Return of the evil Gazump

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Barclays Bank, purveyors of mortgages and other financial services, has taken it upon itself to conduct extensive research to test the pulse of the nation's property market.

On the basis of its most recent survey of 1,000 punters, the bank has reached a dramatic conclusion. Barclays has found that there are more buyers than sellers in the property market.

Well, I'll go the foot of our stairs. Can you imagine it? More buyers than sellers.

The only question I have is: why has it taken several months and in-depth market research to reach a conclusion which has been staring most of us in the face all year?

No matter. I am sure this nugget will be of supreme advantage to Barclays in its quest for something or other. At the very least it has given the bank an opportunity to wax lyrical about its own mortgage service.

Unfortunately, no doubt overcome by its startling discovery, the bank has rather got carried away with itself. Rather than settle for a statement of the bleeding obvious, Barclays then goes over the top, thundering "GAZUMPING IS BACK".

Oh, no. Just when we thought it was safe to go back on the streets. They make it sound like a rather tawdry horror movie -"Property IV - the Estate Agent Strikes Back".

What I could not find was any firm evidence to support Barclays' claim. In my experience it is extremely difficult to be gazumped, simply because it is impossible to find a house to offer on in the first place.

This simple truth does not deter the bold scribes at Barclays. Warming to their theme, the doomsters have devised what they call a "five-point plan to avoid gazumping".

But I have bad news for any one putting their faith in the Barclays anti-gazumping plan. It is a load of old tosh. In essence, it merely tells you to buy your house very quickly. But, as a Barclays bigwig admits: "There is no deterrent or remedy available."

It is not in my nature simply to snipe at the well-intentioned but poorly executed. I therefore believe it is only right and proper for me to offer my own five-point plan to avoid gazumping.

1 - Never buy a property.

2 - If you have to buy a property, offer double the price.

3 - When making an offer for a house, wear sunglasses and fake tan, carry a courgette in your inside jacket pocket, speak through a Spanish translator and say you're a security adviser to the Medellin cartel. Offer to pay in cash with US dollars.

4 - Orchestrate a monumental property crash.

5 - Move to Scotland.

Intriguingly, for a word so common in property-speak, few people seem to know quite where "gazumping" came from.

In particular, there is a difference of opinion about the opposite of gazump, which I am told is "gazunder" - to offer one price, but then to offer less at the last minute.

I remember well the "gazunder", and had call to use it during the cold winters when a trek to the garden to answer a call of nature would have been life-threatening. The gazunder was a pot kept for such occasions under the bed. When you finish the pot gazunda the bed.

But I digress. The word gazump is apparently derived from the yiddish gezumph, which means to swindle.

I feel the word has lost something in translation. Swindling is far more pejorative than gazumping. While swindlers are regarded as a menace to society, gazumpers are part of market forces. Swindlers go to jail: gazumpers are sent brochures for conservatories.

I am not suggesting that gazumping be made a capital offence. But surely the time has come to get tough on rising house prices - and tough on the causes of rising house prices.