Househunting is such fun. It provides a unique opportunity to make the acquaintance of thirty-something liars and storytellers in dark blue suits and novelty ties. They're called estate agents. They usually drive very small, yet very smart cars in whacky colours. Like brand new Golfs of Corsas. And don't you just turn green with envy when you get to witness their sickening optimism about properties? They would call a flat that is about to fall apart 'full of potential'. They will reassure you that the bus stop was 'just around the corner', despite the fact you've just been walking down the road in the afternoon heat for half an hour. They will shake your hand up to five times in twenty minutes, reassuring you that they are 'delighted to meet you'. Obviously they'd be even more delighted if you got out your cheque book right away and put down a big, fat holding deposit.
However, sometimes the estate agent's brain waves good-bye. That's when things get out of hand and you start to wonder if the estate agent in question is for real, or whether the man has escaped from a mental asylum only yesterday. Like the guy in the purple suit who claimed his surname really was Versace. He also had a scary obsession with net curtains ('For this window, we'll get some lovely net curtains' ... 'to divide the kitchen from the lounge, why not stick up some lovely net curtains in the door' etc. etc.) and the 'agency' he was working for (advertised as 'Michelangelo Properties', hur hur) turned out to be a bogus one (they operated under three different names, tried to let out houses that were illegal to let out in the first place, had a history of law suits with Hackney Council etc.). Lovely. Or the representative of a well established London letting agency, who started to laugh hysterically when we rang him because we failed to find the property in question. 'Hi hi, ha ha, ho ho, that's because I'd given you the wrong address, teehee'. Very funny. Half an hour later, the man still hadn't materialised. We phoned again. This time, under fits of laughter, he told us he had lost the keys to the property. I guess he must have been working in property for just a little bit too long, it had obviously gone straight to his head.
Another thing about househunting is getting to know advert language. For example, properties that 'have to be seen' are best avoided. Along with 'cute' or 'cosy' flats, for these are usually designed for midgets. Also, 'short walk to public transport' is usually a lie, unless you fancy a speedy marathon to the bus stop every morning. Yes, it is possible to reach the bus in just under two minutes. Only that once you get there, you probably have a heart attack. 'Needs decorating', on the other hand, means there's probably no floors, no wallpaper and a large hole in the ceiling somewhere. 'Furnished' is another relative term. Sometimes it implies that the flat you're paying money for is used as a storage space by house owners overseas. That's when you get stuff like 'assorted herbs and spices' (from the 1960s ...) on your inventory, along with 'four large flowerpots' you are not allowed to chuck out. It's amazing what landlords in London can get away with.
Get away with in terms of deposit, for example. I've never got my full deposit back, ever. 'Wear and tear', my arse. 'Cigarette burn hole in settee - £50'. Then you find out they never actually replaced the furniture in question. Thanks a lot.