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

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The Independent Online

When my manager told us to come to work in "posh" clothes without explaining why, I feared the worst. A group photo for the company Christmas card? The much-threatened office night out? Gavin dressed as a Spice Girl? After rooting unenthusiastically through my wardrobe, I opted for a sensible floor-sweeping Monsoon number, hoping that I hadn't overdone it. Of course, I needn't have worried – like school-kids granted a no-uniform day, everyone had gone to town – with the exception of Kelly, who'd gone to Ann Summers.

"If you are all sitting comfortably," my manager began – an impossibility for poor Gavin, who seemed to have taken a hot iron to his nylon Primark suit, rendering it so shiny that he was slipping all over his leather chair – "then I will begin."

We'd been invited to the launch of some luxury riverside flats. Or rather, a mass mail-out from a development company plopped on to our doormat and my manager had leapt at the words "free champagne". I can't say that I was as excited by the prospect of looking round identically stacked cubes only labelled "luxury" because of a sliver of concrete known euphemistically as a "Juliette balcony", from where, at the risk of a cricked neck, one might just catch a glimpse of the sludgy banks of the Thames. But these luxury flats, apparently, were different, and if it meant skipping the dreary morning meeting, I was happy to come along to the showroom and find out why.

"Welcome!" boomed a large woman with a clipboard, swooping down on us and almost swallowing Gavin. "Tea or coffee?"

"Ah... we're actually trade," my manager said, brandishing the invitation. The woman looked confused: certainly it wasn't very obvious to which trade Kelly belonged. "Estate agents," he added, helpfully.

But if he had hoped that this would elicit the expected popping of champagne corks, he was to be sadly disappointed as we were handed plastic cups of vending-machine coffee and herded into a room with a whole load of other estate agents.

The purpose of the event was clearly to convince us into marketing the flats for as small a fee as possible. Certainly, the taster images around the walls of sliding glass roofs, revolving wardrobes and touch-screen coffee tables had me hooked, and I eagerly signed us up for a tour.

"You'll need one of these," a scruffy-looking man in jeans and a frayed jumper shouted, as we all waited shivering in the underground car park. He was holding a large bag full of hard hats.

Justin quickly raised a protective hand over his hairdo. "What for?"

"Follow me," he replied, leading us into a clanking, hammering, drilling maze of scaffolding, piping and half-built walls. As he battled to make himself heard over the cacophony, Kelly's stiletto got stuck down a hole and Gavin tripped over my mud-soaked skirt trying to rescue her.

If this was luxury living, it was going to take a degree in creative writing to sell it.