by Pierre Le Roux
They say the top five most stressful things in life is Divorce, Changing Jobs, Loosing your Job, Death of a loved one and Moving house. In recent weeks I have endured one of the five and is about to live through another. Having changed jobs, husband and I are now house hunting. This is a daunting prospect as having to deal with real estate agents is not one of my favorite pastimes. The last time we ventured into the treacherous property wilderness where estate agents behave like ruthless predators was 8 years ago. So how much have changed since?
The decision to upgrade to a bigger property was due to multiple reasons. We have outgrown our apartment which now seems claustrophobic and our possessions threaten to have our living space burst at its foundations. Our neighbors are starting to annoy the hell out of me; one in particular is an old woman who is raising her grand daughter’s child. Both are loud, irritating and their voices cuts through me the same why nails on a blackboard does. What makes it worse is the fact that the old woman has a speech impediment and she sounds like a parrot with a sore throat and I have fantasized many times how one of my three cats would attack and mortally wound her.
This same neighbour also interferes with our water pressure. Imagine being in the shower and all of a sudden your hot water’s pressure drops and a pleasant warm shower turns into a freezing nightmare or the alternative of being boiled to death when the cold water’s pressure drops. You see every time I take a shower she decides to do the same and then it turns into the battle of who is going to freeze or cook the other. It’s a war where neither she nor I are willing to back down – just call us the Israel and Palestine of our apartment complex. We hate each other even though we have never spoken; we have no interest in resolving our issues and as long as the other lives there the battle will continue.
Now having decided to acquire a bigger property meant that we spend a lot of time on the internet searching for the perfect house. Our previous experience has taught us that if you leave it up to an estate agent you will end up seeing lots of places you hate. Even though the internet is the perfect tool for this, at the end of the day you still have to contact the estate agent and that’s when the trouble starts. In my experience you get three types of estate agents: The Professional, the Con-artist & the Borderline Criminal. The Professional agent will honestly pitch the property to you in a realistic manner and take note of your requirements and will not waste your time. The Con-artist will lie to you; conceal all the faults in the house, over sell and under deliver. The Borderline Criminal is the dangerous one, the agent that will lie, commit fraud and even break the law to sell you something that, in all likelihood, you will regret later and do all of this for the commission that probably was inflated by them.
When dealing with estate agents you absolutely have to be armed with the translation key to their very special language. Yes it is English but the true meaning of the adjectives they use when describing a house you will not find in the normal thesaurus. When a house is described as cosy it means it’s small. Rustic means it needs work. Good security implies the property is situated in a crime ridden area. Close to schools and major roads means there are lots of noise pollution. Friendly neighbours mean no privacy. Low maintenance garden means there is no lawn or garden to speak off. My favourite one is when you find something major that’s broken at a property how hasty the words “we can always work that into the contract” flies out of an agent’s mouth; whether that really means that it will be fixed I am yet to discover.
Real estate agents are also good readers of body language and well skilled in all forms of manipulation. The really good ones do it with such ease that detecting their manipulation can be virtually impossible. When an estate agent is bad at this I have found it both amusing and pathetic. After learning that husband and I were married the last agent saw this as an opportunity by telling us that she loves gay people. All of a sudden her daughter is a lesbian; her uncle is “a gay”; she has many gay friends, “really don’t mind gay people” and she even goes to gay pride and gay clubs. My first thought was “my god this woman is more active in the gay community than I am”. However after reviewing this bizarre incident I came to the conclusion that she was lying. For one, if she had so many gay friends her make-up would have been applied better (an autumn complexion should never attempt to use make-up meant for a summer complexion). Secondly, her hair would have been properly styled and one of her queers would have told her that if you have thinning hair don’t put gel in it or try to tease it. Lastly, if she had gay friends she would have known that we do not like to be referred too as “a gay”. I didn’t like her, she read us all wrong and her attempt at manipulation failed miserably. She reminded me Scrat the squirrel from the movie Ice Age – not only was she not entertaining, her nervousness emanated from her pursuit of her commission and not an acorn!
House hunting is hard work. Every time we find something we like something happens and we get our hearts broken. Both husband and I are quite pedantic about many things which make the search for the perfect property all the more difficult. We both have different requirements and finding that one place that suits both of us is like searching for a needle in a gaystack. In the last 8 years not much seems to have changed when dealing with real estate agents, apart from the fact that their level of desperation has increased due to the recession. I firmly believe our perfect home is out there; maybe a “fairy-god-mother” real estate agent will find it for us – let’s hope for some gay magic!
Till next time!