One of my pet hates as an agent was buyers opening cupboards and wardrobes. Some people would ask permission before doing so, but even then, I wondered what they hoped to achieve by looking into a kitchen cupboard. The man in this story got a little more than he bargained for.
We were marketing a repossession that was in very poor condition. The five-bedroom house was rented room by room, and it became evident to us that the landlord didn’t inform his tenants that he was being repossessed. On several occasions, we turned up to show the property only to find that someone had broken in. It was the tenants, wanting to collect their belongings, and they couldn’t be bothered to follow the correct procedure. Perhaps they were angry, maybe they worked long hours and weren’t able to meet us there during our office hours, I don’t know. Nonetheless, they took matters into their own hands.
Anyway, we now had an empty property to try to sell. On my very first viewing there, I noticed a very pungent smell coming from the kitchen. As soon as I opened the door to that room, the stench would hit me. It was a gaseous smell that would reach right into my stomach, making me feel really nauseated. At first, I thought it might have been the decomposing carcass of a rat, but I didn’t see any flies, and it was summer. In the end I found out that someone had left what looked like a curry in the fridge. And the fridge had been inactive since the electricity was cut weeks prior to us visiting the house.
When showing the property, just before opening the kitchen door, I’d warn prospective buyers and prepare them for the odour. My warning also served to excuse me from entering the kitchen or explaining why I’d walk straight through and out into the garden where people could see me and ask any questions. The smell was so bad that most people would heave. In fact it got to the point that each time a negotiator returned to the office after showing the property, we’d all ask if anyone had thrown up. One colleague even suggested we run bets on it.
One day I was showing the house to a scruffy-looking couple who just stood in the middle of the kitchen talking and asking me questions, seemingly oblivious to the unpleasant smell. I
Remember thinking, “My God. What’s wrong with you Can’t you smell it” In the end I just came out with it. “Sorry, do you mind if we talk in the garden This smell is really bothering me.” To my further surprise, they gave each other a puzzled look, shrugged their shoulders, and followed me to the garden.
On another occasion, I’d just shown the house to a buyer when a colleague phoned my mobile to ask if he could send along someone else to view. I agreed and waited outside for the person to arrive. A Mercedes pulled up, and two large men got out, wearing leather coats, looking like stereotypical KGB agents. They gave me a nod and walked straight past me and into the property. As was becoming protocol, I tried to warn them about the smell, but they seemed to ignore me. In fact, I found one of them to be very condescending. Whenever he asked me a question, he’d appear dismissive of my answer; turning his back to me when I replied.
Starting at one end of the kitchen, the more flippant of the two buyers began opening and shutting the fitted cupboards. Side-stepping from right to left, he made his way towards the
ridge. As his hand grabbed the handle of the appliance, I was about to call, “No, don’t do that!” Instead, I thought, “No, why should I spoil the surprise Carry on, mate!” After all, I was now standing just outside the patio door to the garden.
The man opened the fridge and POW! It hit him. It was then that I learnt that just as people’s sneezing is unique to them, so is their retching! This six-foot-plus, twenty-stone chap was now outside in the garden leaning against the wall making noises like a sea lion. I tried to warn him.
We didn’t sell the property; the other agent involved did. As for the first person to lose their lunch due to the smell, it was one of our competitors.
*Steve Lucas is the author of Inside EA – A Behind the Scenes Look at How Estate Agents Operate