Followers of this, muh bogl – those, that is, who do not Follow me around with a metaphorical shovel merely in case I drop my wallet, or decide to buy some blue pills, designer luggage or an SEO strategy involving the maximisation of h-tags, whatever they be – will by now be utterly bored with my tiresome obsession with my little house, and the apparent inability of my Committee of Discarnate Entities to understand that I wish to sell it and move to somewhere where it isn’t currently raining.
Central to my sales strategy is, of course, the appointment of an Estate Agent – a small local service provider or chain of providers having special knowledge of, and special powers in relation to, the buying and selling of property.
Powers that I do not myself wield, such as the ability to list properties on national property-finder websites like Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location, which private individuals cannot do on their own behalf. Or, the ability to produce an Energy Efficiency Rating, apparently out of thin air.
Now, I try to give Estate Agents a fair crack of the whip, and a reasonable run at selling my house. If they succeed, well, then there’s commission to pay, 1.5 per cent of the transaction price. In my case that could amount to two thousand , three hundred pounds, the price of a fairly good guitar (I’m getting used to the weight distribution problem), or a fortnight’s holiday in Marbella. It’s not a huge amount (except for me, now I am a little Old Age Pensioner), but it surely would help to pay some overheads of the business. Worth having, no?
But you don’t get owt for nowt, so if you want my two grand I feel it is not unreasonable to expect that you should at least try to earn it.
Before Christmas, I sent a nice email to my current agent, number four, letting him know as politely as possible that, as he had not sold my house for me, and had had six months in which to find at least one hearing-impaired, cash-rich punter with no car who would at least come and look at my house on a thundering main road in the drab outskirts of a seaside town, so I felt the New Year was perhaps an appropriate time for some new energy, some fresh impetus, another take on the problem. Accordingly, I asked him to kindly take down his signboard and depart.
And do you know what? This morning I got a nice letter back from him, wishing me well and if there was ever anything he could do to help, etcetera.
And with it was a bill for £126 to cover his advertising costs… ‘as per our contract’.
Well, buster, as per your contract, a contract is an agreement between two parties, and you don’t seem to have done a fucking thing about your side of the bargain, so why should I? My first thought, gentle Reader, was, as you may surmise, a trifle scabrous.
I could have bought the advertising, such as it was, myself – and written it better. Did I not previously own an advertising agency? The contract stated that two ads were included and that any additional ads would be billed to me. I took from that the idea that, before any extra media were purchased, that I have not even seen, I might perhaps be consulted first?
I have never, in the 45 years since I bought the first of five houses I have owned, and then sold it at a 45 per cent profit two years later, ever in my life before had to pay an estate agent for failure. I did not have to pay the previous agent, number three, who had also presumably incurred advertising costs but failed to introduce a single prospective buyer during his six months’ tenure of my contractual silence.
Unlike agent number two, to whom I sent notes of a constructive nature and was fired for my pains, I let both of these heavily bejewelled losers get on with doing the job for which I would have had to pay them two thousand pounds without quibble, had they succeeded.
I held my peace and bit off my acerbic tongue when presented with their clumsily amateurish attempts at writing sales copy and designing attractive, persuasive literature. I put up with the deafening lack of communication – at no stage in an entire year did either of them ever once volunteer any information as to how things were going, not once.
When I asked to be kept informed about any objections buyers were possibly raising against even considering buying my little house, perhaps in discussions in their sales office, so that I could, if possible, take steps to counter them, make improvements, financial easements and so forth, I was completely ignored. I was not copied-in on correspondence with enquirers, nor was I furnished with copies of any advertising matter other than the initial, badly-drafted and confusingly laid-out sales particulars.
It is one of the accepted risks of the Estate Agency racket, that you have to invest a little money in the hope of getting back a lot. If you fail, well, tough. That’s why you charge so much relatively for success. The two thousand, three hundred pounds you could have got for selling my little house would cover maybe two or three lots of £126 you might have spent on advertising other houses you haven’t sold, plus a month’s wages for the attractive desk-maven.
As I wrote in my letter, I do not blame the agent for failing in his appointed task. It is not an easy market at the present time, there are local and national economic factors at work depressing sales. Nevertheless, he has failed to achieve even the most basic of results, the introduction of even one prospective buyer; and he has failed by and large to communicate with me on any level or do anything over and above the bare minima necessary to earn his profit.
While for my part, I have spent hours every day for two years vacuuming and washing-up, keeping my clothes and my papers in order, redecorating, gardening, getting next-door to cut their front grass, supplying my own photographs, brewing fresh coffee in case someone, anyone with a chequebook, should turn up. I’ve been willing to conduct my own viewings. I had the slipped roof tiles fixed. Only the other day, I paid a man £350 to trim the ivy and do a bit of repointing around the chimney flashing. I’ve placed and tended advertising of my own in the popular interweb media, at cost, from which the agent would have benefited.
Do my costs of sale, my time and energy, my co-operation count for nothing in this contract between supposed equals in law?
The name of the agent who has been completely unable in six months to find one possibly interested prospective buyer or even merely a curious or annoying party to send round to me, but who still wants paying, is Mr Michael Williams, of Messrs Morris, Marshall and Poole, Aberystwyth branch, and he has an infuriatingly patronising and dismissive attitude to go with, should you ever wish to find a reason to avoid having anything to do with him.
There, I have outed you. And for only £126. A bargain.
But it is, of course, only my personal opinion. Other opinions are probably available.