House hunt.

We’re more than 6 weeks in now.

As much as we’re loving our new life out here, we come across meaningful reminders of home every now and again.

The other week Alex found Weetabix in our local grocery store and almost wept with joy. Seriously. She displayed levels of happiness that I’ve not seen before. I’ve proposed to her, fathered her children, and moved her out to California. But give her a box of whole grain cereal, any day of the week.

Today at work, an anonymous colleague left Percy Pigs on my desk. Overcome with nostalgia and excitement, I proceeded to eat the entire bag myself, from start to finish. Which is a remarkable show of self-restraint, given that my first instinct was to hump it instead.

Our house hunt was another reassuring reminder of home, where we found estate agents in the US to be just as unscrupulous and full of bullshit as their British counterparts.

Take the first place we saw, for example. A townhouse with outdoor space about as long as my arm span, and a wire fence around it – “a nice area for the kids to run around in”, the agent said. Yes, that’s right Mr Realtor, because we moved our kids over 5000 miles just so we could raise them in a battery farm.

There was a large marble bath installed in the middle of the master bedroom, and carpets throughout the house so thick that your feet actually disappeared from sight as you walked around. “You don’t even need to buy bathmats!” he said in a joking-not-joking way. I wondered whether the different species of foot fungus living in the carpet would be paying rent, too.

And then finally, he delighted in telling me that the owner bought the house right after the financial markets crashed, and he was making “crazy money” on the house now. We declined an application form.

The next house I saw was promising on paper – great neighborhood, close to good schools, decent size… The interior needed some work, but I was open-minded about what we’d have to do to fix it up, and there was another couple viewing it at the same time as me. So I got talking to the agent, in an effort to win him over. At one point I revealed that I work in marketing, so he decided to share with me some of the more creative tactics he uses to stay ahead of the competition.

“I buy lists of neighborhoods, and the residents who live there. I can then filter it by those who have been in their property for – say – 30 years. I then put brochures through their door. I figure anyone living there so long must be dying soon, so they’ll need someone to take care of their asset. Or, they may be dead already, and their children are fighting out how to split the inheritance. That’s where I come in. Death is a market that nobody is capitalizing on… except me.”

Yes, and hopefully that market will be the death of your career too, numb nuts.

p.s. The story ends well, as we moved into a beautiful house just last week. And no dead people were harmed in the process.

p.p.s. By the way, I’ve found my description of estate agents to fit most that I’ve come across in the UK, with the exception of Squires Estates. They’re intelligent, competent, and straightforward. If you’re looking to buy/sell/rent a property in London, I can’t recommend them highly enough.


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