Helpful hints when selling your slum

Six months ago, we decided we would move house.

There were a myriad of reasons toward this decision, but the major one can be summarised thusly: our children are very annoying and we would like a second living room so that we don’t have to listen to them all day.

Lesser reasons include a mythical beast we have read about called “the second bathroom”, which apparently will let me enjoy a ten-minute shower without being interrupted by a five-year-old and her miniscule-bladder.

My wife enjoys (and I tolerate) those TV programmes about people who can’t sell houses. Good ol’ Phil and Kirstie, delivering their clichéd and pre-scripted lines, and little sound-byte nuggets of wisdom about not letting your bathroom smell like turds when potential buyers come to visit. We like to think we’re not completely clueless: we know that a house is more likely to sell if it is clean and tidy, and the garden isn’t covered in dog poo. So for the last six months our routine has been something like this:

  1. Wait for telephone call from estate agent.
  2. Arrange a time for someone to look around the house.
  3. Clean the house from top to bottom. Mow the lawn. Optionally dump the kids with granny, as they seem to attract clutter. Remind ourselves that granny’s recent increase in alcohol intake is completely understandable.
  4. Show potential buyers ’round, and try to be friendly.
  5. Try not to shout lots of rude words at those same potential buyers when it turns out they’re idiots.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

This has lasted for six months. In that time, some of the more memorable conversations with viewers have gone like this:

Buyer 1: We love it! We’ll put an offer in tomorrow!
Me: Great!
Buyer 1: And you can take this house off the market until we’ve sold ours, then!
Me: Sorry, what?
Buyer 1: We’ve not put our house on the market yet. We were waiting until we found just the right house before we decided to sell ours! That’s OK, isn’t it? I’m sure ours will sell super-quickly!
Me:

Buyer 2: Your living room is too small.
Me: The measurements are in the house details. Didn’t you read them?
Buyer 2: Yes, but I wanted to feel the room for myself, to see if it felt bigger. The estate agent might have got it wrong.
Me:

Buyer 3 (a middle-eastern gentleman): What are the neighbours like? Any Pakis living round here?
Me: Sorry, what?
Buyer 3: Bloody Pakis. Can’t stand them. What about niggers?
Me:

Buyer 4: But where is the conservatory?
Me: It doesn’t have one. Did you even read the details?
Buyer 4: Not really. We just like the postcode. There’s a house for sale further up this street that does have a conservatory! And two more bedrooms!
Me: Yes, but that one costs £400,000 more than ours.
Buyer 4: Well, I wouldn’t have come here if I’d known there was no conservatory! You’ll be happy to take a lower offer, then?
Me:

Last week, we decided we had had enough. The viewers had largely been idiots and timewasters; interspersed by those precious genuine few who were sadly unable to make offers because they had been unable to sell their own property. So: we investigated the possibility of putting our house on the rental market so as not to lose out on the house we wanted.

We did the maths, decided it was doable, spoke to a mortgage advisor and were surprised to get back an agreement-in-principle from a lender in less than a week. Great! So we rang the estate agent and told them we did not want to show anyone else round, and that we’d lease our house instead. Please cancel that first-time-buyer couple that we were supposed to show around on Wednesday, because they had “waste of time” written all over their hopelessly naive faces and we just didn’t have the patience anymore.

Wednesday came. On that afternoon my wife had a friend round for a cup of tea, who brought a carload of young children. They turned the house upside down. Then, when my daughter came home from school she brought a friend home for tea. Like hyperactive pink and glittery screaming banshees, they trashed the rest of the house and drove the cats into hiding. It was as if the wingèd-monkeys from the Wizard of Oz all dressed-up in Hello Kitty outfits and drank too much Sunny-D.

When I returned from work that evening my wife decided that she’d had enough of the house and the kids for the day, and went out to some insane “dance-the-flab-off-your-thighs-to-somewhere-round-the-back-where-its-less-visible” class. Completely understandable: she had a day feeding beans and chicken nuggets to a gaggle of sugar-high midgets, whereas I had a day in the office with the guys, playing computer games and discussing boobs.

I hadn’t even begun to clean the house by 7:30pm, when the doorbell rang. I quickly discovered that the estate agent had forgotten to cancel Mr and Mrs hopelessly-naive-first-time-buyer, and they had duly arrived.

At the doorstep, I politely inform them that the viewing has been cancelled and the estate agent should have told them, but then partway through that conversation I decide I just don’t care anymore. It’s my house, and anyone who doesn’t like the state it is in can get stuffed. My exact words were, I think: “I’m very sorry but you should have been rung by the estate agent … oh wait, sod it. If you don’t mind the mess, you might as well have a look around. Come on in! Welcome to our home, we’ve been very happy here, and I don’t give the slightest toss whether you like it or not – it’s being put up for rent next week.”

I remember being quite surly and distinctly unhelpful. They looked around the house, said thank you, shook my hand, and left. The following morning they rang up and bought it.

There’s a few schools of thought on how I should process this.

Perhaps it is just good timing. For that couple our house is just what they were looking for, and they weren’t looking six months ago. It is their good fortune that they booked the viewing when they did; if they’d left it another week then our house would have been on the rental market. Meanwhile, those other people we showed around are even-now learning to be more reasonable in their expectations, and will find the Right House one day. Or will die screaming in a gruesome strimmer accident, if Karma has anything to do with it.

That’s not the conclusion I draw, though. All I see is this:

When I’m trying hard to be nice and helpful, no-one trusts me. But when I revert to being a grumpy bastard, people consider me more trustworthy. So the best I can take from this experience is as follows: God did not build me to be a good liar. Which also explains my terrible luck on Poker night.

And that, dear reader, is why I should never be employed in any customer-facing position. Unless the phrase “I couldn’t give a toss about what you think” ever becomes an acceptable customer-service policy.

It’s also why I think Phil and Kirstie can take their house-selling advice and go f…

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  1. benjymous says:

    So the old advice of freshly baked bread should be replaced by the odour of chicken nuggets, and additional lego caltraps spread liberally around for good measure.

    Gotcha.

  2. Oddbloke says:

    You read it here first!

  3. Anon says:

    You can take it too far though – my ex seemed to delight in being particularly obstructive to anybody who was sent round to look at the house “we” were supposed to be selling. Letting the place go to rack and ruin, taking in dogs to $h!t all over the place, and generally being obnoxious ensured she got to stay in the house for an extra couple of years, as long as she didn’t mind the crap being trodden into the carpet. Of course, in that time the housing boom collapsed, and when it did eventually sell (to a developer mate of the estate agent, who was heartedly sick of her by then) it was for much less than it might have gone for when it first went on the market, had she co-operated. I reckon that couple of years arsing about cost us each ~£30K.

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