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

'While our rivals are offering free hips, we're using kids' goodies to attract rich parents'
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The Independent Online

I think my manager might have gone slightly mad. I came back from lunch on Saturday to find him barking orders at Gavin, who was wobbling precariously on a stepladder, trying to suspend a plastic bat from a light fitting. "What are you doing?" I asked. "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart is through her children," my manager replied.

I stared, baffled, hoping that this wasn't some elaborate plan to woo the new female sales director. Unfortunately, it turned out to be even more desperate. While other agents are attempting to increase footfall by doing sensible things like leafleting, canvassing and offering free HIPs, our latest sales tactic is based on that of the evil Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: by luring in the children with Hallowe'en goodies, their mothers will follow, and viewings will increase – or so the absurd theory goes.

The first part worked all right. Most passing children gazed in through the window at all the scary creatures assembled by Gavin, our own creepy-crawly, then, unfailingly, they'd spot the bowls of fluorescent jelly tarantulas and temptation would be too much. The trouble came – loudly and uncontrollably – when the E-numbers kicked in, and before the harried mothers could so much as say "tartrazine", they had to leave.

Typically, however, I got lumbered with the one child who was allergic to jelly tarantulas, and who also seemed to be related to Jeremy Paxman. "Why is there a bat on the ceiling when everyone knows that bats only come out at night?"

"Because it's a scary Hallowe'en bat," I replied, lamely.

JP junior eyed me disdainfully. "No it's not. Nothing here is scary." He clearly hadn't spotted Kelly's make-up.

I smiled falsely, then glanced anxiously at his mother, hoping for a reprieve, but she was studying some sales particulars. "What's this like?" she snapped, holding up details of a four-bedroomed Victorian semi.

"Very nice," I said, then, bearing in mind my manager's adage, and looking beadily at the devil-child, added, "but haunted."

The trick worked beautifully: the eight-year-old put so much pressure on his mother to view it that I could see my manager already lining him up for a job.

"I think the ghost tends to hover around the mantelpiece," I said, as we entered the cosy fug of a distinctly unhaunted middle-class home. The child immediately dashed off to investigate, leaving me to escort his mother round in peace.

Sadly, she decided that the property wasn't for her, but her son, convinced that he'd seen two ghosts, is now pestering to look at more haunted houses. I hate to say it, but I think my manager might just have hit on a wicked formula.

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