Secret Agent: A day in the life of an estate agent

'To our astonishment, they then embraced in a kiss and waltzed out of the office'
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The Independent Online

I could sense that something was wrong the minute I got to work. Instead of feverishly tapping at his keyboard, trying to poach all the best email enquiries from the weekend, Justin was sitting with his arms folded, grinning at the wall. "Someone's had a shag," my manager remarked – estate-agent vernacular for "good morning".

Justin swept his hand slowly through the oil slick on his head. "And not just the one, mate."

"Eurgh! Too much information," Kelly squealed, somewhat unreasonably given that we're usually subjected to a blow-by-blow account of her own conquests. "Is she related to the moose family?"

"The Moss one, actually. She's the spit of Kate," Justin replied, with uncharacteristic quick wit. At least, we all assumed this was a joke, until lunchtime, when a very attractive girl wandered in.

"How can I help?" Gavin said, leaping up and catapulting himself at her, eyes out on stalks.

"Leave this poor young woman alone," cautioned Justin, like something out of a Jane Austen adaptation. To our utter astonishment, they then embraced in a kiss – Justin and the girl, not Justin and Gavin – and waltzed out of the office.

"There's got to be something wrong there," Kelly remarked, mouth still agape. "I mean, did you see her?"

My manager, clearly boiling over with envy, pretended that he hadn't really noticed; Gavin's lolling tongue was almost on the floor. As much as I wanted to spend hours speculating about what someone so beautiful could possibly see in Justin, I was late for a valuation.

"Have you been given a price by any other agents?" I began. Like exams, it's always easier if you can sneak a look at someone else's answer.

The elderly couple invited me to sit down beside their cat. "Yes, pet," the woman replied. Despite the rather obvious feline contender next to me, I assumed I was the pet, and encouraged her to elaborate. "They said £275,000, which seems very low to me."

Normally, I'd be quick to dismiss, politely but firmly, any vendor's delusions about their property's value, but on this occasion I had to agree. It was worth at least £375,000, and I had no reservations about telling them so. Unsurprisingly, the good news won me the instruction.

A few days later, once we'd printed up the marketing material and started viewings, I got a phone call. "I'm afraid we've not been totally straight with you, pet." My heart sank as she confessed that there were only 33 years left on the lease of their property, which was both very expensive and difficult to extend. This had been reflected in the other agents' low valuations, but not in mine.

"Didn't it strike you as odd that they were all selling themselves so short?" Justin chuckled, smugly. It took an inordinate amount of restraint not to ask him the same of his new girlfriend.