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The Independent Online
I am flicking through Country Life's fantasy house ads because I am contemplating a change of scene. But dealing with estate agents these days is a sobering experience. Please, I find myself praying, practice your selling techniques on me. I phoned one to make an appointment to view a converted coach house with paddock. "Do you know the area? Have you visited the village? Do you like the local schools? I must point out that part of the Downs can be very cold," warned a battle-hardened voice.

"No; that's why I want to view it," I replied.

"We suggest that before you see the house you spend time driving around the area," he said tartly. There then followed an inquisition: was our house up for sale (well, no, we needed to find something we liked), and had we had it recently valued, since prices had changed (he meant dropped) radically. I hung up, defeated.