I’ve been reading the hilarious and equally frustrating account by Debs Lehner about the trials and tribulations of selling her house in France. It’s no wonder that selling a home is up there as one of the highest stress generators along with bereavement, divorce and changing jobs. Heaven knows how we survive it and go on to do it again and again. The brain is surely the most amazing organ ever – just look at how it wipes out the real pain of events so that we go and repeat the process all over again – how else would women go through the rip-you-apart-don’t-you-fecking-come-near-me-again pain that they do to have more than one child? Now I’m not comparing childbirth and house moving, really I’m not, but dear God there are times when having a 40 hour labour would seem so much better an option. Well that or having electrodes attached to your nuts.
As my mother used to say, ‘the people you meet when you don’t have a gun’. Just stick your house on the market and you’ll get an idea of what she meant but I suspect you probably do already. Where do these people really live? I mean I know they live in society somewhere and that they move about us freely and that some unfortunate bugger has them as a neighbour but how do they actually get by in life without someone ramming a fistful of knuckles down their throat? Let me be clear here, I have never ever in my life been violent or hit anyone, (well except for when I was 11 and the 13 year old boy from around the corner took to bullying me and terrorising my life for a while. I soon sorted that with a swiftly placed and unexpected kick in the nuts whereby he dropped to the ground with his hands cupped around his throbbing tackle and finding it difficult to breathe from shock, finally rolled into the foetal position with his mouth wide open, eyes bulging and groaned out what sounded like a death rattle. I was pretty impressed with how one rapid kick could have such a marvellous outcome and of course he never bullied me again. Thanks for the tip dad).
However, I digress so let me get back to the point. Given that I am not prone to launching physical attacks on people or plotting their death it is with some amazement at the range and depth of emotions that house viewers can elicit from me. Take for example the creature that is more commonly known as the ‘House Tourist’. You know the scenario; the agent calls at 8am on a Sunday morning to ask if it’s okay for :
Mr and Mrs Noseyfeckingtimewasterandnointentionofbuying to come along now to have a look. Of course you don’t know they are called that because they fool you by using a nom de plume like Mr and Mrs Smith to throw you off the scent and let you think they are serious punters. Anyway, they just happen to be in the area so could they just sneak a little peak?; won’t take long, the agent assures you with his chirpy happy godimightfinallygetasaleoutofthiskip tone which is exacerbating your terminal hangover from drinking formaldehyde or something equally organ rotting the night before. You stand there in your grubby dressing gown that you knew you should have tossed on a bonfire let alone washed, take a look around at last night’s dinner party chaos that you were too tired/comatosed to clean up at the time and you know that if you possessed a pistol you would just take the easy way out. You want to tell the agent to go take a bungee jump without the bungee but instead you put on your smiley nice voice, negotiate 30 minutes ‘to let the children finish breakfast’ and dash around like a loony kicking things under beds and couches, ramming stuff into already overstuffed cupboards, break several prized bits of crockery as you attempt to empty and reload the dishwasher at record speed just to get a semblance of a clear worktop here and there. Then if you’re lucky you get to scrape your hair back tightly into some sort of tight sink-estate-face-lift type look which coupled with red-eye and a face gray from blood loss because your body needs it for the major organs to fight off the alcohol onslaught, you look the sight you feel. It is a truism that you get the face you deserve in life.
With only seconds to spare you pull on trackie bottoms and a top and they arrive sans estate agent who incidentally is being paid shed-loads to show these bloody people around, but no, he’s busy destroying someone else’s Sunday arranging for more tourists to tramp about someone else’s house like it was ‘open to the public stately home season’. They ooh and aah all the way around, get disappointed that there isn’t a little old lady sitting by a roped off area in each room to chat to and wonder where the bloody cafe is. In time they take their leave but only after delivering the parting shot that they ‘loved your house, it was just as they always thought it might look and that even though they aren’t in the market to move, (probably because a fecking care home is more in their line), they thought that as the house was up for sale, you wouldn’t mind them having a look because as you’re showing people around anyway, another pair wouldn’t be any more trouble. It’s at that point if you did have a pistol, you would be committing homicide instead of suicide.
