As the house I am moving from is being sold, there is a constant procession of estate agents and potential buyers coming through the door.  Now I don’t like to make sweeping generalisations (that’s actually a lie, but I try not to do it too often), but estate agents can be really awful people.  I know, I know there are some estate agents out there who are sweet and lovely and have the clients’ best interests at heart etc etc.  but wherever these unicorns of the Real Estate world are, I have never had the chance to meet them.  In my (albeit limited) experience, estate agents are well – scum.  When I bought my first flat, the agent was a Greek guy called Costas.  At least I think he was a man, and I assume he was Greek because I never actually met him.  All I had to go by was his name and a voice on the phone which had the familiar accent of a North London Greek.  (I am one, I am allowed to generalise about that).  I visited the property at least 5 times, had a survey carried out and spoke with Costa in excess of 50 times, but he remained a voice on the phone, and even when it was time to hand over the keys, he opted to have the previous owner give them to me.  Unbelievable.  There was a problem with the viewings as well.  The lady in question, E, was a lovely lady in her 60s who was understandably nervous about having viewings while she was alone in the house.  We always had to arrange a time when there would be someone else there with her, or she would ask a friend to come over.  All this could have been avoided had the estate agent just done his job.  Also, she then had to take time out of her day to show us around.  This too is the agent’s job. The thing is, Costas is not the only one.  The world is full of these guys with their eyes on the prize and no regard for the people involved.  They hide behind their over-gelled hair and pointy shoes, the super-styled facial furniture and fake smiles barely disguising their indifference to your plight.  Because as I have mentioned before, moving is stressful right?  So if one person is buying a house and one person is selling a house, usually that means two sets of people are moving and therefore extremely stressed.  So a little sympathetic human interaction would go a long way.  Do not seek it from your estate agent, he is just going to lie to you about how in his opinion it is better to live next to a septic tank as it keeps the foxes away, or how a south facing garden is highly overrated.

Wow, I sound bitter.  It’s not that I have had such an awful experience that I feel like a rant is in order.  It is just that I feel that people skills are an essential part of what they do, and I have never met anyone who thought that their estate agent handled things in a manner that was anything less than self-serving and offhand.  Estate agents should be nice to people.  Or at least they should be able to fake it.  This is not the case.  They don’t feel like they have to be nice.  Or polite.  Or competent.  Or even mindful of your requirements.  

Let’s say for example, you are a family of four. You have a budget (X).  You have done your research, and you have ascertained what sort of property you can afford in location Y.  There will be a few things you will list as important, and some things that you will be more flexible about.  You contact the local estate agency and tell them that you need at least 2 (preferably 3) bedrooms, with a garage and a garden for the kids to play in.  The Estate Agent will then send you the details of about 30 or 40 properties of which 2 will be within those parameters.  He will send you properties that include a studio apartment on the top floor of a 6 floor building with no lift.  He will include properties that are so far removed from what you have asked for that you will email him back asking him if these were sent in error and should he perhaps send it to the person who asked him if he could find them an abandoned abattoir in the countryside with no planning permission for redevelopment.  But easily the cruelest thing that estate agents do is take you to see your ideal home knowing that it is far outside of your budget.  It is how we have ended up mortgaged to the gills with no end in sight.  

“This is exactly what you wanted, where you wanted it.  It has a garage, and a garden, and two bathrooms as well as a walk-in cupboard and ample storage space.  Unfortunately, it’s a little over your budget, but as it requires no work at all, I thought I would show it to you.”

When you hear these words, you know that this is the house you want, that it is lovely and that there is no way that you can afford it.  I mean, do these people think that we are deliberately starting low in anticipation of this?  Do they think that we are all sitting on the extra 50 to 100k in case such a scenario should occur?  Or maybe they think that people can go into their bank and say: “It is a little (haha) over budget, but it does have the walk-in closet and conservatory”  Like the Bank Manager is going to just capitulate and say,

“A conservatory, how marvellous! Who am I to deny you, of course that’s no problem. Have the extra money, no charge.”

In my situation, the agents are a little more polite because they know that I have no vested interest in the sale of the house.  It’s not my house, I am not being turfed out against my will, my lease is up and the landlords are selling.  This is good on two levels.  Firstly, they tiptoe around me as if they are scared that I am going to point out potential problems with the house.  They hardly ever let me speak to the buyers in case I blurt out the truth about the leaking roof and the damp basement.  (Oops did I say that out loud?).  I don’t have to be polite to them and nod and smile as they feed me lies.  The second advantage is that  I am not mortally offended at every criticism that comes out of potential buyers’ mouths.  It is really soul-destroying when people come in and criticise your home.  You become so defensive, it’s as if they are saying bad things about your family.  The truth is that your home is your haven and your sanctuary and you have it how you like it.  That cannot possibly be how anyone else likes it as they are not you.  People like coming to your home and compliment you on your home, safe in the knowledge that they are then going back to their own homes where they can be at their most comfortable.  In my house, there is a lot of clutter.  I mean, it’s not just that we have a lot of stuff; it is out all over the house.  Radiator covers, ledges, shelves, windowsills, tables, all surfaces are fair game.  And they are full.  More is definitely more.  If a delivery comes to the house and it takes more than a day for the box to be opened, the box becomes a coffee table.  We pile things on top of it and forget all about it until one of us says that they never got that amazon delivery that was supposed to arrive on Monday of last week and the other of us has a vague memory of signing for a parcel.  Our coat rack is full to overflowing and when we have guests they have to stand at a distance and aim their coats at it hopefully.  The kitchen has equipment and stuff out on all the surfaces and I even have kiln jars of stuff that I never use or eat but keep just because it looks pretty in a jar.  On display.  In the kitchen.  Because there was a square foot  that was just empty kitchen surface.  This clutter gives what I like to call a ‘lived in’ feel.  I call it ‘lived in’.  Others call it untidy. Or pigsty. They come over and I can tell that their palms are clammy and they are sweating at the sight of all this stuff on display.  They will often say things like, “Wow you guys have a lot of stuff!” But what they really mean is ” Why is it all on display?  It is making me feel suffocated and itchy.”  They sit on the edge of your sofas looking around them bemusedly wondering how long it is before they can leave and get back to their homes where everything has its place, and there is miles of kitchen surface for them to use (or not, whatever they feel like).  Some people even unconsciously start tidying and arranging my stuff into neat piles.  I can hear them thinking that they don’t know how I can sit there comfortably chatting to them knowing that there is a pile of things on the stairs waiting to be taken up and put away.  To them I say this:  When I come to your houses and everything is neat and dust free and symmetrically arranged and colour-coordinated, I sit just as comfortably. I have never felt the urge to move your ornaments or press my fingers into the glass coffee table to see how long it takes before you break out the windowlene.  I have never walked by a painting and surreptitiously nudged it, and then timed how long it took for you to notice and stop mid-sentence to go and straighten it.  Neither have I ever wondered where you hide all your stuff.   What I am saying is that there is no right way.  But in your home, your way is the right way.  And in my home, my way is the right way.  So enough with the judging already.  I have a lot of stuff. You can see most of it. Get over it.