‘What’s this one all about?’ Questions F annoyingly as I pull up outside a regulation 1930s semi-detached house. The type spec-built on farmer’s fields as towns spread inexorably pre-war, even before we let Germans in voluntarily.
It rankles he hasn’t done his homework, but then if he had he wouldn’t be working in this industry. I learned, belatedly, to put the hard yards in – and the tricky metres – but it was too little too late. I do know what we’re valuing though and I do have several comparable properties sold locally to refer to, plus a brief case full of marketing material. The only weak link is F – and the fact that the majority of other agents who’ll doubtless be valuing, will be chopping fees and inflating prices.
‘Just follow my lead.’ I whisper to F. The canine connection entirely appropriate as I look at his panting face, eager to please, but just as likely to start licking his own balls half way through the presentation – if he could. Then I spot the stickers in the porch window and my heart sinks.
No hawkers, circulars or cold callers. Warns the sign portentously, alongside a sub-text about never buying from doorstep salesman, and a warning the owners have the local police station on speed-dial. I try not to be judgemental, it’s a mistake many make, but then experience is also telling me the occupier will be a pedant of Olympian proportions. I’m pretty sure they won’t like agents too.
‘Two of you?’ Questions the owner when he eventually finishes shooting back a clattering array of bolts and deadlocks. He’s a mousy man with wire-framed spectacles and a nasally whine. Already I don’t much like him, but I want his cash, not companionship. Behind him hovers a mousy looking wife with sensible clothes but not sensible shoes. I know before he says it.
‘We have house rules here.’ I nod and glance at F who I can see is confused. He’s thinking minimum bets, membership 24 hours in advance - I’m thinking no shoes inside and beige carpet.
I bend stiffly and am rewarded with a shooting pain in the back as I struggle to unlace my Loake Oxfords. F looks at me as if I’ve gone mad, as I just pray he hasn’t got holes in his hosiery once he realises what’s required.
‘Ah I see you’re a man after my own heart.’ Chirps the owner, erroneously. I smile and in the absence of any movement from F, hiss. ‘Take your shoes off. They don’t allow outside footwear indoors.’
You need to meet any owner at his or her level, so if they want you to pad around in your underpants, you do it, if they’ll sign a sole agency.
‘Are they religious or something?’ Hisses F as we follow through into the lounge and my mind goes on to an unwelcome detour, imagining what other absurd “house rules” we might encounter. There’s the obvious, don’t kick the cat, use the toilet, shag the daughter caveats. The regular no alcohol, boyfriends, loud music and loud ties indoors rules, and in this case I’m thinking pork products might not be too welcome either. I’m hoping F doesn’t have another bag of scratchings in his jacket pocket.
‘If we do put it on the market with you,’ Drones the man even before I’ve hit him with a realistic price that he won’t think is. ‘We want any viewers properly vetted.’ I glance instinctively at F and wonder fleetingly about castration costs.
‘And they need to know they can’t come inside with their shoes on.’ Interjects the wife, as I glance at the carpet, colour as predicted.
‘They didn’t like your price much.’ Ventures F as I pull away angrily.
I won’t need the new socks, just yet.