For hire…

Hackney carriage drivers, barristers at law, ladies (and gentlemen of the night-note how PC I am…) and estate agents. Which two of these professions share similarities in their conduct? Brownie points and the last Rolo if you correctly selected estate agents and those from the Cynthia Payne Finishing School. Why? Because under current legislation we do not have to accept a fare or brief. Before anyone starts, just to clarify: in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), prostitution itself (the exchange of sexual services for money) is legal, but a number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place and owning or managing a brothel are classified as criminal activity. There you go. In simple terms, as an estate agent, we can say, ‘Thank you, but no thank you’ and walk away. Does this happen often one may ask and why so?  In the world of highly targeted corporate agency, probably not, but in the sector of independents, whilst not common, it does happen; and not without good reason. Last week I was invited to value a property in a popular and established area of Cwmbran. It was without doubt in the top three of the worst properties that I have ever visited. The kitchen would have scored -5 on the 1-5 hygiene raring as supplied by Torfaen Council. Having taken a deep breath and ventured upstairs, I was met by the sight of the owner’s paramour asleep on the bed-naked. “Don’t worry about her, she’s been working nights”, I was told. “Not as a fricking cleaner” I thought to myself. The owner was very eager to establish the property’s value and what Cheshire & Co could do to market the property. After another deep breath, I suggested that firstly, in order to show the propriety to best effect,a general declutter and tidy up would be a good idea.  This was met with an unequivocal “No”. I tried another angle of explaining that a property that photographs well attracts far more people. Again, a manifest refusal to do anything (and that anything could have been as basic as clearing all the c”£p off the floor so that one could actually see whether it was carpet/ tiles/laminate/concrete). At this point, I took yet another deep breath, girded my loins (calm down ladies), and informed Mr Vendor that on this occasion Cheshire & Co would not be able to help him and suggested that he may like to get a second opinion from a fellow agent whose tetanus and life insurance policy were up to date. Mr Vendor then told me that I had to market the house if he wanted me to do so. Having pointed out that I did not choose to take him up on his offer, he asked me of which redress scheme was I a member and for my membership number, as he wished to make a compliant about Cheshire & Co refusing to market his property. I always carry a copy of The Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice and having produced the said copy I asked him to highlight which section would cover his alleged complaint. Leaving him to consider his options, I exited the property.

All joking aside, I would not expose my employees or members of the public to such squalid conditions. It is a fair bet that many of Cwmbran’s other property agents would not do so either; although some would, as at the very least it would boost their already manufactured Rightmove figures…