Why Do Estate Agents Have Such A Bad Press?

As I reported yesterday, the promised telephone call from Penyards did not come. Hopefully giving him time to sort out his desk, early this morning, I phoned the manager. I asked him if he was familiar with the situation concerning our flat. He said he was and read out his briefing. ‘That’s her version’, I said. ‘Would you like to hear mine?’. Well, how could he refuse such a generous offer?

I told him the same story that I wrote in yesterday’s post. He listened, said it shouldn’t be as I described, and that he was sorry for our stress. Very diplomatic, he neither accepted nor rejected anything I said, but undertook to go through the recordings of the telephone conversations and get back to me. He didn’t. But then, tomorrow is another day.

After this I repeated yesterday’s walk, en route delivering a couple of prints to Mike, the gentleman I had met yesterday.

For once, deep in reflection about the situation in which we find ourselves, I didn’t really look around me much. It has all been rather sleep-depriving and depressing. This led me to think about the perhaps comparatively few estate agents with whom I have had the sometimes doubtful pleasure of dealing.

Derrick and Vivien 1960Photograph number 47 in the ‘through the ages’ series was taken in Vivien’s parents’ garden at Sidcup, probably by her brother Bernard. This was in the naive, trusting days of 1960, before I had ever bought a house or taken a tenancy. Brown suede shoes and trousers with turn-ups were all the rage. I remember a member of the Magic Circle who lived in Amity Grove and let us into one or two simple secrets, such as the disappearing penny that would, assisted by a hand in the pocket, slide down taut pressed trousers to vanish into the waiting turn-ups. The penny at that time, was a decent size and you could do a lot more with it.

The recording of my residential history was begun on 3rd January, and continued on 5th.

I do not remember the names of the agents who handled either my purchase or sale of 79 Ashcombe Road. Buying this very first owned home was a smooth and straightforward operation, possibly because there was no chain. When I came to sell the house I experienced my first, shall we say, sleight of tongue. The agent telephoned me to ask if the buyer could have access to the property between exchange and completion purely for the purposes of decorating. When, during this period, I arrived at my own front door, I was somewhat surprised to find six milk bottles on the doorstep. In those days milk was still delivered to households in returnable glass bottles. I used my key to enter and was confronted by a tribe of small wide-eyed children. There was no sign of any decorating or decorators’ materials. I left without making an issue of it.

There were again no difficulties over 76 Amity Grove, the first home I shared with Jackie. Maybe that is why I don’t remember who the agents were.

It wasn’t until Gracedale Road that I bought a house again, or indeed, used an agent to rent accommodation, this time jointly with Jessica. Our experience was the same as the previous one, as was the purchase of Lindum House in Newark.

The fun really began with the sale of the latter home. One reason it took more than two years to sell this was because of several months inactivity from Savills, the sole agents. They even placed their board behind a tree, repeatedly ignoring my requests for it to be moved because it could not be seen from the road.  When we received a speculative offer out of the blue from a developer, and discovered that Savills were also agents for that company, I became suspicious and passed on my thoughts to the manager. Eventually he came to the house and, denying any underhand dealings, after much gentle persuasion on my part, abandoned the hopeless defence of his staff-member and settled for telling me that the file had been set aside and forgotten for six months. A little more persistence led to one half % reduction in the agent’s fee when the house was finally sold.

AAARGH! is the title of the post in which I describe three weeks as a tenant in Hyde Park Square, courtesy of Chestertons. What I did not mention in that article is a matter of interest. It was the first time an agent had denied a statement made to me. It was also my first commercial tenancy so I did not realise that for the young woman to say that I would receive interest on my deposit at the end of the tenancy was unusual. When I finally asked for it I was alerted to a clause in the contract saying that it was not payable. I had to quote the provision in the laws of contract stating that representatives’ verbal statements override the written word. The young woman declared that she had not told me I would receive interest. It would have been my word against hers in court. I received a minuscule amount of interest.

The agents involved in tenancies in Ridgway and Links Avenue, respectively Letz Move and People in Property were exemplary, as were Spencers of The New Forest over our current purchase.

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Ringwood where I posted Malachi’s belated birthday present and transferred money to pay for the London move and storage. Such is my faith in Globe Removals that I was happy to do that in absentia for the work to be done tomorrow. It’s good to be able to rely on someone.

Later, desultorily, we half-filled the other three made-up boxes.Birch branches.

Branch in gardenWandering round the garden in the early evening, I focussed on branches. There was the shattered branch of a large tree on the verge in Running Hill extending above our fence and resting in the garden, and there was the fine filigree of the as yet naked birch we see from our living room window. Sky streaks above rooftop

A striated sky streamed above the silhouetted rooftops.

The hot chilli con carne for me and the more medium chicken curry for Jackie provided our evening sustenance. We both enjoyed pilau rice and salad and drank Hoegaarden.

