'She quoted a price almost €40,000 more than the asking with 15 minutes viewing time left'

Hilary Fannin: Home-hunting in Dublin these days is not for the faint of heart

“Beware of the dog,” the agent said, handing me a brochure. Photograph: iStock

“Beware of the dog,” the agent said, handing me a brochure. Photograph: iStock

 

I went to view a city-centre apartment in Dublin, advertised for sale for a sum that made me sweat. I was acting for a friend, a cooler character than I, who is planning ahead for her retirement. Having spent more than 20 years working in London, she is looking to make an investment in this town, with a view to catching up on the remnants of her old life. (Presumably, given the location she asked me to check out, she’ll be doing this over many extortionately priced skinny lattes.) 

 I obviously don’t get out enough; I found the prospect of a flat-hunting expedition tremendously exciting. I have a trench coat I bought in a sale a couple of years ago; it’s a bit tight and on the wrong side of mustard-coloured, but if I don’t look in any mirrors or sneaky sheets of reflective glass when I’m wearing it, I can almost fool myself into thinking I look rakish and interesting, the kind of person who could conceivably be unbothered by unburdening herself of the odd hundred thousand euro or four. 

Coated and booted, I tripped over the cobblestones to view the promised light-filled apartment, situated, according to the agent’s description, in a highly convenient location, with every conceivable amenity on its doorstep. Oh, what larks.

On I strode, past the witty bookshop, and the pretty tea shop, and the understated clothes shop that sold taste on a hanger. On past the crafty pubs, the aromatic eateries and the occasional outdoor diner, braving the snap and bite of a Liffey breeze.

He must have mistaken my rakishly interesting look for one of panting confusion

I found the apartment building, entered through the glass-fronted door, went past a wall of efficient letter boxes and up the concrete stairs. One floor, two floors, three, of modernist, institutional, convenient concrete, of brownish light seeping through thick glass.

On the next flight of stairs I met a man wearing expensive eyewear and a trench coat that, unlike mine, didn’t look like it should be spread over a hot dog. He was carrying a brochure for the selfsame flat. He must have mistaken my rakishly interesting look for one of panting confusion. 

“Nearly there,” he said gently. “Fire door and left.”

The agent was leaning with her back against the open apartment door. She looked a little tired. She looked like she was counting the lingering minutes until she could go home and unpeel her tights. 

“Beware of the dog,” she said, handing me the brochure.

Mildly affronted dog

The flat was split-level, and lightly drizzled with potential buyers. We politely sidestepped each other as we eased our way around the edges of the property, looking out of the windows, with their hazy, distant view of the river. 

A mildly affronted dog, some kind of pug, was holding his ground in a pen on the living-room carpet.

I, of course, forgot all the things I was supposed to be looking out for: damp spores, airing cupboard, en suite, parking space. While putative buyers ran their hands over the kitchen countertops and craned their necks to hear the confession of the extractor fan, I found myself looking at the glimmering liqueur bottles on the kitchen windowsill, at the Banksy print of kissing policemen on the wall, at the used razors and open-scent bottle on the bathroom shelf.    

Downstairs, I breathed in the spicy smell of the caliginous bedroom, took in the smirking sheets. I wondered what it must be like to be a man about town, living in Dublin in this temporary nest. There was a silent riotousness in the atmosphere. I wondered if the occupier was selling because he’d finally tired of the endless amenities the city had to offer; or maybe his landlord was simply cashing in. I wondered where he walked the dog.  

“We’ll have this wrapped up in couple of days,” she told me. “Call if you’re interested”

The agent with the tired legs was still leaning by the front door, standing back to facilitate a wave of enthusiasts rushing down to greet the bedroom storage, as a steadily increasing number of viewers arrived.

“Thank you,” I said to her on my way out.

“We’ll have this wrapped up in couple of days,” she told me. “Call if you’re interested.”

“Is it still the same price as it says on the brochure?” I asked.

She took a moment before she answered.    

“Eh, no,” she said. “I’ve just had an offer of . . .”

And, looking at her notes, she quoted me a price that was almost €40,000 more than the asking – and there was still 15 minutes of viewing time to go.

I belted up my mackintosh, hoping that, one way or another, her words meant good news for the patient pug.

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