Diary of an estate agent

Our Docklands agent hits his head in a houseboat, calls in the bailiffs and has to change a door number to please a superstitious heart surgeon


After our morning meeting I head off to a property we’re repossessing. It takes the bailiff, locksmith and me over two hours to change the locks and take the inventory. When it’s finally secured I rush off to show a city slicker around a boat we’ve been instructed on in Canary Wharf.

In my 25 years experience I’ve never had a boat to sell, and for want of a better phrase, I feel rather out of my depth. The buyer is looking for a pied â terre, or l’eau in this case, so I hope it’ll fit the bill but as I whack my head getting out of the wheelhouse, narrowly avoid falling in and then hear him say it’s not for him – it’s an ominous start to the week.
Unlucky numbers cartoon
© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)


This afternoon I take a young Chinese cardiologist to see a great flat. He’s impressed until he spots the flat is number 14, which according to Chinese superstition means ‘certain death’.

My heart sinks. With such a large Chinese community in this area this is a surprisingly common problem. Four and six are also unlucky but eight is superbly auspicious.

Last month I sold a flat to a Chinese buyer for £288,888 on June 8 with the completion on the 18th. I assume it’s all over but the cardiologist has a plan. Nine phone calls later we’ve arranged to change the flat number. In the block of 27 flats, number 14 is now number 28. The poor postman!


An excited couple come in to pick up the keys to their new house this morning – I love this part of the job! But once they’ve left I’m told that the flat we repossessed on Monday has someone in it. I’m completely bemused as to how they got in, but head off to the property to go through the whole process again.

When I get back the couple from this morning call. They’ve locked themselves inside their new house and being new to the area, don’t know anyone to let them out. As I walk up to their front door I can hear voices bleating through the letterbox. They post the keys out to me and I set them free – at least I saved the local firemen a job!


It’s a swelteringly hot day and I have a viewing at a tenanted property this afternoon – which I’m dreading. The large period property has it’s rooms let seperately as bedsits with locks on each door and aren’t exactly looked after.

It was even more revolting than I remembered and the heat made it worse. I was valiantly trying to point out the potential in the property but the buyer was just horrified at the state of it. She declared the smell was just too awful and she had to leave.

We rushed outside for air only to find a swarm of police and medics around Surrey Dock. It transpired that some children had been jumping into the water and one poor little boy had drowned. It wasn’t a great surprise when the buyer made a swift exit.


I’m greeted with a message that the repossessed property again has someone in it! I’m totally baffled and dismayed about repossessing it for a third time. But as I’m taking the inventory I notice a toe sticking out from under the bed and we discover the owner who had been hiding in the flat the whole time!

I headed back to the boat this afternoon, taking more care with my 6ft 2in frame this time and show around a sweet couple who adore it. They ask a million questions about the engine that I haven’t a clue how to answer but luckily it doesn’t put them off. With my fingers crossed, I join my team for a beer in the sun before heading home.

Paul Burlem, is assistant manager, at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward’s Surrey Quays branch.

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