Last week, I parted company with my estate agent.
To be more accurate, my estate agent parted company with me. It is true that I have been fired by everyone I ever worked for. I even once fired myself, from my own company. But it is not often that people have fired themselves, who were supposedly working for me and stood to gain by it. That smarts.
As devotees of this, muh bogl, will recall, I have been hoping for more than a year now to sell-up and move to a country that exists as yet only in my mind, Portugal. But try as we might, neither my estate agent nor I have been able to persuade anyone of the obvious benefits of living in the thunderous approaches to a bustling seaside town on the warm and windy-wet, wild west coast of Wales.
I was mildly taken aback, then, when my estate agent emailed me on Monday to tell me that they would be taking down their sign within the next 24 hours BECAUSE THEY HAD FAILED TO SELL MY HOUSE AFTER 12 WEEKS!!!
Given the number of people I know who have been trying to sell their homes here for years, I suspected they might possibly have another reason in mind.
It all started in August, when I got a letter from them telling me my existing estate agent had obviously failed to sell my house, so why not give them a go? They would do much better, thanks to New Technology. There were many buyers even now trampling over one another’s recumbent bodies to get hold of a place like mine. Naturally they would be a little more expensive, because they were the best. But I would not regret switching.
It was a very clever sales letter. I used to write sales letters for a living, for big banks and building societies. So I knew a clever sales letter when I saw one. It was the cleverness of the letter, rather than the actual contents, that sold me; as, of course, I have lived a long time and know that all estate agents are the same, as bad as each other. But not necessarily as clever!
Besides, they were right. My existing agent had clearly lost interest after ten months of trying and failing to sell my house. They had let two offers slip through their fingers in January. The salesgirl ran off to live in Brazil, right at the moment when a bit of expert salesgirlship might have turned things around. I wrote to them, brutally exposing their many failings, and signed a contract with the new agent.
The new agent appeared to have bought a job-lot of brand-new, £3,000 Apple computers, a giant display monitor, a complete design makeover and one of those digital fireplaces you hang on the wall, and was expanding into the building next door. In the ensuing week, I noticed that practically every house there was for sale in the entire county had gone over to the same agent. Everywhere I went, their familiar sign-erector was erecting their newly designed signs in place of their rivals’. It was not a good sign.
Now, if there is one thing I hate, it is being told to shut up and mind my own business, especially by someone who stands to make two thousand pounds or thereabouts, possibly for doing very little, quite badly, at my expense. Especially by someone whom I have contracted to act on my instruction, but who prefers for convenience to believe I am acting on theirs. Especially when I had myself spent years in the business of advising businesses on how best to do business.
Stories about estate agents and how awful they are quickly get boring, so I’ll just tell you quickly: I wrote to the brash young man who was showing people round my house to point out that I did not appreciate some of the things he was telling them. He would bring people in and straightaway tell them, before they had even had a chance to complain about the walls, which walls he would rip out if he bought the house. He was clearly bored by kitchen appliances, and would fail to demonstrate my well-appointed kitchen to the lady viewers. He even threatened to throw out my piano, to make more space (what would become of the mice? I wondered).
In passing, I made one tiny joke about his absurdly shiny, very large and pointy shoes as possibly being a bit intimidating…. You know me, I can’t resist a stab at humour. The estate agent naturally seized on this as the prime example of my abusive behaviour, that was preventing them from selling my house. I was told in no uncertain terms: they were the experts, and if I didn’t like how they were selling my house to the ill-assorted dribble of unwilling buyers they dragged through the door over the next three months, I could go back to my old estate agent.
Am I the only person who still believes a contract is legally binding?
It was a bad relationship from the start. I was not allowed to say anything, even when they failed to produce any printed details of my house the entire time they were under contract. I was banned from staying in my own house while they showed people round. I would take Hunzi for long walks in the rain, but it made no difference in the end. Everyone Liked the house but there was some other factor they weren’t mentioning, preventing them from buying it. Could be the price, could be the location, could be the shoes, who knew? I was never told anything that was not optimistic bullshit.
It has felt like the Invisible Hand of God is preventing me from selling my house. Maybe I am being saved by my Committee of Discarnate Entities from a fate worse even than that of ending my lonely days in the outskirts of a bustling seaside town; Hunzi’s and my mummified remains discovered years later in my offputtingly rhomboidal sitting-room, a Miles Davis CD mouldering in the tray of the long-dead CD-player, gas bills piled high in the doorway, headlines bemoaning the state of social work nowadays.
Moving to Portugal might be worse: I might be fated otherwise to drown in my new swimming pool, or be massacred in an orchestrated attack by angry torch-bearing villagers on the elderly foreign weirdo living alone with the dog with the strange, amber eyes. I’ve reminded myself that it’s been 258 years since the last Great Lisbon Earthquake. I should be grateful that I’m being kept out of harm’s way, even if I do have to be miserable and frustrated and broke and unemployed in the perpetual wind and rain of a dull and depressing seaside town*.
But the old journalist in me could not help noticing that the letter telling me they were taking down my sign the next day because they had not sold my house was sent the same weekend they started expensively marketing an entire development of twenty-one new dwelling units right across the street from my house, where they appear to be deeply embedded with the developer.
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that it is this kampong of human farrowing-crates crammed onto a tiny brownfield site cutting off my view forever of a green hill, far away, the railway line running through their living-rooms; the fear of possibly finding oneself in proximity to feral children, devil dogs, wild-eyed men with spiders tattooed on their heads living in precarious relationships with rebarbative termagents called Charleyne, that could be dampening interest in my little house.
And now it is almost Christmas and no-one buys a house at Christmas, or has any money left after Christmas. So it looks as if I am condemned to remain here at least until the market picks up next Easter, browsing the Internet for a reliable guide to self-mummification.
It is too late in the year to appoint another estate agent, and in any case where will I find one who does not by now know that, when they fire me, they are likely to get upset at being told to go f*** themselves, and I will have to send them flowers? It will be all over town by now.
I am not a deserving person, I know. But it is a very nice little house, honestly.
*Prospective buyers please note: the tenor of this, my bogl, is generally intended to be humorous and not to be taken entirely at face value. That lump in my cheek is my tongue, not a case of the mumps. You need to start reading from the other end.