe. She nods unconvincingly then says with melancholy. ‘They grow up so fast, one moment they’re here and needing you and the next minute…’
I don’t want tears. And maudlin isn’t good for 2.0% sole agencies either, but although I’ve heard it a thousand times before, this time she’s struck a chord with my second son about to join his sibling at university.
‘Do you have children?’ She asks pointedly, breaking my darkening mood. I’ve pretended to have cats, dogs, fish and an interest in sports and hobbies I’ve never heard of in the past, but this time I don’t have to lie.
‘Did you get it?’ Asks S when I return to the office. I wave the agency agreement with less vigour than normal.
I’ll miss him when he’s gone.