As the doorbell echoes, I gallop through my mental checklist for the umpteenth time. Appearance confirmed in the car mirror before I came up the path, so it’s too late for that. Briefcase has the requisite marketing material, price research and comparables enclosed and breath is a fresh as the just-crunched mint will allow. I just hope the owner isn’t another nutter.
The only bar on property ownership – and admittedly it’s a big one at the moment – is affordability. Nobody checks for sanity, hygiene levels or bad beverage-making skills. I could find a charming, level-headed individual about to open the door - or a grade 1 lunatic. It’s usually somewhere in-between, but you never know.
‘House rules,’ Trills the woman wearing a dodgy patterned blouse, with those slightly too earnest eyes. ‘No shoes indoors.’ My heart sinks. Now you shouldn’t generalise in sales, it’s a mistake to judge people on first impressions, but then after so many years knowing something and adhering to it, are two different things.
Reluctantly, back grumbling in tandem with internal dialogue, I stoop to unlace my Oxfords.
‘You don’t mind do you?’ Asks the owner rhetorically as I try to paste on a nonchalant, doesn’t bother me you’re an obsessive weirdo with podiatry problems, smile, as she continues: ‘Only we insist.’
As I pad absurdly up the hall, no guests’ slippers arranged by the front door in this home, I make sure my socks are hole-free. I’ve checked first thing this morning of course, but cheap hosiery seems to spring gaps at will and a gnarly big toe poking through as you sit on the sofa and make your pitch isn’t going to help nail the business…
‘This is the kitchen.’ Enlightens the woman unnecessarily as I traipse into a dated room that really needed no introduction – particularly to me. 1970’s units are hanging tiredly from the walls, yellowing formica teamed with a peeling laminate work surface. A water-stained sink, half-full with unwashed plates, sits under a dripping tap. And you wanted me to take my shoes off, I think acidly, as one sock sticks to something viscous on the floor and I spot a fat moggy lurking malevolently in one corner.
Terrific. She doesn’t want you to tread in anything unsavoury from outside, yet she keeps her house like a municipal tip and allows some bird-torturing sadist that has probably just torn a sparrow limb-from-limb before sliding through the cat-flap, to walk up and down the food preparation area.
‘Do you like cats?’ Asks the woman, bringing me back to reality. They say honesty is the best policy and I’m all for raising standards in this much-maligned industry but answering, ‘only if they’re stir-fried madam,’ isn’t going to help win the business. I’m economical with the truth instead.
‘And this is the bedroom.’ Intones the woman as I tiptoe semi-undressed into the boudoir, where another hairy moggy is sitting at the bed-head, exactly where the owner will be sleeping later. ‘Shoo Tiggy.’ Chides the cat-lover half-heartedly to a look of total indifference from her pet. ‘She knows she shouldn’t be up there,’ coos the woman unconvincingly. ‘But you’ve got to love them haven’t you?’
Only with noodles lady.
‘We’ll only sell if we get the right price.’ Insists the owner superfluously, when we’re sat on a hair-matted couch, me in my socks and with a dark suit attracting every last floating feline follicle. Now I have to coax a sensible marketing price out of this woman who obviously has selective vision. The house needs £25,000 minimum spend to bring it up to standard, unless that’s reflected in the asking price she’ll be less likely to move than the hairball on her pillow.
‘Your shoe lace is undone.’ Announces assistant manager T as I stumble through the office door, sneezing wildly, eyes red and running. ‘Any luck?
My sniffy diatribe that includes extensive use of industrial carpet cleaners, flea infestation treatment, a trip to the opticians and a red-hot wok, causes understandable bemusement.
Three for the price of two on the new socks though.