A colleague of my stepson in Hong Kong arrived in town last week searching for a two bedroom investment flat.
Although an estate agent herself, she knows little about London and its myriad little property markets so I happily agreed to view a few apartments with her and show her round a few areas.
On our second viewing trip she was accompanied by two other Hong Kong Chinese ladies, both of whom might also be in the market for flats.
They were delightful clients; keen as mustard on London, tough as old boots when it comes to money.
This particular trip we were due to view four properties stretching from Lot's Road to Earl's Court, all with the same agency - a multi-office south west London specialist.
It was, from where I was standing, probably the most horrendous time I have ever spent with an estate agent.
To say she was off-hand, bullying and arrogant would be to let her off lightly. More importantly she was rude and incredibly unprofessional.
At two properties, she clearly hadn't made appointments with the owner/resident. But still she charged in, even brushing aside a man still getting dressed at one address (according to one of the clients).
Our agent was 'glamorous' in a way that reminded me of the girls/women who frequent Saint Tropez night clubs. Predatory is the only word that springs to mind. In this case, the prey is gullible overseas property buyers.
The first flat we viewed was clearly a developer product - done up to the nines, in other words. Nothing wrong with that, except that the client was looking for something with potential to improve.
When I mentioned this, the agent - who hadn't even bothered to introduce herself to me - turned on me and simply said, "It is a wonderful flat, perfect. Has it's own parking space. Look you can see it from here" marching off towards some minute balcony that would hardly sleep a cat let alone let you swing one.
"All interior furnishings are from Andrew Martin" she continued, as if a recently arrived visitor from Hong Kong should know this somewhat specialist store on Walton Street. If they did come from Andrew Martin (which is about 200 yards from where I live) then the developer successfully managed to buy the very few items of bad taste ever stocked there.
Her manner made Kirstie Alsopp seem like a pussy cat (what is it with me and cats today?).
Still, what did I care. I wasn't buying. Just observing.
The third property the client viewed with this agent happened to be in an Earl's Court street I know pretty well. I actually lived in it once.
"This flat is in the English Style " our agent shouted as she pointed at some distinctly French Style armchairs. I have no idea what she meant, it was all meaningless bluster anyway.
By now I was becoming extremely tired of the barrage of bullshit, the patronising treatment of the clients and the complete and utter disinterest in anything but her own views. These clients were clearly of no consequence to her.
I don't know about you, but I think I can spot local authority housing or flats rented out to council supported tenants. There are some fairly obvious tell tale signs such as the front doors all being the same colour (usually a rather horrible, drab colour), balconies and gardens that are dumping grounds for rubbish or unsightly washing lines etc.
Looking out of this almost £1m flat I noticed that the buildings opposite were run-down and clearly not 'owner-occupied'. There's a reason for this - they back onto the widest, noisiest section of the Cromwell Road.
Anyway, mentioning this quietly to my Hong Kong ladies, who had expressed an absolute dislike of anywhere that might have local authority housing nearby, I was verbally assaulted by the agent.
" You think you know everything. They are definitely not local authority. Prove it." Taken aback by this, I said " If you like, yes I can easily prove it. I may be wrong, but I don't think so."
"What do you know, " she said, " I mean, do you even live in London?"
Perhaps if she had taken 30 seconds of her no doubt invaluable time to ask who I was, what I did and why I was there...she might have known the answer to this. But of course she hadn't.
She clearly thought we had all 'just got off the boat".
At this point I made my excuses and left (as they used to say in the News of the World). I had something much more interesting to do in Shoreditch.
For the record, no she wasn't from Foxtons. In fact on an earlier viewing spree we'd had a very helpful young negotiator from that much looked down upon agency....who took time to find out why I was there and was even grateful when I helped explain the good points of one of the flats she was showing. Indeed, while I know their reputation for being a bit 'fast' is probably true, I've never had anything but great service from Foxtons. So there.