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Torfaen Tales

Open House

Fiona and Ian had been trying to sell their house for nearly six months. Fiona’s mother was unwell and they wanted to move closer. They’d had a handful of viewings but no offers.

They had changed estate agents once, and were on the point of threatening to do so again. They went to the office of Harper and Willis to have a meeting with Miss Melissa Fairbanks.

“I can appreciate that you aren’t happy,” purred Miss Fairbanks through plump, glossy lips, smoothing her navy skirt over her slender legs as she seated herself behind her stylish glass desk. “Now that mortgages are much more difficult to obtain the property market has become rather slow. I think our best course of action for you would be an open house day. These are very popular in the USA and Australia. We dedicate a particular day to marketing your home, inviting all interested persons to come and view on an informal basis. It’s a bit like having a party.”

“Do you mean we have to provide drinks and food?” said Fiona, slightly incredulous.

“It certainly helps oil the wheels. You don’t have to go mad, just a few bits and pieces and a couple of bottles of budget supermarket wine. Think of it as an investment,” said Miss Melissa, stretching her lips into a toothy grin.

“What makes you think this will work better than our current approach?” said Ian rather bluntly.

This didn’t so much as dim the wattage of Melissa’s dazzling smile. “We’ve tried this with a few other houses that were proving somewhat troublesome to sell, and have had positive results. The informal atmosphere seems to work well.”

They left the office, having agreed to an open house on a Saturday two weeks hence.

“Difficult to market, my eye!” muttered Fiona tersely as they made their way back to the car. “There’s nothing wrong with our house. We should have just told her no. I don’t see what that jumped-up Barbie doll can do that anyone else can’t.”

“Calm down, Fi,” soothed Ian. “It won’t hurt to give it a go. But if we don’t get a sale after the open house day we’ll definitely take our business elsewhere.”

Open house day soon came round. Melissa Fairbanks appeared at the door just after eight a.m. Ian was still in the shower, and Fiona was loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.

“I thought I’d make an early start, give you a few pointers,” she said, slipping off her suit jacket and hanging it on a kitchen chair. “For a start, you need to make the hall more welcoming. Get rid of those coats and boots by the door.”

Ian came downstairs to find Fiona rearranging the three piece suite to Melissa Fairbanks’ requirements.

“This way the room looks bigger,” she explained with a flash of her pearly whites.

Eventually they had everything the way Melissa wanted it. And just in time, for the viewing was due to commence at ten.

“I’ll just pop out to the car, I’ve done some brochures,” she announced, slipping back into her jacket.

“She has to be the most annoying person I’ve met in a long time,” muttered Fiona to her husband. “And those lips have to be Botoxed, they seem to have a life of their own.”

Ian grinned. His wife had a knack for summing people up in a few words.

Still, the brochures were pretty remarkable. Melissa had used most of the photos taken when their details were prepared, and had arranged them in a way that made the house look sumptuous and appealing. Perhaps she did know what she was talking about.

“I’ve just put some sugar and cinnamon in the oven to give the aroma of home baking as per Barbie’s instructions,” whispered Fiona to Ian as Melissa went to answer the door.

The next few hours saw a stream of viewers. People of all ages, shapes and sizes trooped through Fiona and Ian’s home, ate their canapés and drank their wine. Some were silent, and others made a variety of comments.

“Hmm, I would have put the downstairs cloakroom the other side of the front door,” commented one man. This seemed a ridiculous thing to say as the cloakroom would then have jutted into the sitting room rather than being tucked away under the stairs.

“What are your gas and electricity bills like?” asked an anxious woman. “And what Council Tax band are you in?”

Melissa came to the rescue with her brochures. “This will give you the information you need, madam,” she said with another of her pearly, plump-lipped smiles.

Finally, they closed the door on the last of the visitors and Melissa Fairbanks went on her way.

“I’ll be in touch,” she said with a farewell flutter of her manicured fingers and another plumped-up grin.

Ian and Fiona spent the next couple of hours putting the house to rights. They hoovered up the detritus of mud from visitors’ shoes and bits of food they‘d dropped, and put the furniture back the way they liked it. Finally they flopped on the sofa, at last able to relax.

“Did you hear that woman who said she never would have painted the kitchen white?” said Fiona.

Ian shook his head. “People will never cease to amaze me.”

Fiona gasped. “My Chinese ornaments? Where are they?”

“Calm down, love,” soothed Ian. “I expect Melissa’s put them in a drawer. You know what she said about clutter.”

Fiona rummaged irritably in the bureau but without success. “I’ll be on the ‘phone to her first thing on Monday morning.”

Melissa Fairbanks was unable to cast any light on the matter of Fiona’s missing Chinese ornaments. It seemed one of the viewers must have pocketed them. It was not Agency policy to take any responsibility for such matters, she said, and Fiona and Ian would have to make a claim on their insurance.

As the days drew out into weeks it became apparent that the open house experience had not produced any offers on the house. Fiona and Ian took their house off the market and resigned themselves to spending their weekends with Fiona’s mother for the foreseeable future. At least they had the satisfaction of knowing that they hadn’t had to pay any commission to the estate agents. Miss Melissa Fairbanks would have to fund the upkeep of her Botoxed lips from other sources.

by Karenne Griffin

Last Modified on: 05-11-2015

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