Article excerpt

IT was my fault. I was being shown round a house with cream carpets and I probably should have taken my shoes off at the front door.

The property was tasteful and lovely and I was already considering making an offer, but then we went into the back garden.

According to the details from the estate agent it was an 'impressive expanse of lawn.'

In reality it was the size of Paul Daniels' bald patch. A dog might have done a double take before deciding to utilise the facilities on offer.

Only on this occasion, the owner's dog hadn't thought twice about it...

The owner of the house was busy in the kitchen which, unusually perhaps, was in the basement and so the agent and myself traipsed up a couple of floors before it became apparent that one of us had brought something unnecessary along with us.

He looked at me. I looked at him. We both looked at the soles of our shoes. It was me. Through sheer relief, he laughed. The footprints of shame were everywhere.

"Right, this is the plan," he said. "We take our shoes off, go down to see the vendor and pretend it's nothing to do with us. If there's any comeback, we just remind her that we were carrying our shoes and it can't have been us.

"Besides," he added, "it was her dog, she should have cleaned it up."

She is also paying you 1.5 per cent to sell her house you scumbag, I should have said. But didn't.

DISGRACEFULLY, I went along with the whole charade. I'm not proud of it and, as Mrs Prescott has probably heard several times in the last few days, I made a mistake and I'm sorry.

I have subsequently spent more time worrying about the whole business than is probably necessary, but I bet the agent hasn't given it a second thought. In fact, I know he hasn't.

He was showing me another house a few days later and when I apologised he had no idea what I was talking about.

""Oh yeah," he said, vaguely. "Occupational hazard, who cares? So she had to clean the carpets. they needed cleaning anyway."

I've just bought a house and all the things they say about it being more stressful than divorce, bereavement or supporting Manchester City are absolutely true.

It's an absolute eye-opener.

And that is why the news that ASDA are about to start selling houses should be a reason for national rejoicing. Why? Purely because, for no other reason than that if it is a success, then the bottom is going to fall out of the estate agent business.

Not the property market. …