Pity the poor es­tate agent, says Sandy Mitchell

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Inside Track -

City bankers of­ten dream of es­cap­ing from the Square Mile to be­come artists or farm­ers – but how many fan­ta­sise about a new ca­reer in es­tate agency? Es­pe­cially when, as a sur­vey from the Com­mit­tee on Stan­dards in Pub­lic Life re­vealed, the only pro­fes­sion­als trusted less by the pub­lic than es­tate agents are politi­cians. So this makes my mate James a very odd phe­nom­e­non, in­deed.

A few months ago, aged 40, he swapped his lav­ishly-paid po­si­tion at an Amer­i­can fi­nance house in the City – where he had spent a suc­cess­ful 10 years – for a job sell­ing flats and houses in south­west Lon­don. He planned to work for a year or so at an es­tate agency to get to know the mar­ket, then strike out on his own as a prop­erty de­vel­oper. With the prime and su­per­prime mar­kets ris­ing faster than deals can be made, it seemed like a rea­son­able ca­reer move.

James is used to han­dling hard-nosed bro­kers and wheel­erdeal­ers, but noth­ing pre­pared him for what he found. Ini­tially, all went well and he was quickly hired by his lo­cal branch of a Lon­don-wide agency.

“I showed up at the of­fice at 8.30am on my first day and was handed a big bun­dle of keys and a list of 10 ap­point­ments, back-to-back, at dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties in Clapham and Wandsworth,” he says. “The boss was very pleas­ant and ex­plained that I should take a copy of the par­tic­u­lars for each prop­erty, get there five min­utes be­fore the client, walk around it for a bit and try to think up some clever sales pat­ter.”

That was when he hit a snag. “It was im­pos­si­ble to say any­thing nice about the prop­er­ties, they were that pokey and smelly. So I de­cided to make a joke of their worst points.”

His witty pat­ter seemed to go down well with the clients and the first two made of­fers.

“The ask­ing price of one place was £400,000 and this guy of­fered me 80 grand less. I told him that was push­ing it but he gave me this whole story about how he was broke be­cause he was pay­ing his ex-wife al­imony, and had lost some se­ri­ous money in a deal. I won­dered if this was a porky. Why did he bother?”

His client at the next flat was a Sloaney young wo­man work­ing in the City. “It’s ex­actly what I want – I can’t be­lieve it,” she gushed to James, promis­ing to ring him within the hour to con­firm her of­fer, close to the ask­ing price. An hour passed, two hours, three... James phoned her; she put the phone down on him.

“By mid­day I was com­pletely ex­hausted,” he says.

The pres­sure of dash­ing from ap­point­ment to ap­point­ment, al­ways against the clock, and try­ing to find some­where to park, was al­ready drain­ing him. Then, in the af­ter­noon, he had to deal with one client who was need­lessly rude, an­other who claimed to be a private buyer but whom James’s boss knew to be a de­vel­oper, and two who sim­ply failed to turn up for their ap­point­ments.

By the end of day one, James was so dis­gusted by his clients that he de­cided to re­sign im­me­di­ately. “When I ex­plained my rea­sons to the boss, he shrugged and said es­tate agents reckon as a rule of thumb that 75 per cent of clients are pretty re­laxed about the truth.”

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