Bottom feeders and Shay-Boo

There is only one thing that slightly dampens my excitement now that we are finally looking to buy our own home. Actually, “buy” stands for “owing the bank shitloads of dosh” and “own home” means “the bank’s security“. Still, very exciting. Except for the bottom feeders that are estate agents. I’ve had bad experiences with this underbelly of human decay before (no one with a half decent intellect EVER becomes an estate agent) but as usual, I jumped in with a positive attitude and my customary, naive faith in human nature. Mistake #1 right there – ‘human nature’ would imply they are human in the first place. Bottom feeders, remember?

So off I went and plugged our search criteria into Zoopla and Rightmove and immediately both sites threw an encouraging list of properties at me and within just minutes I’d listed five ones that seemed brilliant. In today’s property market, and especially in London, one should know that ‘brilliant’ does not exist, but here’s lil’ ol’ me with the positive attitude… So instead of some much needed scepticism, I did a little victory fist-pump and went about calling the agents. And I had five IDENTICAL conversations:

Me: “I’m calling about this listing on Zoopla.

Bottom feeder: “Ah, I see, but that one’s JUUUUUST gone, but I have such-and-such to show you.

This is code for “That one never existed, and if it did it was sold a year ago and probably not by us, but I am on a below-living-wage basic salary and therefore so desperate to make commission I’ll include my own children in the deal if you agree to look at such-and-such piece of crap half the size you wanted at double your budget. Oh, it’s in Wales but has great connection links to London.

However, the fifth bottom feeder, a lady at Barnard Marcus in Chiswick, magically managed to turn a Very Annoyed Me around. I was fuming by the time she chimed in with the four before her in how the property I called about had “just gone” and I asked her flat out if this was some kind of accepted sales tactic amongst estate agents. She gave me what at the time sounded like a plausible explanation, something about updating Zoopla meant properties weren’t removed as quickly as from their own websites, and then she went about sweet talking me. She insisted I gave her our budget and all our requirements, along with what we’d be willing to compromise on.

So I gave her our max budget, where we’d consider and the size property we need. I explained we don’t want a renovation project as we don’t have heaps to spend and it therefore has to be inhabitable straight away, we can’t go over budget by even a penny and we HAVE TO be in these specific pockets of west London in order for Monkey to get to school and a very specific bus route corridor out west with Teddington being the furthest out we can possibly go before it becomes ridiculous.

It seemed to me like she was really getting what we’re after and seemed genuine, which made me like her a lot and coming off the phone I was filled with a renewed sense of optimism. Lucky us! We managed to find London’s first honest, non-sharkey estate agent! She reeeeeally understands what we’re after and what we can do, hooray!

A day or so later, she rang me back saying she had two “amazing” properties that were “spot on” for us that had Just Come In, which meant she couldn’t give me any more details than that. OK, again, warning bells should have started ringing, but she’d really won my trust by seemingly having taken her time to understand our requirements so I was more than happy to trust her. AND get all excited about the viewings she scheduled in the forth coming Saturday. Excellent! This house hunting malarkey was just amazingly easy!

So we turned up at Barnard Marcus at the agreed time on the Saturday and she was as lovely in person as she had been on the phone, plus easy on the eye too (I like curvy blondes). Got into her car and suddenly I realised that OK…. This isn’t Chiswick anymore… We’re heading into W6… Uhm, are we lost? This now seems to be Shepherd’s Bush? Shall I see if I can help with the SatNav so you can focus on driving, Blondie?

But oh no. Shay-Boo was very much our destination for Viewing #1. Blondie showed us something that, in flattering terms, could be described as a fixer-upper in an area we don’t want at nearly £100k over our budget. Because, oh, by the way – you have to renew the lease at a steal of £40k too. She added the lease as an after thought. As you do.

Viewing #2 didn’t happen as we realised this was in Southall. Freakin’ SOUTHALL! Nothing bad about Shepherd’s Bush or Southall (actually – a LITTLE bad) but these aren’t areas we can consider.

Sure, the Shay-Boo wreckage could potentially be renovated at a relatively modest cost (MODEST IF YOU BLOODY HAVE THE MONEY!) and turned into a stunning place, but that’s neither here nor there as we 1) can’t afford it in the first place, and 2) my son does need to get to school.

So, from feeling happy and grateful to have an agent who seemingly had our interests at heart as opposed to only commission and pushing whatever they had, rather than what be right for us, it felt like the air going out of a balloon, prrrrrrrrf! In the end we decided to wait a couple of months, despite finding a lovely converted coach house right near the river in Teddington. With hindsight a few weeks later however, that’s still on the market and I suppose that says something too. Unfortunately. What this does mean is we’re better equipped for when we start looking again in a month’s time – both in terms of what our budget can achieve and where, and also a healthy dose of pessimism (B calls it realism, but it’s still alien to me even now).

Well. Our future home is out there, somewhere along Monkey’s school bus route out west from Chiswick, and I know we’ll find it.

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