Thursday, August 21, 2014

Golden Oldies - Thursday

Negotiator S appears prettily in my peripheral vision and for a moment I think it’s another of those awkward dreams. Finally, I register she’s really there and the screen that had almost hypnotised me is the stark reality of my office profit and loss accounts - not one of those dodgy sites now blocked by the main server…

‘Got lovely old Mr and Mrs Lockwood in the office.’ Begins S with a winning smile. I try to surreptitiously glance round her to see the office sales area, but she’s standing sideways and it’s a big ask without appearing pervy, or dislocating a couple of neck vertebrae.

‘Err, just remind me…’ I say pathetically. I can remember just about every home I’ve ever sold but the names are too much data to keep, with my ageing hard drive.
‘From The Avenue.’ Prompts S. ‘We’ve got a sale arranged on their house but they haven’t found anything to to go to to yet.’ Of course I remember. A sweet old couple who have wracked up some of those more obscure wedding anniversaries between the precious metal milestones. I need them to find somewhere or my potential commission will be stalled forever in the sales pipeline, with no chance of converting to hard cash.

‘Great news.’ I say to S, before hesitating. ‘So…why do they need to see me?’
S sighs and smiles again. God, she’s so hot she should carry an over 18s only, certificate. ‘They like you,’ she continues. ‘They want your advice on the flat they’ve seen.’

Now I want my vendors to like me. I positively crave their affection when I’m pitching for the business against several other estate agents. But, like a serial shagger, once I’ve consummated the deed - and bagged a signed sole agency - I’m keen to move on to pastures and punters new.

I sense a dilemma looming. I’m not a big fan of shared communal space living and with the leasehold laws in the UK as they are I wouldn’t want a flat without a peppercorn ground rent, a share in the freehold and an in-house management company. At the very least.

‘Where have they found?’ I quiz S, frantically thinking of the blocks in my area that don’t have greedy freeholder issues, diminished lease terms and huge holes in their sinking funds. S tells me the name of a well known retirement home builder and I grimace.
‘Really?’ I say rhetorically.
‘Really.’ She answers unnecessarily, adding. ‘They really like it. It’s the security and the companionship.’
And the rip-off prices, I think sourly. Hoping, not for the first time, that if I make it to the Lockwood’s advanced years I won’t be too senile to remember why I hate the shrunken square footage and overpriced warrens the elderly are wont to move to.

‘So what do you think?’ Urges Mr Lockwood in his reedy voice once S has sat them in front of me with two mugs of tea, and I’ve greeted them like long lost friends. I have a sneaking feeling Mr L is not long for this world . Like many ailing partners, he’s probably trying to manoeuvre his wife into a home that will suit her once he’s gone - there’s certainly not enough room for two people for too long.

Well, he’s paying too much. The ground rent goes up regularly at punitive levels. The lease is a paltry 99 years - fine when you are looking at twenty max to live but not so great for re-sales and disappointed beneficiaries -  and the service charges are a licence to print money. And yet, it gives them something they think you can’t always put a price on. Peace of mind.

If it were my parents I’m not sure what I’d advise, but that decision is no longer one to trouble me. The truth is I might change my opinion if I make it as far as the Lockwoods. Through rheumy eyes the world might look a different - scarier - place.

‘They seem pleased.’ Says S after I’ve seen the old couple to the door. ‘What did you tell them?’
‘What I thought they wanted to hear.’

It’s the bottom line.


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