Under Offer: Estate Agents on the Job, BBC2, TV review
Human side of loathed profession revealed in new documentary
Let us take a brief moment to acknowledge the annual plight of those in professions routinely named in surveys as the most loathed in the UK. The usual suspects tend to be Members of Parliament (Boo!), traffic wardens (Hiss!), journalists (Oh...) and, of course, estate agents. Especially those who drive around in racing-green Minis. Especially them.
Of course, the drama in buying a house has long been manna to non-fiction telly commissioners. That has mainly manifested itself in either Allsoppian property porn or undercover reports on people getting diddled by dodgy agents' tactics. The first episode of six-part series Under Offer: Estate Agents on the Job (BBC2) did none of these things. It simply followed a diverse bunch of agents from a range of economic areas, and showed us what they do (apart from calling you every eight minutes).
First of all, there was Lewis Rossiter, a branch manager in Exeter agents Bradleys – think Olly Murs in a white-collared shirt with a hint of early-onset David Brent. Lewis is the kind of kidult who asks for a glass of squash while viewing a potential client's house. I like him.
Lewis had been tasked with flogging a family home in just 30 days, which he managed with a singular determination. Much to his client's delight.
There were several reasons to like the cut of his jib. The first was when being filmed driving around his manoir and he spotted his sister or sister-in-law pushing his daughter in a pram. Asked by the director if he "knows a lot of people around here, then?" Lewis was quick enough to reply: "Well, I know my daughter quite well."
In a serendipitous quirk, the cameras also happened to still be with Lewis, just as his wife went into labour with their second child. It wasn't really relevant to the business of selling houses, but it was sweet nevertheless. Especially as it gave Lewis the chance to put his job into context with the miracle of new life: "It's been a good month with all the exchanges, and then having [baby] Cohen tops it all off." Tops it all off!
Also likable was Lynne Blaney of Robinsons in Spennymoor, County Durham. Lynne had been given the Sisyphean task of selling a house owned by a local singer, Susan, which has been on the market four years and has been viewed a measly five times. It may be the location, it may be the price, it's probably the decor (a zebra-patterned cocktail bar sits close by leopard-skin cushions and a jungle-skin sofa), but Susan was struggling to sell. In episode one, sadly, the best Lynne could come up with was a laminated advert in the window of the company's car. We'll be back to see how far that got them.
There were no such problems for Gary Hersham, a London agent who specialises in selling plum London addresses to the dastardly rich.
I've little interest in seeing the process of how £27m houses are sold, thanks. But Gary is captivating nevertheless. Some may call him tough. I'll go with mean. His relationship with Ernesto, his assistant seems to be modelled solely on interactions between Basil Fawlty and Manuel – the phrase "Spanish twerp" is used – and his driver Kuki, is reluctant to go to the loo while waiting for Gary, lest he return to the car and have to wait. God forbid.
It's surprising, given our infatuation with homes and the buying of them, that there have not been more estate agents on TV. It's another surprise to see the kind side of (some of) them. If only someone could do the same for MPs. And, why not, journalists. Now, where's the documentary humanising journalists?
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