Secret Agent: 'Why would anyone trust an estate agent to tell them when they should sell their house?'

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Gavin, our roaming rodent, has returned. Not, I suspect, that anybody particularly cares – one less estate agent in this world has to be a good thing. In fact, the only person who seems remotely pleased to see him back is my manager, and that's just because he was terrified that Gavin's negative result in the New Year work appraisals had traumatised him into doing something stupid.

In the event, Gavin had done something stupid. Suffering from selective hearing, he'd taken my manager's criticism that his vendor feedback was "still outstanding" as reason to celebrate. Three blue WKDs later and he was too drunk to make it home. The story becomes a bit fuzzy from this point on, but it seems he ended up sleeping in his car for the night.

"Not going Awol today, are we, Gav?" Justin taunted, a week on, still eager to remind us all that there was someone in the office more uncool than him. Gavin grinned: ever since his appraisal, this was all Gavin seemed to do.

"Enough!" My manager strode in from a meeting at Head Orifice, which, from the way he was now kicking the filing cabinet, hadn't gone particularly well. "You've all got work to do."

This wasn't altogether true. Sure, we could try calling those buyers who registered with such gusto in the summer only to spend the rest of the year "in a meeting". Or we could pester the owners of properties already on the market with other agents, sending them letters that claim we have "a number of serious buyers looking for a house just like yours". These are the usual tricks to drum up business in what industry pundits call "times of market readjustment". But I suspect I'd be more productive eating my own head.

"Um... hi there," I said, looking up from where I'd been making a daisy-chain of paperclips to find a Boris Johnson lookalike, clearly hairdresser-phobic, walking into the office.

"I own that pad over there," he announced, gesturing to a large Georgian house opposite, "and I want your honest opinion as to whether now would be a good time to sell."

Before I had time to question what he was doing asking someone as biased as an estate agent, my manager interrupted from across the room. "It's a very good time indeed," he shouted, pound signs kerchinging in his eyes.

"But everything that one reads says..."

"Doomsayers! The lot of them," my manager scoffed. "The market's healthy. They're just talking us intoa slump."

The Boris-alike looked unimpressed. "But presumably the market wouldn't have quite so far to fall if you lot hadn't talked it up so much in the first place."

My manager squirmed. I don't think his Head Office briefing had furnished him with an answer for this.

"What will it take for all you estate agents to remove your rose-tinted spectacles?" the property-owner sighed, making for the door.

Glancing over to where Gavin was sitting, a vacant grin still plastered across his face, he had a point: it seemed that only an earthquake could serve as a reality check in our industry.