‘I hate people talking down the property bubble’

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: This one could last six or seven years if we all stop asking questions

I’ve been stealing client files from the Hook, Lyon and Sinker office for the past few weeks with a view to hopefully setting up my own estate agency

I’ve been stealing client files from the Hook, Lyon and Sinker office for the past few weeks with a view to hopefully setting up my own estate agency

 

I hate people talking down the property bubble – especially this one, which I genuinely believe could last for six or seven years, as long as we all stop constantly asking questions.

Like this pair. The Dolans. They’re interested in a three-bedroom gaff that’s just come on the morket – “a mature property in a vibrant area that presents an exciting opportunity to the DIY enthusiast” – but the wife is wondering whether €490,000 is a bit pricey for a semi-D in Crumlin.

I actually laugh?

“In 10 years’ time,” I go, “Crumlin will be what Terenure is today,” even though I make a point of not saying what that actually is? Like I said, some things are best left unquestioned.

“It’s not that we don’t like the area,” the husband goes, “and it’s not that we don’t like the house, even though it does need a lot of work.”

“You say work,” I go, “I say exciting weekend projects.”

He’s there, “I wouldn’t consider replumbing an entire house an exciting weekend project. But the real issue is the price. It just seems a bit on the high side compared to other properties in this area.”

You still get people like this. The couples – typically in their early 40s – who remember the last crash and are convinced that there’s some kind of lesson we should have all learned from it. Despite all the reports saying we’re going back to where we were 12 or 13 years ago, they’re still nervous. They read the Residential Property Price Register and they quote it to you like it actually means something?

The dude goes, “The last place we bought is in serious negative equity and we don’t want to get stung again.”

The estate agent we bought our last place from – back in ’03 – told us that if we had any doubts about the health of the Irish economy, all we had to do was look at the skyline and count the cranes.”

And I go, “Dude, can I tell you a story?”

The wife’s like, “As long as it doesn’t involve cranes!”

I’m there, “What?”

Count the cranes

“Oh,” the husband goes, “it’s just a joke that we have. The estate agent we bought our last place from – back in ’03 – told us that if we had any doubts about the health of the Irish economy, all we had to do was look at the skyline and count the cranes.”

Oh, God, I thought I recognised them.

“He was a bit of an idiot,” he goes. “He said his father had a boat in Dún Laoghaire harbour. Sometimes they went out on it to - he had this phrase - take the nation’s economic pulse or something. The week he sold us our apartment he said he’d counted a hundred cranes.”

She’s looking at me now with her eyes narrowed and her head tilted to the side. She’s like, “Was it you?”

I’m there, “It doesn’t sound like me.”

“It was Hook, Lyon and Sinker as well. I’m nearly sure it was you.”

This happens occasionally. You meet couples on their second lap of the track and they remember the bullshit you told them last time. It’s called blowback and it’s port and porcel of the game.

“No,” I go, “I’m, er, new to the property business.”

She turns to the husband and she goes, “It’s him, Mark! Same grin on his face, same ridiculous voice…”

Ridiculous voice?

“Okay,” I go, “I’ll knock five Ks off, seeing as we’re old friends. Let’s just say €485,000.”

I’m going to admit something to you now. I end up having an actual crisis of confidence when I go back to the cor.

But it’s no good. I’ve lost the Dolans. They’re out through the front door like the house has just caught fire. Which it could do at any moment – the wiring is in a jocker as well as the plumbing.

Crisis of confidence

I’m going to admit something to you now. I end up having an actual crisis of confidence when I go back to the cor. Which isn’t like me at all. I sit there for, like, 20 minutes, wondering am I actually cut out for this game? I’m supposed to be going out on my own. I’ve been stealing client files from the Hook, Lyon and Sinker office for the past few weeks with a view to hopefully setting up my own estate agency. But the Dolans have me suddenly questioning whether the Celtic Phoenix is even an actual thing.

I’m supposed to be showing another couple – the Raymonds – the same gaff in an hour’s time. But I stort thinking about not bothering my hole. I don’t have the magic anymore. It’s left me.

But then, as always happens when I’m at my lowest ebb, I stort to think about Fr Fehily, my old school’s coach, whose wisdom helped make me the man I am today. I genuinely believe that he’s looking down from heaven on me because I always seem to remember the right quote at the right moment.

“So Plan A failed,” he used to say. “There are still-” and I can’t remember whether it was 25 or 35 more letters in the alphabet. But you wouldn’t believe the strength I suddenly get from that.

Ten minutes later, I’m in the Tesco Express on St Agnes Road, buying salt, cheap table lamps, wholemeal flour, margarine, low wattage light bulbs, lemons, limes and yeast. I’m thinking, this is how we did it during the Celtic Tiger. I’m going old school.

I go back to the house and I scatter the lamps around the place with the poor visibility bulbs in them, then I switch off all the overhead lights.

To sell a house, you have to create the right mood.

I take a clear glass vase out of the boot of the cor, which Sorcha bought in House of Fraser and I was supposed to return two weeks ago. I fill it with lemons and limes and I put it in the middle of the kitchen table.

Then I take the salt, the wholemeal flour, the margarine and the yeast and I stort making bread. All estate agents know how to make bread. It’s one of the first things they teach you. Twenty minutes later, the place smells like an actual bakery and the Raymonds are at the door.

I let them. They’re young. They haven’t been hurt before. They don’t know the tricks of the trade. I see her eyes focus on the lemons and limes and I can nearly hear her thinking, ‘What a great idea!’ and I can see both their noses twitching, wondering what’s in the oven.

He goes, “It’s actually nicer than it looked in the photograph.”

And I know straight away that this pair are putty – or dough – in my hand.

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