Thursday, April 12, 2012
On The Job Training - Thursday
Trainee F comes to my open office door seeming troubled. I feel the same way. I just try and avoid the gormless look.
‘How can I help?’ I ask, automatically framing an open question after years of schooling.
F frowns and I see he’s clutching a buff sales file. I click off the internet site I’m allowed to browse by the internal filters and beckon him in.
I’ve given F his own sale to monitor. Often the hardest part of a deal reaching fruition comes after the first flush of enthusiasm between buyer and seller, when the solicitors, surveyors and lenders get involved. Add in the dreaded chain of third parties you have no control over and it’s little wonder one in three sales are destined to fail.
‘I’m not really sure what’s going on.’ Falters F, in a candid admission of his career progress so far, but it’s the sale progress he’s referring to. The skilled agent will nurse your sale obsessively, checking the chain, chivvying professionals and amateurs alike, negotiating and re-negotiating problems until a successful exchange of contracts. In this case I’ve entrusted F to a fairly straightforward transaction. After all it’s not always the chief pilot at the controls and everyone has to learn. I just can’t afford too many bumpy landings.
‘There’s some sort of hold up in the chain.’ Stutters F uncertainly. I take the file, trying hard not to snatch it and scan his spindly longhand notes. It might as well be a doctor’s prescription. I ask for more detail.
‘Something about a septic tank and a….’ F stumbles. ‘An easement, maybe?’
I beckon him to sit down. This might take a while.
‘So,’ says F after a brief history of rights of way and private drainage systems. ‘What you’re saying is they don’t have like proper sewerage and stuff.’
‘Not mains service.’ I tell him warily. ‘It’s not uncommon in older more rural properties.’
‘Like one of those listing buildings?’ Suggests F brightening.
My quip about structural problems is wasted on the dolt. Sometimes I genuinely fear for his future children. Amazingly, judging by the parade of dippy girlfriends, he seems to have no problem getting laid. And he excels at screwing up...
‘So it must be like really ancient, this house.’ Continues F, oblivious to my body language.
‘Not necessarily.’ I reply, sensing another asinine aphorism.
‘Probably built before the war, I’m guessing.’ Ventures F, with a silly grin.
I now desperately want to ask which war the idiot is referring to? If he mentions either Gulf conflict, I’ll fire off my own Exocet. He already thinks I fought in the Falklands campaign after a joke about old comrades in an overflying Chinook spiralled out of control. The truth is I was in my first selling job when the naval flotilla set sail for the South Atlantic. It’s been a battle ever since.
‘I suggest you speak to the solicitor involved, or their secretary.’ I tell F, referring to the chain diagram on the inside cover of the file. One carrying surprisingly good detail if you could read F’s handwriting. His face falls.
‘I don’t really like speaking to lawyers.’ He says as I think you and me both pal. They’re a supercilious, condescending bunch of tossers at the best of times. But I’ll still have lunch with them if there’s a good probate department.
‘They treat you like you’re an idiot if you ring up and ask what’s happening.’ Continues F gloomily. Some open goals are just too easy, so I move on.
‘Be sure of your facts, ask politely for an update and tell them if they can’t help, you’ll report that back to their clients.’ I advise. F grimaces, as I add. ‘Just don’t ring on a Friday afternoon when they’re trying to get completions through.’
‘How come it’s all so complicated and people say we don’t do anything for the money?’ Queries F as he gathers up the file reluctantly. It’s his most salient question so far.
‘We’re like swans.’ I tell him, immediately regretting the analogy.
His guesses involving long necks and hissy fits left me floundering and far from serene.
Guess I’ll just have to keep paddling.