Then there is the:
I’lljustknockonthedoorandseeificanwhizroundwithoutanappointmentatsomeungoldlyeffinghourinthemorning waller who’s true agenda is to hopefully negotiate a huge discount because ‘let’s face it, if the agent doesn’t know and we don’t tell him we can pretend that this is a private sale and I’ll get to keep the agents fee and you get a sale – deal?’ Err, no, you cheating git, no sale because you woke me up at 8am on a Saturday morning by kicking on my front door like a police bust was in operation, and because you are too arrogant to make an appointment like most well mannered people, and because my house looks like if a grenade went off it would tidy it up and because you are happy to suggest we cheat the agent out of the fee, you will probably cheat me too.
Well dear people, both these types of people, (and more), came into my life when I was selling a home many years ago. It was a lovely little mews cottage in a row of lovely little mews cottages and a joy to live in. The chancer/opportunist viewer happened upon my place on a Saturday morning at 8am or so. Only the day before my then partner and myself had experienced a protracted journey home from Hong Kong. At this time on the Saturday morning, myself and he were exhausted and in a deep slumber when all hell broke loose. Dear God, we thought a herd of wildebeest were trampling their way through our front door. We ignored it and rolled over but the noise was relentless. Clearly it was an emergency we thought and pulling on dressing gowns, dashed downstairs wondering what the hell was wrong, Cue door opening partially and my partner and me squinting in the bright sunlight at three strangers.
“We hope you don’t mind, but we saw your for sale sign”, the lead chancer barked out rather army like in tone.
“Yes, and.....?”, my ex asked in return with a thunderous look. He was still foggy headed with sleep and jet lag and so being woken up so bloody rudely to be told they had seen our for sale sign wasn’t going down a storm here.
“Well....., we rather thought that as we are in the area you wouldn’t mind showing us around?”.
“What ? Now?”, we both asked incredulously standing there with mangled hair, sleep encrusted eyes and wearing nightwear a tramp would have thrown out. We weren’t exactly prepared for it.
“Well yes, isn’t inconvenient is it?”, chancer number 2 asked quite pompously as she popped her head around from behind chancer number 1. Chancer number 3 just looked on gormlessly.
“Sorry, no, as you can see we aren’t really prepared for an impromptu visit”, my partner said politely as I mentally ransacked our house and saw wanting in every room. No, definitely too messy to let anyone in just yet. Crikey, they were quick, the house had only gone on the market the day before and we’d calculated we’d have a day or so to tidy up before anyone came.
“You see”, I offered in support, “we’ve only just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and not only are we exhausted, but the house could do with a bit of a tidy before anyone has a look. We’d really be much happier and in a much better position to let you have a look round later”.
“Perhaps you can give the agent a call, get a time convenient to both parties and we’ll see you then. Okay?”, my partner insisted, expecting they would see our predicament and like most normal people get their arses out of our faces and let us get some sleep.
“So, can we come in or not?”, a booming voice from chancer number 2 shot back as though the last few sentences from us had never been uttered.
My partner’s mouth dropped open as he realised he must be talking to the human equivalent of a radio – all output, no input and tuned to the one station. “I beg your pardon dear?”, he asked adopting the rather pompous tone that she had just used with him. “Did I not make myself clear that now is simply not convenient so will you please.....”
.......“Oh come on, just a quick once around the block, we’ll not be long, promise, and if we take our time down here, you two can go and get dressed up there before you let us have a scan around that”, said chancer number 1 in a stroppy overbearing tone whilst pointing to the upstairs of the cottage. “C’mon, what’s your problem?”, he continued. “Surely you can manage that? Then we’d be out of your hair in no time and you can pop that little filly of yours right back in the sack”, he snorted a leery little laugh and winked at him as he said it.
Oh mother of God, the cheeky bastards. There was no way I was putting up with this or going to get changed in my home whilst leaving a bunch of strangers to rummage their way through my house unsupervised. I moved my ex rather snappishly out of the way and pulled the door open further so I could get my face into the trio of chancers that were in danger of getting a knuckle sandwich from the exhausted and by now furious man of the house. If anyone was going to hit them, then it was going to be me I decided – less damage that way.
“Look, what part of ‘it’s not convenient’ don’t you understand? You weren’t owed an explanation as you have barged you way in here ,but we were polite and gave you one so now if you would please go and by all means take the agents number, we can arrange something for later. But not until late afternoon please? Okay?” I said firmly, hoping I had made myself clear. Good God almighty, what the hell was I doing discussing this stuff with these people on our doorstep. Clearly they were used to coercing their way around life but I was buggered if they were going to get away with it now.
