My flat hunt has convinced me. There is nothing lower than a letting agent. Traffic wardens, bankers, slugs, and tax inspectors all have their detractors, but letting agents are special.
I was trying to avoid them, but they’ve established a virtual stranglehold. And so, I opened the door of one office. Ignoring the whiff of sulphur I waited, hoping to be invited to take a seat (I’m old-fashioned that way.) I waited. And then I waited some more as the agent took personal calls, shuffled papers and glimpsed slyly up at me.
“Yeah-esss…” he said, like a cross between Jeremy Paxman and Basil Fawlty. He didn’t look up, and smirked when I mentioned my requirements and the price I would pay. He asked for my details but didn’t appear to be writing them down.
Another sneered at me and even giggled. Then she regained her composure and reached for a hefty file of vacant flats. As she opened it, bats flew out, and the dust choked us all. It was the collection of one beds and studio flats. She did what they all do: offer me crap to see how high I’d go on the gullible meter. I haggled. She refused, as there are plenty of tenants. I said: how come there are so many vacancies, then.
One fine, arrogant chap looked me in the eye, insisting that, in a booming market, flats are snapped up as soon as they come in. He’s never been so busy. His best customers were (you’ll like this…) Saudi princes. I know; awash with money, they select the luxury of a cheap, nasty newbuild.
He reiterated the buoyancy of the rental sector.
He’s a big fat hairy liar.
He offered me a flat, £100 over my starting price, and £50 more than it was worth for a one-bed newbuild with no trimmings. He knew he could get the landlady to go lower. I knew he could as well. That’s because he had persuaded her to ramp up her rent; she was panicking because the flat had been empty for weeks (I’d checked.) I agreed to view the next day, time to be confirmed later. He never contacted me and never returned my calls. That flat is still empty.
It gets better. Another agent said: “I’ve got just the thing.” It was a bargain: lovely area, great building, well-managed.
He showed me a picture of Dovecot Towers.
I took a deep breath. Then I told him (oh, the nostalgia) about the crime, the security, the door, the management etc. The one sliver of his psyche that was human, not lizard, took hold, and he appreciated my explanation of a turnover so high they might as well have removal vans on standby like taxis. The rent has dropped another £50 per month. That’s a full £150 from what the letting bastards had initially tried to squeeze out of me.
By the way, I’ve noticed something else. When Letting Agents stand in front of a mirror, they don’t have a reflection.