Diary of an estate agent: Oxford

An Oxford estate agent is tasked with selling a chocolate-box Oxfordshire cottage and a farmhouse that hasn't been touched for over 40 years.
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One of our viewing assistants calls to say she has seen a house in Dorset that she desperately wants to buy, and how long would it take us to find a buyer for her cottage in the lovely village of Kingham in Oxfordshire?

We already have some great photographs of her property, as she bought it from us a few years ago after falling in love with the place while showing it to prospective purchasers — an occupational hazard. I know it will sell quickly. Any chocolate-box Oxfordshire cottage, the kind of heart-warming home that Cameron Diaz swapped her Hollywood pad with Kate Winslet for, to hide out from heartbreak in The Holiday, gets snapped up within a matter of weeks.

We are noticing a similar appetite for Oxford’s terrace houses, which have seen values increase by 10-15 per cent in two years. Proximity to London, and Oxford’s global status, has sheltered the cottage market from downward pressure on values seen elsewhere in the UK, although stock remains relatively low.

It’s 8.30am and I hit the ground running. We are selling a flat for the executors of an elderly lady’s will and a colleague has asked me to have a quick look, so that we can advise them on de-cluttering and presentation.

There is nobody living at the flat, so I pop in on my way to work. But as I turn the key I hear a panicked male voice cry out: “Hang on while I put some clothes on!” One of our clients has decided to stay over and start sorting, and I have disturbed him in the shower. I’m not sure who is more surprised. Eventually, I get into the office and we have already had several enquiries for the cottage in Kingham. It’s game on.

Being based in Oxford means we are involved in the sale of property from college houses and city-centre flats to townhouses, cottages and country estates. Carter Jonas’s Oxford office is in a smart building in Summertown, so posh frocks and pearls are pretty much de rigueur, but my car boot holds wellies, walking boots, waterproofs and sensible shoes, so I am prepared for any viewing.

This afternoon I am showing a farmhouse that hasn’t been touched for over 40 years and is a bit of a rickety project, so I’m in my walking boots... and a little black dress. I warn the applicants that the stairs are a bit dodgy, miss the top step and slide down on my backside. I come up smiling, but astonished at how sore I feel. I am clearly not as well-padded as I used to be, so the 5:2 diet must be working.

Today is set aside for preparing houses for the market, visiting with the photographer, and thinking about how best to present and describe a property (I have been known to clean kitchens, move furniture and arrange flowers — anything to help). This is one of the things I enjoy most about the job and good pictures are crucial.

We visit an ideal property, with perfectly proportioned rooms, beautiful gardens, paddocks and outbuildings. It is a bit cloudy and as we get to the end of the job the sun comes out, so we start again. It’s worth it, as this place will sell in a heartbeat. At the end of a hectic morning the housekeeper makes us coffee and gives us a couple of jars of home-made quince jelly. Lovely.

We are fundraising for a local hospice and have been challenged to take over one of its charity shops, with the aim of taking as much money in one day as we can. I am team leader and I love playing shop for a whole day, from window dressing to persuading customers they really do want to buy a particular item. I guess it’s not that dissimilar to selling houses.

By the end of the day we are all exhausted but have broken the record for a single day’s takings in any of the hospice’s shops. Back at the office, I learn that a cash buyer has offered the guide price for the cottage in Kingham. From initial discussion to sale agreed within the week. Job done.

Juliana Markeson is a senior negotiator at Carter Jonas in Oxford (01865 511 444).

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