Three more walls and I'll be out of this nightmare

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The Independent Online
When I was younger (so much younger than today) I remember listening to a song called "The Pub with no Beer". It was only later in life that I became aware of the shattering and futile significance of the title. To my amazement I now discover that there is a Nineties version of the song waiting to be written. It is called "The Estate Agency with no Homes".

I stumbled across this phenomenon last weekend. Having escaped the clutches of Toby (the man with no brain) I ventured into a rival firm's offices only to be faced with this awful truth. A charming young lady took 10 minutes of my life while we went through my property requirements, and then dropped her bombshell.

"We don't have anything."

"But it says on the door that you are an estate agency," I protested.

"I know."

"But it is your business to sell property," I complained.

"I know," she said sweetly.

At this point Vanessa stood up and grimly shared with me her dark secret.

"The problem is that we are facing an acute property shortage," she said gravely.

I burst into tears. In my mind I could see queues of the affluent middle classes forming outside estate agencies waiting for days on end for the faintest sign of a three-bedroomed semi or spacious centrally located town house to emerge. Housing coupons are issued - 400 for a conservatory, 600 for a loft extension. Then come the vigilantes. Bands of estate agents roam the leafy suburbs in the dark of night, forcibly ejecting families from their homes and erecting for sale signs. It is a nightmare.

Vanessa sensed my disquiet and attempted to reassure me. It transpired that she was a week-end estate agent only and her job was to show people houses. Unfortunately, as she had confessed, there was not a great deal to show at the moment. It was this no-showing which had drawn her to the conclusion that there was a property shortage.

"Could it be," I asked, "that you are actually an extremely bad estate agency which could not give a house away let alone sell it in the greatest property boom the world has seen this month?"

Now Vanessa burst into tears. I had cast a slur on the good name of her, her firm and her weekday negotiators who would remain at their desks until midnight to ensure that the wheels of the property market were smoothly oiled.

I apologised for my outrageous behaviour and returned to more civil discourse.

"So when might you be getting some more in?" I asked.

"I don't know."

"Are there other outlets locally where I might find one?"

"I don't know."

"Could you order me one?"

"I don't know."

I sensed that Vanessa and I were not going to make progress. I collected a fistful of business cards belonging to her weekday negotiators and with her assurances that they would not rest until I was safely housed ringing in my ears, I retired to the world of sanity.

It was only when I got home that I realised that Vanessa had neglected to ask me one crucial question: whether I currently owned a property and if so did I want to sell it. And then it dawned on me. If no prospective buyers were ever asked to sell their properties then it was hardly surprising that there was a shortage. No wonder prices were being driven ever higher.

I realised I was banging my head against a brick wall. If only I could find three more brick walls I would have enough for a house and would not have to trouble the property market any more.

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