Estate agents have always been an easy target.
But now they’re such easy targets that if Godzilla stomped on any given London high-street, he’d have to use a tree to wipe four or five agencies’ worth of pomade from his feet. In the last few years these fuckers have been dividing like quiffed amoebas, and some idiot has seen fit to hand them the keys to the city.
Let’s illustrate how they’re wrecking London. How about historic Greenwich? What comes to mind when you think of Greenwich? Greenwich Meantime, the Royal Naval College, the Cutty Sark?
Nah, fuck all that old shit Grandpa. Today’s Greenwich, as the official platform signs at the train station now proudly claim, is the home of Winkworth Estate Agents. And you know what? The signs don’t lie.
Because these wankers are in charge now. If renting is a club then they are the bouncers. First off they decide if you’re good enough. Think about that – the worst people on earth are now the arbiters of whether you belong.
They have taken on a de facto authority that they do not merit, and you know they don’t merit authority because as estate agents they live by the credo of the cunt.
If you don’t suck up and jump through hoops for them the moment you set up a viewing, you don’t make it past level one. Leave your sense of dignity at the door. Looking for a flat in London is the Japanese game-show that never ends.
Thousands of times a week these pricks are making value judgements about ordinary people, effectively deciding which demographics live where, changing the shape of the capital with each decision. And if they really did like me I’d worry about what I was doing wrong.
Broadly, there are two kinds of estate agent.
The first type is doing this because this industry has exploded in the last few years. It’s the career path of least resistance. When kept awake at night by all the times they acted like a dick the previous day they’ll tell themselves that it’s just for a few more months.
This is London in 2016, where rents are impossible – and don’t they know it – and being an estate agent is what they need to do to survive. They’ll go through the motions, but if you watch closely you’ll catch a look that says, “this is not who I am”, and they’ll try to deal with you on that understanding.
Then there’s the second group. These are the career estate agents, aka psychopaths. These specimens enjoy fucking with that primal anxiety inside you, the universal, nagging drive that urges you to put a roof over your head. Molluscs make shells, rodents dig holes.
And so when we’re hunting for a home there’s a voice that says, “find somewhere, anywhere, to live”, and these predators know which buttons to push to make that voice scream. They’ve had a lifetime of torture training that began in infancy with insects and small animals.
“You won’t find anywhere else like this round here in your price range”. “With your profile, this is as good as it gets”. “I’m showing five more people this property today so you need to act quickly”.
Of course, as psychos they have that easy charm, a mist of affability they throw on like cologne, but when they feel they lose control of that commission it’s not hard to spot the raging monster trying to burst out through their skin. One pillock blocked the front door when we tried to leave and interrogated us with increasing intensity: “Why didn’t you like the property?”, like a sex pest rebuffed just as he was getting randy.
Just like a pest they’ll stalk you, phoning, texting, emailing, day after day, until at last you tell them to fuck off, and in doing so shit in your own well. And it’s only later in the process that you find out why they’re such manipulative bastards. The fees they charge are ridiculous. £400 for referencing, for fuck’s sake.
And finally you understand how, on a road slick with fresh piss, littered with fried chicken boxes, branching off a high-street of pawn shops and bookmakers, an estate agent can show up in a fucking top-of-the-range Jaguar to lead you around a poky two-up, two-down at the centre of what looks and smells like a slum.
And even if you meet their standards you’ve got referencing to deal with. That means a humiliating trawl though your credit history, bank statements, tax records, medical history, teenage poetry.
“Can we just check your browser history for a quick pornography appraisal? Shouldn’t take more than a couple of days of nosing around”. “Can we sit in with yourselves tonight to measure copulation volume?” “Oh, I forgot to mention the colonoscopy stage. This will ascertain the quality of waste that you’ll be depositing into the property’s conveniences.”
And almost none of this is essential. Anywhere else in the world, if a landlord doesn’t like you he can kick you out in two months whether you’re up to date or not. No, this is just chancing, go-between chisellers creating the illusion of value to justify their existence. And the worst thing is that we all lose because they exist.
The “vibrant” inner-London neighbourhoods the agents tell you about are being cauterised of all their life, all of what once made them identifiable. Of course cities are dynamic, ever-changing communities, but in the last few years there’s been a monumental flush and it’s deposited the ‘poors’ further out, where transport is expensive, where there’s nothing to do and from where it’s harder than ever to claw your way back in.
But if I went all Unabomber on them I’d be the one in prison. Typical.