The thunderous look on the faces of chancers 1 and 2 as we closed the door on them was a sight to behold. Clearly they weren’t used to being refused much in life but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, good things come to those who wait and all that. Chancer 3 had continued to look gormless and reminded me of a still life on a day out. He certainly had a future as a mannequin should whatever he did now not work out.
And so they came, later that day; chancer 1 and 2 with 3 following gormlessly along behind. Chancer 2 was particularly vocal and derogatory about what she found wanting in and out of the house. It was all I could do to stop myself rugby tackling her out the door and fecking her onto the street with her handbag to follow when I saw her kick at the French doors frame to test it for some imagined rot. Meanwhile, Chancer 1 drew filthy looks and shook his head as he tut tutted in ham acting mock disgust at decor and paintwork not being up to his lofty standards. Chancer 3 never said a word, just persisted with the gormless look and a shake of the head here and there. Eventually after much whispering, head locking and furtive looks, they took their leave oblivious to the fact that we were more than aware that clearly their tactics were to undermine the vendors, (us), then negotiate a knock down price for the purchasers, (them, or so they thought). Christ, eejit amateurs!
“Well that‘s the last of them”, we chimed quietly together, as the door closed behind them. But it wasn’t......
“Hello”, I answered, as I picked up the phone some 30 minutes later.
“Hello, Mrs Mob. John from Rip-off & Do’nowt estate agents here.
“Yes John, how are you?”, I asked.
“Good news, we’ve had an offer. Mr and Mrs Chancer would like to offer you xxxxxxx. How do you feel about that then?”
Oh how lovely, 15 k less than the asking price. Bearing in mind this was over 25 years ago, that was quite a drop. They were a pair made in heaven these two.
“No that’s not a problem John”, I responded lightly.
“Really, are you sure?”, he asked, obviously astonished and delighted that he didn’t have a battle on his hands and could avoid the usual rigmarole of rejection, back to the buyer to arrange a new offer and so on until a deal was clinched.
“Really, yes I’m sure”, I responded. “No it’s not a problem at all, because we won’t be selling to Mr and Mrs Chancer; not now, in fact not ever, no matter what the price”.
You could hear a pin drop as John absorbed the news. I almost felt sorry for him as I pictured him, for now, watch his commission disappear
“What?, YOU’ll NEVER SELL TO THEM? NEVER?” Are you absolutely certain about that? Why?”. I could hear the frustration rise in his voice. ”Are you taking the house off the market then?”
“No, it’s still up for sale and I’m happy for you to continue to market the property for us. It just isn’t available to the Chancers”. This wasn’t something he had come across before and I could hear him huffing and puffing away as he wrestled with a situation that he wasn’t sure how to manage.
“Well, what on earth am I supposed to tell them?”, he demanded as an explanation.
“Oh that’s easy”, I replied. “I’m more than happy for you to be very candid on our behalf. Just tell them that we love this house, we love the neighbourhood and more importantly we respect and like our neighbours to the point we wouldn’t inflict what may very well be tantamount to the neighbours from hell moving in”.
I quickly gave him an account about the coercive and very poor behaviour of our would-be purchasers and how under no circumstances would we be responsible for the erosion of such a nice neighbourhood. I tried to make him understand that sometimes in life there were consequences for poor behaviour and this was clearly the time for the Chancers to perhaps reflect on theirs. Being an estate agent and where the sale is king, he thought me mad and that I would change my mind. He was clearly under pressure from the Chancers and called several more times with increased offers. Each time, much to his consternation, he was sent on his way. He even called my partner to offer over the asking price but we were united and John was given short shrift by him for disregarding my instructions and trying to manipulate the situation. The Chancers never got that house and it was sold shortly afterwards to a lovely young couple just starting out in life who needed the carpets and curtains and a hotchpotch of furniture we threw in as part of the deal – it was a second home for us so we could afford to be generous with what we could leave and in truth they were doing us a favour taking it off our hands. Some two children and over two decades later they are still there and have no plans to move.
God knows where the Chancers ended up – six foot under at some point would be my guess. Wonder what happened to the gormless one and if the poor soul ever got a word in.