Residential History Continued

As stated yesterday, Jessica, Sam, Louisa, and I moved to Lindum House in Beacon Hill Road Newark, on 10th December 1987.  This home was large enough for all the southern family members to come and stay, and they often did.  Sam, Louisa & friends 5.89Its large garden was a haven for children, as evidenced by this photograph from Louisa’s Birthday party in May 1989.  The games were organised by Kate, a teenaged baby sitter.  Sam gleefully advances in a T-shirt that for some reason I don’t remember sports my signature.  Louisa sits a little behind and to his side.  All the children in the photograph were regular visitors until the house was sold in 2006; some, as they grew older, would often stay overnight, particularly if they lived in villages outside the town and had socialised in it.  By now I was using an Olympus OM2. I cannot find the negative so this reproduction is from a scanned print.

With Jessica’s death from multiple myeloma now a matter of time the house was sold in December of that year and I rented a flat in Hyde Park Square, SW London.  The story of this three week fiasco is told in ‘Aaargh!’.  Chesterton’s, clearly feeling they owed me something, provided me with a six month let in a house in Leinster Mews, just opposite Kensington Gardens.  After this I had three years at 29 Sutherland Place, in the lounge of which I am seated in Alex Schneideman’s portrait featured in ‘Showstopper’.

By the summer of 2010, Jackie and I, now reunited, took a flat in The Ridgway SW19, a street in which I had dreamed of living throughout my childhood.  This establishment is described in ‘A Professional Clean’.

Castle Malwood Lodge 10.12

P.S. I pressed Publish prematurely again.  After a year in The Ridgway we moved, until Jackie’s retirement, to a quirky little 1930s flat in Links Avenue, Morden, which we left in November 2012 for Castle Malwood Lodge, in Minstead, Hampshire.  We have the ground floor flat on the right hand corner of the photograph.

AAARGH!

Last night I finished ‘Best Views from the Boundary’, a light hearted collection of Test Match Special lunchtime interviews by commentators featuring people from other walks of life who share a passion for cricket.  Lily Allen was a surprise, and Daniel Radcliffe, on his eighteenth birthday, took refuge from the film world.  Surprisingly, I thought Henry Blofeld, who is rather the butt of his colleagues, the best interviewer.  Brian Johnston, cleverly, had the tables turned on him.

This morning I began ‘Death in Holy Orders’ by P.D. James.  Having forgotten to make the revisions to my next Independent crossword puzzle, I then spent a couple of hours on them and attempted to e-mail my editor.  My laptop was continually timed out.  I had to tap it all out again on my Blackberry.  No signal.  I went up to the market square where there usually is one.  No ……. signal.  AAARGH!  Anyone who has read the posts from 25th. July will understand.  But I am a persistent fellow and eventually I managed to send it and visit Carrefour for some handwashing powder.  Running out of time to prepare for Don, including doing something about the kitchen, I took a brief stroll around the village. Pallets Sigoules 8.12 After this I vetted Mike’s amended clues for his potential Listener crossword.

My frustrations this week pale into insignificance when compared to my move from Newark to Hyde Park Square.  Using Chestertons, a national estate agent of renown, I had rented a one-bedroomed flat in this salubrious area of Central London.  It was being refurbished.  Despite my misgivings, during the six weeks prior to my occupation I was constantly assured that the work would be finished.  It wasn’t.  I arrived in the evening to be told I couldn’t take up residence because there was no gas certificate.  Remaining firm I advised the agent to get one immediately because I wasn’t leaving.  This meant a fitter making a hectic trip across London.  One was eventually produced.  My furniture was to arrive in the middle of the night.  I stayed put.  There were no curtains or blinds.  The shower and bedroom were full of builder’s rubble.  A cupboard still contained a defunct boiler which I had been assured would be removed.  Only half the new power points worked.  A live wire was hanging loosely from a wall.  I sat on one of the loos and was horrified to find a pool of water surrounding it when I got off.  Neither of the WCs had been fixed to the floor.  I decided to have a bath, turned on the hot tap and walked away.  On my return the bath was full of cold water.  The taps had been put on the wrong way round.  To drain the bath took an age.  The gas cooker was subsequently declared unsafe.  I could have blown myself up.  There was no splashback to the kitchen sink, and the kickboard fell off when I was nowhere near it.  I could go on.  However, you’ve got the picture.

Most of these problems emerged during the three weeks I was there.  I would visit the agent with a supplementary list almost daily.  On one occasion, when I said I’d had enough, the agent said she’d see if the landlord would release me from my contract.  ‘Landlord release me!’, I screamed.  I went into a high-pitched rant.  When I’d finally finished there wasn’t another client in this vast open plan office just off Marble Arch.  I’d cleared it.

There just has to be a washing machine in this story.  Except there wasn’t.  There should have been.  But it never arrived.  When I’d accumulated several bags of washing I gave the agent a choice.  She could either pay for a visit to the laundrette or I would bring her my laundry and drop it in the middle of her office.  She took the payment option.

I eventually received a total refund and a very nice three-bedroomed mews house off Bayswater Road for the same price.

Don was delivered on time by Lydie.  After giving him the guided tour we repaired to Le Code Bar where we both ate delicious duck pizzas and creme brulees.  I drank rosee wine and Don Leffe.  We had a lovely reminiscent conversation of which, as I am too far gone tonight, I will speak tomorrow.