Lincoln Place is one of the new developments on the other side of town. The houses are only a couple of years old, but they’re really designed as starter homes and already several are on the market. They’re all identical and I find the development a bit creepy, a bit like walking into a model village. I like houses to have a bit more personality than that, although obviously for the purposes of today’s viewing I adore new houses, and isn’t it just wonderful that you could move right in without even painting?
I find number 9 and fumble for the key on the enormous fob I’ve put in my bag. We have a key cabinet in the office with dozens of those little plastic coloured tags on each one. When you take a key out you put it onto one of our Hallow and Reed embossed wooden fobs. They look quite elegant and very professional, and more importantly, they’re less likely to get lost or left behind.
The key jams in the lock and won’t turn. Oh come on. Please don’t make this difficult for me! I try to force it but it won’t budge and I yank it back out. Don’t tell me I’ve brought the wrong key? No, it definitely says number 9. I try again but the lock’s completely buggered.
I walk round the back of the property and try the back door. It’s locked but I can see the key hanging on a hook just inside the door. I wonder if I could just reach in through the cat flap? I don’t want to have to cancel Mr. and Mrs. Rutland and the vendor’s away this week, so there’s nothing we can do about the front door until she gets back. I lie on my front and slide my hand through the cat flap. The key’s further away than I thought, and I have to jam my head into the hole to give me an extra couple of inches stretch…
Success! I dislodge the key and it falls to the floor where I can easily reach it. I feel rather proud of my ingenuity.
Once inside, I make sure I can open the front door so I’m ready to greet the clients, and I practice saying hello a couple of times to a cat who is conveniently waiting on the front path. I’ve memorized the floor plan so the house feels quite familiar to me, but I’ve got loads of time before the Rutlands arrive, so I take a wander around.
There’s no polite way of putting this. The house is a pigsty. Maureen warned me about the state some people leave their houses in, but this really is disgusting. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t at least have a bit of a tidy up, if you really wanted to sell the house. Not to mention get a good price for it. The sink is full to the brim with dirty dishes, and the floor needs a good clean. There’s a heap of clean clothes on the draining board next to an iron and a terrible musty smell in both bedrooms. I hope Mr. and Mrs. Rutland have a good imagination and can see through the mess. They were so keen on the phone but the house doesn’t look anything like it does in the photos. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just walked straight out again. Oh God, I so want to make this sale. I really want to go back and tell Simon I’ve taken an offer on the back of my very first solo viewing. I check my watch again. I’ve still got twenty minutes before they arrive. I’m going to have a quick tidy up.
I find the Hoover under the stairs and whiz round. It makes a huge difference and I’m quite encouraged. Next, I roll up my sleeves and tackle the washing up, before putting everything away and polishing the granite work surfaces till they gleam. Wow! The kitchen looks so much better! Upstairs, I fling open the windows while I make the beds and wipe round the bathroom. I find some cushions in the airing cupboard and scatter them artfully on the master bed. It looks quite inviting now. I haven’t really got time to tackle the ironing, but I fold it neatly and stack it in the utility room. There! The house looks fantastic. It’s amazing what a few minutes’ housework can do. It’s funny how much more satisfying it can be cleaning someone else’s house. It’s taken me a bit longer than I thought, but the Rutlands are late anyway. In fact, they’re nearly ten minutes late. I hope they turn up, especially after I’ve been to all this trouble. The house still smells a bit. I wonder if it’s too late to make some bread…
My phone rings. It’s Maureen wanting to know where I am.
‘The Rutlands have rung the office twice. They’ve been waiting outside for nearly quarter of an hour. Apparently they’ve been ringing the doorbell but there’s no reply.’
Typical. Not only does the lock not work, but the doorbell’s broken too. Honestly, how do these people ever expect to sell their houses?
‘Thanks Maureen, I’ll go and get the door now.’
I open the front door with a welcoming smile. There’s no-one there. Maybe they’ve given up and gone home. I’m just about to shut the door when I suddenly notice that next to the number 9 is a chipped bit of paint where another number used to be. I look up, and see a couple standing outside a house across the street. The woman’s got long blonde hair tied back in a loose ponytail. She’s wearing a green military-style coat and is holding hands with a tall dark-haired man in a big fleecy jumper who is looking at his watch. The house they’re standing next to is just like all the other houses in the street, except there’s a For Sale sign fixed to the front gate.
A Hallow & Reed For Sale sign.
Clare Mackintosh asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work