Day 46 and counting…. Steve’s got the packing bug, now, and there are boxes everywhere. I’m still no nearer to finding a buyer, and despair of ever finding one, on account of I think people these days are trapped in a game of ‘real-life-through-the-keyhole’ and have a good game of a Sunday afternoon by going round other people’s houses, seeing what they can glean about their personality and trying to work out ‘who lives in a house like this?’. I half expect Loyd Grossman to walk in before them and comment on my artwork.
I personally didn’t have the time for this when I went looking in France. I met up with a couple of lovely estate agents, including the wonderful Thibaud, looked at 7 houses which were 90% like I’d asked for. I had a clear view of what we wanted, such as land size, bedrooms, outbuildings, state of repair and budget (most important!) and I told the estate agents, both of whom found me things that mostly looked like what I wanted. I didn’t care about where, as long as it was a small village in some space, and had some connections to amenities, and whilst every one of the seven houses was lovely, and I could see myself in any of them, at the same time, none were perfect. One felt right, and that’s the one we’re lucky enough to be buying. Hopefully!
But this breed of British real-life-through-the-keyhole-contestant/tyre kicker don’t even seem to want to buy an actual house. Some want a look. Three of my neighbours had no intention of moving, they just wanted a nosey. Loads more seemed to think that a modern-three-bed-semi-detached should actually be a mansion with three en-suites, a utility room, a conservatory and several drawing rooms/morning rooms and that just over 6 figures is too much for the aforementioned mansion they want. Even in France (even!) you’d get a mansion, but it’d be a ruin needing £200,000 worth of work. With the average UK house price at quarter of a million (yes, people, quarter of a million!) I feel like kicking the viewers in the head several times before beating them repeatedly with several thousand estate agents’ reports.
The family that came yesterday were a fairly typical example. The man knocked on the door, and then everyone decided to get out of the car (mum, kids, grandparents) whilst I’m standing there with a fixed smile on my face as all the heat blows out of my door into the wilds of Bolton’s mid-February air. After five minutes of door-opened, freezing, fixed smiling, the family are all in. All of us in my small front room. I say ‘What are you looking for, exactly’ in the hopes of getting a better picture so I can aim my pitch more accurately, and the woman says ‘just a look around’. I laugh, and explain, thinking she’s got the wrong end of the stick, but in the end, I’m the idiot, because that’s all they did want, not a house at all.
After that, we all cram into my small dining room. They won’t go outside, even though I suggest they should, so they can get an idea of how quiet the neighbourhood is and how secluded it is, and peer at it through the window. She asks a dumb question about why I’ve put double glazing in, and replaced the old, so I explain patiently. One previous visitor got obsessed by the water rates… bizarre. Think he was planning on running a water-bottling business from home. Then we all traipse upstairs. This is where the rudeness really kicks up a notch. Not one, not two, but ten of the viewers have felt it necessary to open my wardrobes and cupboards in my bedroom. When did this become de rigeur??! Whilst they’re all lovely and ordered, it’s still a bit much, especially if you’re only on a lookie-loo. And then they can’t be bothered to go into the bathrooms, bedrooms etc. It’s soooooo rude. They basically want to march in, root around and then vacate. I feel like I’m in a surreal version of The Life of Brian, where the Roman soldiers all march in, root a bit and then all march out again. Next time, I’m going to gauge them from the window, and if I don’t like the look of them, I’m going to shout obscenities from the bedroom window, until they go away. Or I might rig up the door handle so that it gives them an electric shock. I would love to know exactly what proportion of them go on to buy an actual house. Maybe they get tea and cake in some, and it’s a bit like those people who go to wakes just to get fed. I can’t think of a single real reason why anyone would want to spend their time looking round anyone else’s house, especially if the owner is there. You feel uncomfortable and a bit awkward, especially if you don’t like it, and you feel (well, I do!) like you should make soothing noises about how lovely it is, risking them getting excited about a future offer, so you don’t come across as rude. But not these vultures. They don’t care how rude they are, not one bit.
The worst thing is that it is starting to make me rude. I just feel like saying ‘what is this? a fucking freebie freak-show?’ I know families used to go to mental institutions in centuries gone by, to pass the time after church. Zoos have become a bit too saintly and ecological, without the chained animals and the rocking polar bears, Jeremy Kyle isn’t on, and I’m sure they just want a good gawp at someone losing their sanity.
Not only that, even if one of these bemoiled rudesbies actually made an offer, I’d feel inclined to reject it simply because I like my neighbours and I wouldn’t want to leave behind terror in my wake. I’d feel cruel.
Not that it will come to that. The woman (and family) yesterday were quite put out that the house had stairs. How very dare it. Stairs, indeed, in a house! Turned out it was for her elderly parents, and really they need a bungalow or flat, or assisted living, but I think the daughter thought it would be nice for them to spend the day getting cross at house owners for having stairs, which, according to many of my viewers, are in the wrong place. Or they’re too big, or they’re in a funny place. I’m guessing this is in that they go from downstairs to upstairs. How bizarre! Not only that, but my house is too small. I’m not sure, dearest Bastard Thieves woman, how I’m supposed to do anything about that, but thanks for the feedback anyway. That was a waste of two minutes of my life, and an added stress.
Whilst I write, the family I’m waiting for haven’t turned up. How rude! At least it saves me from swearing at them through the letterbox and saying ‘no tyre-kickers today, thank you!’
At least no-one told me it would be easy!!