Home truths: How to keep sane while your home is on view
Years ago when I was selling my first house in a bid to trade up, I had a call to the door one Friday morning just as I was about to leave for work.
An extraordinarily portly (dare I say fat?) yet also very short middle aged lady with a dyed shiny black helmet of hair and a voice of wire brush brusque asked if it was ok to come in and look around the house. She realised viewings were "by appointment only," but she wouldn't be in town on Saturday morning when the open viewing was due.
On the grounds that there's no point in letting even one potential buyer get away, I said "Be my guest," and I ushered her inside, despite now being late for work.
She spent an entire hour in the place. No nook or cranny remained unpoked or unrummaged. She peered into the kitchen cupboards amidst a flurry of tut tutting. She went out to the rear garden and actually bounced on the grass (presumably in a bid to detect lawn subsidence).
She remonstrated with me for the amount of clutter in the garden shed. She ran her finger tip along the window sills indoors, Francis Brennan-style. She knocked on walls. She rocked on every step of the stairs on the way up and claimed to have spotted woodworm (she was right) in the risers. Upstairs she opened every wardrobe.
I had the double bedroom to the front of the house and I had opened out a former cupboard that accommodated the stairs roof riser. This was housed under a sort of built in box. Some people have one of these in their box bedrooms where it is used as the base of the bed. Mine, with its timber boarded top, was used as my desk. I had a swivel chair squeezed into the narrow floor space in front of it. Being of slim build then I could fit in quite easily. To my horror, Her Nibs then mounted an aggressive attempt to squeeze into my office chair. Amidst much grunting, hauling and arranging of herself, she finally managed to jam in there between the chair and the desk. From there she barked about it being "totally unreasonable" for me to tout this space as a "work station," given that "people" could obviously not fit into it. But I held my counsel.
Finally she strode to the bathroom, the home's weakest point (it suffered from a lemon coloured suite). My home invader lifted the lid on the wc and parked her ample hindquarters onto the seat, completely covering the wc and then, bizarrely, she commenced bouncing on my toilet, I cut myself off from saying a word, on the grounds that I could be looking at the top bidder.
Whilst showing her to the door I asked if I could give her the estate agent's number. "Oh no. I don't want to buy your house. I live around the corner. I just wanted to have a look." For days I waited for a friend to slap me on the back and shout "Gotcha" The Gotcha never came.
For weeks I can recall that people had absolutely no problem pulling up outside of viewing times and pressing their faces up against the windows.
My neighbour's home is currently for sale and when I looked out the window on Saturday during the open viewing there were two or three couples on their hunkers feeling up the grass (there's a small patch and it's artificial to save on maintenance), while one stood on top of the back wall (it's about seven feet high) and two more peered over into my garden.
Look to the bottom of this page, read the addresses of big and small homes all over. Now feel genuine pity for the 80 or so home owners and their families whose homes will be invaded on Saturday.
Veteran estate agent Conor Gallagher of Gallagher Quigley says: "I'd estimate that half of the people who come to look at your home actually cannot buy it - they're not even in a financial a position to do so. That always baffles me. It takes a bit of skill to wheedle them out. The gas thing is that for some reason people also think they can do what they like when a house is open for viewing. I've seen them walk in from a muddy garden without wiping their feet, that's a common one. But they wouldn't do it in their own home.
"There have been times when I've been downstairs answering queries while upstairs they pull down the attic hatch and on up the ladder stairs they go for a rummage. There's a tendency, if a press door or handle is loose, to give it a good pull to see if it comes off. And if you're a vendor you can expect people to just walk up and knock on your door at all hours of the night just because the house has a 'for sale' sign up.
"The other thing is that people viewing houses sometimes think they're in a confession box, they'll say anything. We get stuff like: 'I knew so and so who lived here and he was a right b****x.' But generally speaking nothing gets broken, nothing gets stolen and we get a good sale out of it in the end."
For those seeking to remain sane do declutter your home before it goes for sale and work out a system for clearing the decks for those six or seven Saturday mornings (it takes six weeks on average to sell an regular semi-detached). This saves on the stress of last minute clean outs. Plan a place to bring the children to. Leave jewellery and valuables and pets with a trusted neighbour, just in case.
Try to direct all random callers to the estate agent and to the open viewing. A key estate agency skill is to detect quickly and politely eliminate the tyre kickers, the wasters and the 50pc who have nothing to do on Saturdays but go out looking at houses that they're not interested in buying.