Now that the great house-transferral industry is in trouble, estate agents are arguably even worse human beings than they were a bit over a year ago. Back then they were busy bothering and berating anyone on their books in order to keep stoking the fire under the pressurized, overheated market. I remember quite vividly the day that a particular agent rang me three times at work about a house, before I had the chance to even ring K. once to discuss it: that chap did us the favour of depressing us to the point that we pulled out of the procedure entirely and therefore are less badly off than we might have been.
Since then agents have become a good deal more desperate, and it’s this spirit of desperation that made today’s troll around three branches—I couldn’t manage any more, even though Andrews, who we currently rent through, were comparatively decent—so simultaneously depressing and enraging. The first agent was staffed by a lonely bloke, who pretended to be on the phone when I came in. As soon as he realised our area was probably covered by their Woodstock/Kidlington branch his shoulders drooped and he took my details like it was the last thing in the world he wanted to be doing.
After a reasonably quick passage through Andrews I ended up at a branch of what, in a spirit of Googlejuice magnanimity, we’ll call Fuckall and Buyhard. The agent there would not accept, that I would not accept her taking my mobile telephone number until we found something we liked: she was astonished that I might not want her to contact me at every opportunity. “What if a house comes on the market?” she asked. “How will you find out?” I explained about the internet and newspapers. “Well, they might not all be there,” she warned. I stopped short of telling her that I don’t expect CD shops to ring me up when a new CD I might like comes out, as I didn’t want to be told all about apples and oranges.
Astonishment turned into a kind of thinly-veiled outrage, though, when I mentioned to her that the last time we’d tried to buy a house we’d eventually given up because we were “sick of estate agents.” “How,” she asked, eyebrows knitting together, “could you get sick of estate agents?”
… Is there some possibility that she didn’t get that memo? Or did we only send it out to normal people? Unless they prove themselves otherwise worthy of basic respect, the average estate agent will find themselves despised by everyone: homeowners and househunters hate them because they have to deal with them; estate agents hate each other because they’re all in unhealthy competition; and the rest of society are just as sick as those involved. Those sitting on the sidelines are pissed off for that very reason: that homeowning in British society has been transformed into this inescapable, thunderingly dull team sport of woe and tension, taking over every other conversation, and estate agents are the coaches and managers and cheerleaders of everyone in the whole dismal league.
Like the employees of Ashton Carthorse, cold-callers and other middlemen, estate agents are parasites: they suck on people’s personal details, feed off them and get fat, while the people themselves turn etiolated and tired, running round after these so-called agents that, despite their name, turn out to be no agere and all sodding dicere.
I didn’t say all that bit, by the way. But I did purse my lips and, in response to her trying to shill the agency’s own “I”FA by saying “Don’t you want to save money?” I delivered a flat, and scathing “No.” That showed her. The effect of it was all rather diminished by me confusing Madley Park and Deer Park (which is easily done as neither of them, like most of the rest of Witney, are actually fucking parks any more: they’re full of houses), but I console myself with the fact that she like others might not be an estate agent for much longer.