Selling a house

As a property obsessive, I’ve seen thousands of property details, entered Rightmove searches and looked up properties in every continent. For no better reason than that I’m fascinated.

One of the biggest downfalls of these showcases is the photographs. I’ve noticed a pattern.

Most agents use an employee to take the photos. Do vendors know that the new recruit armed with a camera that’s worth thousands drive off, point and shoot and then upload these bad – no, atrocious – no, useless images onto property portals. Are they happy paying 2% for this lazy workmanship?

One of the goals each agent seems to aim for is portraying homes with a reference to some greenery. Some homes (estates) are just stunning from all angles. Most (the cities and dingy suburbs) need the photographer to have the agility of a stretchy man to get leaves and branches in the shot.

And they do try.

I can guess that for more than a few someone has laid down on the pavement and clicked; or climbed the tree to ensure leaves appear in front of the net-curtained window. Is this part of their job spec?

Sure. There’s a certain appeal to a sash window with a branch of copper beech just in view. (“Oh, I’d love to live there!”) Or a Victorian terraced house where cherry tree leaves shade a full view. (“Ooh, we could pick cherries and make jam in the summer!” Forget it, the birds get them first.)

In today’s search I’ve seen homes almost entirely obscured by diseased foliage. (“Ah, the house is a dump if they won’t show it.”)

The worst is a bushy, green specimen, round in shape, virtually blocking the whole house. Like a toxic cloud of green clinging to the road. Where’s the house? Or are they selling the tree?

I know I could take better shots, I just know it.

Lose the trees and show us the house. Or get a professional in. Or get me…Image


Coffee. Quick!

…Well, that’s not going to happen is it?

Not in the faux-continental joints dominating our high streets. We go in, don’t we, in search of a coffee and chat? What happens once we’re in there is the Theatre of Coffee-Making.

The young men serving in my local Costa look vaguely like those chivalrous Parisian garçons with their aprons and important keys hanging from their waists.

The girls are the same. How efficient they look in their smart shirts with their hair pinned up in rough-looking buns made to look like it’s come loose as they’ve been running from cup stack to banquettes to kitchen to customer in a committed, ambitious work frenzy.  No, they came in to work like that.

I could excuse them if in between frothing milk and counting marshmallows they also had to change tyres or diagnose a queue of ailing patients. But these people have one thing to do: make hot drinks.

So, how long does it take, in a Buckinghamshire Costa, to produce a hot chocolate and cortado? It took four ‘team members’ two minutes fifteen seconds today.

One took the order and my money; he shouted the order to the chap standing next to him at the coffee machine; someone else got a tray and the other girl I think fetched the spoons. While half-heartedly seeing to my drinks, the money-taker was moving to the person behind me in the queue taking their money, shouting their orders… Mt drinks weren’t anywhere near ready.

I wonder who gets the order-shouting job? It’s pretty cuhy. The coffee machine operator’s job isn’t one I’d fancy. ‘Two lattes and a spiced milk!’ ‘Three espressos, one decaf and one Americano!’ ‘Ten take out coffees…!’ ‘Hang on yeller, leave your friggin’ till and clean this milk nozzle you lazy git.’

At Palma airport earlier this year, I stopped for a coffee. With the loud, perspiring waiter swearing to his colleagues (in that cut-off-at-the-end Andalucian Spanish I could listen to all day and night), it was thirty seconds from order to coffee. Good coffee too.

I didn’t have to be a captive audience watching the spectacle of work: the staff dramatizing the Making of Coffee. Is that part of the company’s brand? That customers witness the important act of making my drink?

Like award ceremonies, they aim to establish the importance of the industry by… well… rewarding those in the industry. If staff look serious and shout your order and give it all a feel of  pre-op complexity, it gives coffee gravitas and significance.

It could have something to do with the loving, British Ceremony  of Tea-Making. Warming the pot, laying out of cups, a tray… Now that is worthy of award when done well.

So maybe the English haven’t got the hang of coffee. They approach it as they do Tea Making. This is where cultures collide.

A cup of tea is had for comfort, after your work is done, easing into a chintz covered armchair and with a biscuit or two.

Coffee (in this country) is had before or while you work with a colleague and a muffin (how these two got put together I don’t know) while talking furiously.

Me? Once and for all I’m abandoning the stripped wood locations with their black and white framed prints; messy buns and keys on curly cables; bitter (burnt I suspect) coffee and professionals (or students) sipping the stuff while sharing laptops.

My inner hot drink voice tells me to stick to what people do best. Tea in England, coffee abroad.

Aaaaagh… Now I’m ready for a good cup of tea. Join me?