The Third Leader: Property ladder

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The Independent Online

Ladies and gentlemen, pursuing this space's fearless independence and obstinate refusal to tack or trim to the prevailing breezes of fashionable thought, I want, today, to invite your sympathy for the estate agent.

Ladies and gentlemen, pursuing this space's fearless independence and obstinate refusal to tack or trim to the prevailing breezes of fashionable thought, I want, today, to invite your sympathy for the estate agent.

Yes, I know a Which? report is criticising the trade for six-figure variations in valuations, claiming that undervaluations for a quick sale are jostling with overvaluations to sign up vendors. Yes, I know how trust-sapping it can be, as autumn turns to winter turns to spring and that day when they came round and you said "how much?" and rushed out to buy Country Life becomes a distant memory and those people round the corner whom you've never liked flogged theirs in a month and it wasn't that different from yours, except, all right, the outside was newly painted, and there was the new guttering, even if it was plastic.

But do you ever spare a thought for what is going on beneath that smart suit, behind that confident smile? For how it must be, battling with market vagaries, purchaser whims and vendor quirks? For how it must be, coping with the extra pressure added by the house's status as an economic and social bellwether? For how it must be, thinking up all those adjectives? And then having to break the bad news about the chain, the search, and the off-putting effect of that elderly bathroom suite? And then, finally, to get home, kick off the shoes and find there's nothing on the telly except, yes, programmes about selling houses?

How am I doing? The merest frisson of fellow feeling? Good. But if you want to shift this place, that orange carpet is still going to have to go.

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