View, But Don’t Touch!

BY A COUNTRY AGENT

When doing this job it can often be all too easy to forget you are dealing with someone’s most prized possession. Their home, which they have entrusted you to sell, is usually one of the largest assets they have. It is a core part of their life, it reflects their personality and the way they live and as such it should be treated with respect.

During a viewing where a vendor might be in the house it is only appropriate to ensure that fair warning is given to the viewer. The reason for this is to avoid the toe-curling embarrassment that immediately follows someone saying:

What an awful carpet!” or,

What on earth possessed them to buy those curtains?”

Viewers frequently have to be reminded that they are not buying the current vendor’s lifestyle, but a property that they may wish to choose to make their own home one day.  If they do not like how it is presented now, that is fine, but the current owner should most certainly not be made aware.  

The best way to convey this sort of feedback is something along the lines of:

They decided they would need to spend £x in order to alter the property to meet their needs and as such it puts this property out of their budget.” 

Simple.  No one is offended but the feedback is accurate and honest, whilst being handled sensitively.

Sometimes however, the emphasis can work the other way around, some vendors can be somewhat scathing of viewers who they deign to allow around their home, it is not uncommon or indeed unreasonable for a vendor to request that no shoes are worn in the property. If they are house proud then it is naturally only fair to respect that wish, provided that it doesn’t obstruct us from actually selling the house…

It was early summer and Oakfield Manor had been on the market since the beginning of spring. The vendors, Mr & Mrs Beaumont, were getting impatient, they were not the sort of people who liked waiting for anything or anyone. They wanted their 17th Century, 5 Bedroom Farmhouse to be sold as soon as possible and wanted us to do what we could to get results.

Mrs Beaumont was a formidable woman. Nearly 6ft in heels with a masculine frame she walked everywhere with a sense of purpose and talked to everyone like they were an idiot. She was on every local committee, in every society and council you could think of and they all dreaded her, but they let her stay because no one wanted to stand up to her and, quite frankly, she got stuff done. She was of the “old school” and immensely proud of it, house-proud to the extreme and couldn’t understand why to date nobody had been interested in her lovely home.

Mr Beaumont was a quiet and unassuming gentleman with a polite demeanour. He was a retired accountant and didn’t compete with his wife for “airtime”, although when he spoke it was clear that he was a man of superior intellect. As someone once said, “words that are spoken softly with authority command the most respect”, and that was him.

In response to Mr & Mrs Beaumont’s request we placed a full page advert in the local paper, “OPEN DAY” emblazoned on all of the property portals and we promoted the day as much as we were able. We “hotlisted” it by calling everyone and anyone who might be interested, we ordered balloons & large window displays for the branch window.

It was a full-on marketing assault which we estate agents all know can often end in only one way: tourists.

But it doesn’t matter, it only needs one buyer so even if we had 99% timewasters, we still only need one person to want it and then it’s a job well done.

I arrived with one of our viewing agents, Hermione, we were both armed with brochures, balloons, branded flags & marketing material. Thankfully it was a nice day, but unfortunately that meant it was even more likely to bring out the tourists, most of whom just wanted a day trip out on a nice day to look at a nice home.

“Good morning Mrs Beaumont,” I said to the vendor. She stood in the doorway of the Oakfield Manor looking decidedly annoyed.

“I was hoping you would have been here a little earlier,” she said sternly, “we’ve had a lot to do. It’s not easy to prepare this house you know and we could have done with a hand.”

She spun around more delicately than you’d expect for a woman of her stature, pivoting on her perfectly polished heels, and strode purposefully back in. Hermione and I exchanged a look and followed her like scolded children.

“Everything is finally ready,” she boomed. “I do not wish to be here when people arrive, my husband is taking me to lunch and then we will walk the dogs.” She gestured towards the two Irish Wolf Hounds which were almost as terrifying as her. “You will wait until our return, and the house will be as you found it when we come back.”

With that she collected her keys, bag and jacket in one swift move, stomped towards the door, the hounds following close behind.  “Call me if there is an emergency, otherwise I will be back at 4.30pm when everyone is gone.”

