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

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Surprisingly, a friend of Justin's came into the office the other day – surprisingly, that is, because none of us thought Justin had any friends. They competed over how much money they'd made recently, then his friend rather conclusively proved himself the winner by whizzing off in a brand new Maserati.

"Nice," Kelly remarked, referring to the motor, not the man. Even she draws a line at paunchy wide-boys with receding slicked-back hair.

"He's taken," Justin said, wearily. "And anyway, he's into brunettes." "Me, too!" Gavin said, looking at me in what I can only assume – and hope – was his latest ill-judged ploy to make Kelly jealous.

Kelly was Googling the price of a Maserati. "He must be a very talented estate agent to afford those wheels," Gavin said, still endearingly under the impression that our job has something to do with skill.

"He's not an estate agent," Justin snapped. "He's a property consultant." An awed silence filled the room – somewhat unnecessarily, in my opinion. Nowadays, anyone looking for a ponced-up way to make themselves sound important adds "consultant" to their job title and an extra zero to their fee. I wasn't sure what he actually did, and didn't really care: I had important business to attend to.

"Do come on in," the friendly yummy-mummy gushed, a biscuit-smeared toddler appearing between her Armani-clad legs. I'd been called to value her property and was keen to win the instruction: a For Sale board in this street is about as coveted as a Lucian Freud original.

"Darling, tell Daddy the nice estate agent's here," she said, as I smiled and tried to work out whether she'd used this oxymoron intentionally.

The house was one of the few I've viewed recently not to fall victim to a TV-inspired makeover, and was a more attractive prospect as a result, but they didn't seem interested in my views on the demand for original cornicing. In fact, they didn't seem interested in discussing anything to do with its saleability.

"What are your thoughts on loft conversions?" the husband said, after I'd failed to grab his attention with my this-will-leap-off-the-shelf pitch.

"Um... yes, nice," I stammered, like a cold-caller who'd been forced off script.

"Versus digging out the basement?"

"Um ... both add space," I replied, helpfully.

Despite my best efforts to steer us back on track, he continued to press me on the pros and cons of extending. However, it wasn't until I got up to leave and spotted some architect's drawings in the corner that it finally dawned on me: these people had no intention of selling – they just wanted some free advice on home improvement.

I could almost have accepted giving my time so generously had I not walked straight into a familiar-looking bloke swaggering up the path. Quite sure he wasn't about to be so benevolent, I reversed out, "accidentally" clipping the wing mirror of his Maserati.