Confessions Of An Estate Agent: 'He seemed so nice ...'

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The Independent Online

Roy Slater is a co-founder of Slater Hogg and Howison in Glasgow.

"We were once having difficulty selling a house, but then a lady viewer seemed to express quite a sincere interest. We were anxious to find out how seriously she was thinking about making an offer so I gave her a call. Now, usually I would have hung up after a half dozen or so rings, but this time for some reason I kept ringing for a good couple of minutes. Just as I was about to hang up, a gasping voice on the other end of the line said, 'Harry? Harry? Is that you?'

"When I told her that I was not Harry but an estate agent, the poor lady started crying. I was somewhat perplexed until she explained that her husband was working in the United Arab Emirates and she hadn't heard from him in three months. She had been returning home from a shopping trip and, on reaching the front door, had heard the phone ringing, but she couldn't get the door open. It had kept on ringing so she had become convinced that it was her beloved husband finally getting in touch. Eventually, in desperation, she had broken the door down.

"Feeling terrible and apologising profusely, I decided that the best way to handle this awkward situation was to claim I was a salesperson calling to sell a kitchen. I doubt it worked, as I had already said I was from Slater Hogg and Howison. I steered clear of her after that, and she didn't buy the house.

"That lady's home might have been in pretty poor repair after my phone call, but it was in a much better condition than an old castle I once went to value, 40 miles out of Glasgow. I wouldn't usually have travelled that far for a valuation, but for some reason I decided to go and have a look.

"When I got there I found an ancient castle that, to my eyes, was beyond repair. It was more like Stonehenge than somewhere a right-minded person would want to live. But a very pleasant gentleman met me and showed me round, pointing out various proposed renovations. It seemed like a long shot to me, but my guide seemed very confident and it was a beautiful location. I decided it was worth staying in touch just in case these impressive renovations were carried out, so I suggested that my host look me up when he was next in Glasgow.

"The kindly old gentleman assured me that he would be delighted to do this, adding that he actually visited the city quite often. 'I have weekly appointments as an outpatient at the mental health clinic at Gartnavel Royal Hospital,' he informed me. I never heard from him again, which was no great surprise."

Slater Hogg & Howison, 179 Kilmarnock Road, Glasgow; 0141-649 4986