Secret Agent: 'Much to the fury of our boss, any price cuts we make are showing up on a new website'

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The Independent Online

You might expect a website called Property Snake to be some kind of forum for disgruntled home-owners and buyers to rant about venomous and slippery estate agents. In fact, as regular readers of this supplement will know, it's a list of all the properties on the UK market which are selling for a reduced price. There's quite a lot of them and, with the rumoured imminent slump, Property Snake has suddenly become big news in the industry, much to the fury of estate agents everywhere. Except Gavin.

"I don't understand," he said, as is often his response to the morning meeting. "Isn't this website just trying to be helpful?"

My manager smiled condescendingly. "Is it helpful to you, Gav?"

Gavin picked pensively at a freckle. "Yes."

"How exactly? Are you buying a house?"

Gavin giggled. "No."

"Are you selling a house?"


"For pity's sake!" my manager exploded, thumping his desk. "Of course you're selling houses: you're an estate agent!" I can't say that I would have made this assumption, especially in Gavin's case – he's yet to master the complexities of Yale locks – but there was no interrupting him. "A website that shows prices are falling is not a helpful thing for us estate agents, Gav. Vendors aren't going to want to sell, and buyers will be expecting a bargain. So it's lose-lose. Comprendez?"

It was difficult to tell from Gavin's trademark vacuous stare quite what he understood, but fortunately we were spared the torture of finding out by the arrival of a small bald man.

"Mr Barker!" my manager said, drawing himself up and rearranging the crotch of his trousers before proffering his hand.

The bald man bravely shook it. "Morning, Sir."

From the pitifully grateful grin sweeping across my manager's face, it was clear that he'd only ever been addressed as such by call centre workers on the other end of the phone line. "What can I do for you?"

"My wife and I have thought long and hard about your valuation," the man began – his first error: no one should ever think long and hard about anything that comes out of my manager's mouth. "And we'd like to go for it."

It wasn't until my manager, foaming with excitement, had committed the man to a contract before slow-waltzing him out of the office, that we all discovered exactly what he'd signed himself up for.

"Isn't £780,000 a bit steep?" Justin ventured.

"Of course it is!" my manager said, still grinning. "We'll knock him down in a few weeks to something more realistic. But for now, rejoice!"

This seemed to satisfy the zoo that is our office, with the exception, strangely, of Gavin. He was sitting at his desk with furrowed brow. "Did you say you're going to reduce it?"

"Yes, lad, keep up."

"But if you reduce it, it'll go on that Property Snake website, which you said is lose-lose."

It's a first, but I think Gavin might just have won-won.