The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

Life after Lockdown: Licensed bandits

Tuesday, 28 July 2020, 13:20 Last update: about 3 months ago

Louis Gatt

A good friend of mine is trying to sell his house.

Well actually it's his parent's house; but since his widowed mother died at the end of last year, the property - in a very pleasant part of St Julian's - has been left half to my friend and half to his sister.

The trouble is, since the arrival of COVID-19 the bottom seems to have dropped out of the property market... or so my friend tells me. I asked him what estate agent he was using. By way of a reply he snorted: "None of them! (Long list of expletives) Licensed bandits all of 'em."

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He went on to explain, after a detour pouring opprobrium on all connected with the  property sales business: "I'm trying to sell it via Facebook and by word of mouth. Whatever happens I'm having nothing to do with that load of shysters and villains."

I know how he feels, I've had my own run-ins with these purveyors of half-truths and downright Trumpian porkies.

However, in fairness, I have to say that the occupation of "estate" agent has oscillated between most untrustworthy and second most untrustworthy for many years. And... the profession with which it has shared first and second place is... journalism... whoops!

Nonetheless, in my experience, I would always trust a journalist before I'd do the same for a property salesperson. Except maybe for a politicised journalist. Not political, politicised. The sort of hacks who work for political parties media houses. The one characteristic that these share with property floggers is the ability to lie through their teeth with neither shame nor remorse.

Speaking personally, I have never really seen the need for so-called estate agents. Why do you need someone to intercede on a property deal? They will tell you that their... ahem... service includes taking pretty pictures of your house, flat... whatever. So what? I would much rather see a few honest shots taken by the seller with an iPhone. Bloody sight cheaper.

I mentioned earlier that I have had the odd altercation with a property salesman.

Some time back, a relative of mine sold a flat. Nothing special, just a two-bed apartment on the outskirts of Guardamangia. He used an estate agent, I won't say which one and - after a couple of nibbles, none involving said agent - we managed to sell the place for about the asking price. Then, I can hardly believe I'm writing this even after more than 30 years. On the day that we completed the Promise of Sale, my front doorbell rang at about 9.30pm. When I answered it, there on the doorstep stood the estate agent, in person, to demand his commission. I told him, as calmly as I could, that he would get it - in full - just as soon as the purchaser of the flat had put some money into my relative's account. He wasn't happy and the "honest", open and jovial little chappy who earlier had promised my relative the earth and - obviously - delivered bugger all, slunk away after warning me not to take too long to pay him.

And that was sort of that for estate agents and me. But the funny thing is: whenever I tell anybody this story, they invariably come back with a horror story concerning these property salespeople that is at least as bad as mine... and often worse!


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