She slammed the door behind her, both hounds leaping effortlessly into the boot of the waiting Range Rover, she boarded the passenger seat whereupon Mr Beaumont closed all of the doors and chauffeured her off down the drive.

I hadn’t been able to utter a single word. “Bye then,” I said to no-one.

Hermione scoffed, “Wow! You said she was a battle-axe but I wasn’t expecting Mrs Trunchbowl!”

“Now, now,” I said. “Let’s get set up.  You go and have a look around, get familiar with the property first.”  

I headed down the drive and placed the flags, banner and balloons at the entrance, careful to ensure good visibility from the road. Great profile for us as an agent. Fingers crossed some of our competitors saw it, it was always satisfying to get good roadside visibility and I enjoyed rubbing their noses in it.

As I walked back into the entrance hall Hermione stood in front of me with a huge grin on her face. 

“You’re not going to believe this…” she blurted just as a car pulled up the drive behind me.

“Not now.  Tell me later.”  I turned to look: a small Vauxhall Corsa bursting at the seams with old ladies clutching their handbags. Dammit, bloody Tourists.

Another car pulled in behind it, a brand new Range Rover.  

Excellent,” I thought, “they’ve got money.

I didn’t have time to find out why Hermione was so amused, I had a house to sell, I turned to welcome our visitors.

As the ladies struggled to get out of their small car, I smiled and walked straight past them towards the Range Rover.  Hermione could deal with the “WI” I thought, I’m going to sell this house.

I smiled at the driver and passenger of the larger car and greeted them with all the charm I could muster. Guiding them towards the front door of Oakfield Manor, I asked all the right questions, made them feel welcome and at ease, I reeled off the patter as I had done so many times over the years.  We entered the house, through the charming reception hall and opened the door into the sitting room.

It was then that I saw what had amused Hermione so much…

“So, in here is the…”

I stopped, do I let them in or do I stop the viewings and cancel the whole open day?  

No, I had to sell this house and quite frankly the thought of facing the wrath of Mrs Beaumont terrified me.  I didn’t mention anything and hoped that they wouldn’t say anything either.

Mrs Beaumont had covered all of the seating furniture with cling film.  The Chesterfields, the Queen Anne wingback armchair and sofa. Shrink wrapped.  

String had also been suspended between two chairs to create a barrier to protect the antique sideboard. Swinging from it was a sign: 

DO NOT TOUCH

I had a sinking feeling.  I turned to the viewers, their faces said it all. “Wow, this is different,” one said, with epic understatement, face covered in bemusement. We stood in the doorway trying to take it all in.

“Can we come in too?” a little elderly voice said from the entrance hall.

“Dammit, Hermione.” I uttered under my breath. “Yes of course!  Hermione stood behind them looking sheepish.

We continued on, every room was the same, right up until we reached the fabulous master bedroom suite:

“PRIVATE, NO ENTRY”.

The door was locked.  Actually locked.  The owners of the Range Rover looked at me incredulously:

“My god, it’s just like a tour around a poor man’s Buckingham Palace!” he exclaimed. Clearly pleased with his quip he turned around to his audience for approval and he was greeted by a sea of wrinkled, politely smiling faces.

He was right though, I felt like a tour guide.

“These people really do have a little bit of a problem don’t they.”  The sooner this ended and he got back in to his Range Rover the better.

The ladies all laughed demurely, a little voice chirped; “Well, Geraldine was always a little bit funny about people touching her stuff, even at school.”

Suspicions confirmed. 

Bloody tourists.

Rupert Devonshire is “A Country Agent”.  A married father of two in his mid-fifties, Rupert has worked in the rural property market, selling some of the North of England’s finest country properties, for the past 30 years. Writing as “A Country Agent”, Rupert shares with us some of the amusing highs, and indeed lows, of his career to date.  Whether he being is attacked by a swan, propositioned by a cougar or watching an ostrich chase a surveyor, there is usually a hysterical undertone. If you have read any of his tales, you will appreciate that Rupert Devonshire is probably not his real name.