Confessions Of An Estate Agent: 'Live here and you'll walk into the jaws of death'

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Philip Hughes is a partner at Luscombe Maye in Totnes

"As agents, we often have to listen to a variety of excuses from prospective buyers for not proceeding with a purchase. Typical excuses include, 'The rooms are too small' (even when the buyers have already seen measurements and floor plans); 'We can't get a mortgage', and of course the classic, 'The house needs too much doing to it' (even after it is described as requiring complete modernisation).

"On one particular occasion, however, the excuse was rather different. The property in question was situated in a small South Devon hamlet close to the river Dart. It was a 19th-century stone and slated former farmhouse, which had sold off an adjacent barn for conversion. It was L-shaped, having been extended over the years, and was set in gardens with a small paddock.

"The house felt quite dark and required some improvement as the present owners, who had farmed in the area, were elderly and had not touched the house for some years. There were pleasant views down a valley and many good walks in the area but a sense of isolation had kept some buyers away.

"One couple were very keen, however. Before long we had struck a deal and were near to completing the contracts when I received this letter:

Dear Philip,

Re: The Old Forge, South Devon

An almost unbelievable occurrence last week means that we are going to have to disappoint you and withdraw from the purchase of The Old Forge. I feel it's only fair to explain what happened. Earlier this week we took a great friend of ours, Jane Webb, to visit Old Forge. Shortly after we arrived Jane started to cry and told us she could feel darkness in her head. She asked to be taken away and, when she had calmed down, she said, 'Rod, you mustn't live here - if you do, you will be walking into the jaws of death'.

I have known Jane since we were children. She is a devout Catholic and deeply spiritual. She, in her terms, lifts everything to God. She has had these strange feelings six or seven times in the past - in every case her prediction came true. Clearly, it would seem stupid to change plans based on such a prediction. However, I fear that, if we moved into The Old Forge, Jane's prediction would (at the very least) prey on my wife's mind.

I trust that you will accept my sincere apologies for my decision. I should add that Jane has explained that it is nothing to do with the house, as such, but that it is specifically the combination of that location and her prediction, which concerns her.

Yours sincerely,

Rod Wills

"Readers will no doubt be pleased to hear that since this letter was sent in 1992, the two subsequent owners of The Old Forge have remained hale and hearty."

Luscombe Maye, 59 Fore Street, Totnes, TQ9 5NJ, 01803 863811