Secret Agent: 'People would rather pull their own teeth than put their house on the market now'

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The Independent Online

It's a strange sensation for me, but I'm feeling a little sorry for our manager. After last week's knuckle-rap over the office's sales figures, he's gone a bit bonkers – and for good reason. Even he is capable of working out that sales figures can only be improved if there's something there to sell, yet when people are about as keen to put their house on the market as they are to remove their own wisdom teeth, it's not easy. As Justin astutely points out, "We can't sell thin air" – although I'm sure he'd give it his best shot.

Consequently, the beleaguered man has abandoned any managing in favour of snuffling around for new properties like a pig at an empty trough. That was, until yesterday's events.

"We're in business!" he trumpeted, striding into the office and waking up the rest of us, who'd rather concluded the opposite. "Yours truly has just taken on a nice little three-bedder, needs a bit of cosmetic, £695,000. Go, go, go!"

As we all leapt up like greyhounds – or, in Gavin's case, a baffled poodle – and piled into Justin's car to inspect this new treasure, I couldn't help feeling rather excited. Usually, there's something about traipsing round the same few properties all day that makes one want to hang oneself from the ceiling rose.

"Did he just say number 34?" Justin asked, looking at me quizzically.

I stared at the red door, then stared back at Justin. "Surely not."

It took several calls to the office to establish that this "new" instruction was, in fact, an old one: a house we'd failed to sell last year. Like a confused lover, my manager had clearly forgotten the reason things hadn't worked out before and waded back in with the naive optimism that this time it would be different.

"I've seen it," came the fifth, snapped reply from my morning's fruitless call-out. We're supposed to keep a record of who has viewed which property, but I find the exercise utterly futile, so I don't. I now concede that there might have been some point to it, after all.

Eventually, I found a new client willing to have a look, and set off to meet him.

"Don't bother," the prospective buyer shouted, before I'd even stepped out of the car. "I've seen it."

This, I knew, wasn't possible: he'd only registered with me two days previously.

"No, no," I protested vehemently, "you haven't."

"Oh yes I haaaave," I half expected him to reply, but he didn't need to: his expression said it all. He had seen the property – through another agent – and, as I haughtily explained to the vendor, this put her in breach of her sole-agency contract with us.

"That's what I thought, love. But that manager of yours told me it wouldn't matter," she replied.

I delicately pointed out that the other agent might not see it this way, then stormed back to the office. Time for that manager of mine to feel like an idiot, rather than leaving the embarrassment for me.