An optimistic property view – in the long term

By Charlotte Hofton

Friday, March 7, 2014


An optimistic property view – in the long term

Ventnor estate agent Larry Allen.


For sociologists or semanticists, the world of the estate agent must represent the perfect case study. Wrapped in eternal optimism and ready to describe even the most tawdry hovel as "quirky", these stalwarts of the property scene could provide enough material to fill a PhD thesis.

You can stretch out your education to embrace any old thing these days and then call yourself a doctor. Basket weaving in Botswana, ping-pong clubs in Thailand (don’t ask), ultrasonic velocity in cheddar cheese, penis entrapment in zips — yes, all of these have been genuine subjects of PhD research, so estate agents would easily make the grade as useful academic study.

If you are one of those who would prefer to remain a perpetual student rather than getting a proper job, you can have my suggestion for your PhD for free. There, that’s saved you a bit of head-scratching time as you try to think of a topic.

Now, down to work. I recommend you start by reading last week’s CP story in which Larry Allen, a Ventnor estate agent, faced what may have been one of the most exacting challenges of his career.

He was asked to comment on properties in Undercliff Drive, where floods and tempests have caused a massive landslip, with the road cracking and buckling and owners on round-the-clock alert in case their homes should teeter into seismic catastrophe.

You can imagine Mr Allen gulping somewhat as he searched for the right word to describe the state of the property market in Undercliff Drive.

"Difficult" was the word he came up with. Yes, that’s right. Those thinking of selling their homes might find the short-term property market "difficult".

If my PhD student hasn’t gone back to bed, he could, at this point, do some useful research into whether an estate agent has ever before used the word "difficult". Probably not.

So is this a first? Has Mr Allen bucked the trend that requires estate agents at all times to be upbeat, seeing peeling paint as "decor potential" and a pile of old planks as an "outhouse"?

Well, not exactly. Firstly, his choice of the word "difficult" is an interesting one. Property owners in Undercliff probably don’t see it as Mr Allen does. "****ing disastrous" would be their more likely description of the situation.

So in using the word "difficult", Mr Allen has buoyed everything up to a level where selling a property in Undercliff Drive is on a par with algebra homework.

A little tiresome, admittedly, but certainly not impossible.

It is important to note Mr Allen at no time employs the word "impossible". He knows it, the house owners know it, we all know it, but Mr Allen does not say it.

Instead, he’s right back in there, wearing his sunshine wellies as he skips blithely over the rain-sodden chasms in Undercliff Drive.

"Certainly, from the long-term point of view, now is the time to buy," he says.

If there were an estate-agents Oscar for the finest bit of chutzpah in the face of extreme adversity, Mr Allen would have just won it. Others may have described a wilderness patch of brambles as "mature planting" or a small wardrobe as "a useful third bedroom" but Mr Allen has effectively blown all contenders away.

Marvel at his confident use of the word "certainly". Applaud his professional use of the phrase "long-term".

Most of all, rise to your feet and give him a standing ovation in recognition of his urgent exhortation to buy "now".

And as the tumultuous cheers die away, hurry down to the Undercliff.

You heard what the man said. Buy now.

Before it’s too late and the property almost certainly says farewell to the long-term and falls into the sea.

Paying for IW strikes and swank

The council’s budget meeting last week included a squabble about whether it was right for the full-time salary of the public services union representative at County Hall to be met by public funds.

In the end, councillors decided the taxpayer should continue to stump up, rather than getting Unison to pay for their own man.

At the same meeting, there was a more amiable discussion over whether the Lord Lieutenant’s office costs of £25,000 — also funded by the taxpayer — should be cut. Again, it was agreed the money should continue to be paid from County Hall’s purse.

Quite a few Conservatives may still be bristling at what they perceive as the iniquity of the taxpayer forking out for a union rep, yet at the same time being perfectly happy to fund the Lord Lieutenant.

And although I initially agreed with them, I now realise this viewpoint is irrational. If you think the union rep should be financed by the union, then there would seem little reason why the Queen’s representative shouldn’t be financed by the Queen.

Logically, we should pay either for both or neither. As it is, we’ve ended up paying for both strikes and swank, so at least the outcome was consistent and rather charmingly egalitarian.

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