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The difference between freshers and letting agents...

Aspiring letting agent, Matthew Reeves, on freshers
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It's a new term and as usual everyone you have ever met, and many you haven't, are tripping over themselves to assert that they are NOT a fresher. "Don't you hate freshers?" "Look at those freshers!" "Awwww, little freshers..." This hatred is unwarranted. If you are in the market to waste thousands of pounds of borrowed money then university is definitely the place to do it. I'd much rather tell people that I'm wrapped in a 15 tog duvet of debt because I chose education instead of remaining jobless (whilst fitting my bought-on-finance Fiesta with a bodykit and installing Sky HD with all the channels).

Spotting a fresher is hardly a challenge. They have clean new clothes and a healthy glow that can only be a product of routine, plenty of sleep and a vitamin rich diet. "Awwww they look so scared!" Of course they do! They're in a new city being watched by hundreds of pale, wheezing, beer-bellied vultures.

As the freshers stride around university worried only about where their next hangover will come from, I have the larger challenge of finding a career. Preferably one which has short working hours, pays fantastically well and does not require any real qualifications. Over the summer I did take part in a summer internship with a fairly reputable graduate employer. I gained a lot from it. I learnt that unless I want to be brain-dead by the age of 26 or was terrible in a past life then I shouldn't work for them, ever. So the hunt started again. Brain filled with beginning of term enthusiasm, I decided to be useful and "sort my life out." "Sorting my life out" happens with relative frequency: I'd say about once every 3 weeks. It usually starts with me checking my online banking because that's what responsible, grown up, career minded chaps do. Upon inspection it was clear by the volume of unearned money in my account that the letting agent hadn't taken this month's rent. So, like an organised and successful member of society, I toddled down the letting agent's office to clear up this administrative mishap.

I was greeted by Helen, a lady with the expertly sculpted features of Aphrodite. The kind of Aphrodite who was forged from lumps of inanimate rock thousands of years ago and has subsequently been battered by acid rain and gale force winds. A lady who wears so much makeup her face sags. A lady with the charm and charisma of a pissed off dictator.

I explained that the rent didn't seem to have been taken this month, and that I just wondered if the standing order form they made me come in to sign (along with a five hundred pound admin fee for the pleasure of having them print off some fill-in-the-box internet contracts) had duly been processed correctly. Witch-a-like Helen, with her trademark lack of compassion, enlightened me, saying that "it isn't my job," "I can't spend all my time chasing tenants" and "you now owe our agency £55 extra administration fee for the late rent."

The talking makeup bag didn't take kindly to me explaining, in an animated fashion, that she had proved herself incapable of administrating a standing order, that receiving and chasing rent was very much her job and I definitely was not going to pay the "administration fee for late rent," because it was in fact me who had alerted them to the problem. If anything I should pay myself the late fees. Her only answer was "what do you think my job is?" This opened the gateway for pretty much any insult but not being the most quick witted all I could muster was "I don't know? Sit on Facebook all day?" - spying the website adorning her larger than necessary monitor. Simple as that, she "refused to deal with me" and asked me to leave the office, backed up by her colleague (keeper) who insisted similarly.

Then it struck me, an epiphany. Tenant agency is the most lucrative career choice of all. After a quick argument with a client, 10am-4pm Helen had earned £55. Talk about bankers' bonuses? Helen doesn't even take a calculated risk, own property or have any specialist skills. She doesn't need to work long hours or to have a sharp mind; to make money all she has to do is be incompetent and rude. She has the perfect job! And you can too! You simply need to have no qualms whatsoever about being universally hated and have the ability to thrive in an environment which is free of responsibility. Being ugly goes a long way too.

Unlike that shown towards freshers, hatred of this breed is one hundred percent warranted. Think for a second about how a tenancy agent works. When I pay my rent, they take 10 per cent. If I don't pay, they charge £30 to remind me (by letter, the slowest of modern communication methods) and then go on to take 10 per cent when I do pay, plus another £25 because it's been late. And the job is recession proof! When the economy slumps, more people decide to rent and letting agencies thrive. It's the perfect murder! If you were to set up your own estate agency, all you would need is the latest Acorn Computer and any living human. If you managed just ten properties you would be earning the same as a private landlord, with no investment! You could run the business from a coffee shop or a shed and still be a successful - in fact, following my experience, you'd probably win an award.


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