Recommended By All Good Mortgage Lenders
by Helen French
Mr. and Mrs. Roberts stared up at the house they yearned to buy. It had taken fifteen long years to save up for a deposit, and even that wasn’t quite enough until an old aunt died and coughed up a further thirty grand in inheritance. The housing market was brisk and this was the only property that met their criteria for price, size and location.
The estate agent laughed when he found them. “Falling in love, are you? Dangerous business falling for houses, but this is a particularly nice one. Come and take a look.”
They followed him into the double-fronted detached family home. Outside they’d been charmed by the curved driveway and row of trees behind it.
Inside it seemed smaller. “Cozy,” said Jeff, the estate agent. “It’s filled with natural light as you can see. Absolutely glorious in the summer.”
He waved them into each room with a cheer, saying now and then, “haven’t seen anything this lovely in years.”
Afterwards, the agent sat them down at the wooden kitchen table with his papers. “You’ll be aware,” he began, “that the main mortgage lenders and building insurance providers have developed a new tool to assess their risk on each property sold. By law, we have to give prospective buyers access to this data.”
Mr. Roberts waved the notion away. “We like the house. We don’t need to know anything else.”
Mrs. Roberts was not so sure. She placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “Do we really want the bank to have more knowledge about our home than we do?”
He sighed but gave in. “Very well. If only to stop my wife worrying.”
“Excellent, forewarned is forearmed, isn’t it? The good news is that there’s absolutely zero flooding in this house’s future. As you may know, the tool looks one hundred years ahead with 98 per cent accuracy.
“A few earth tremors are likely but only .5 and below – nothing to write home about and certainly less than fracking produces.
“The downstairs will suffer from minor smoke damage at some point in the next thirty years but nothing you can’t save up for – insurance won’t cover the things that will definitely happen, of course.”
“Anything else?” Mrs. Roberts asked with a smile.
“Nothing else to threaten the building. Naturally, there are a number of deaths predicted – all quite standard in a house this size over that sort of period.” He shut his documents folder as if that were it, case closed.
“That’s all well and good,” said Mr. Roberts. “But could you tell us more about these, um, these deaths?”
“They won’t affect the insurance premiums,” Jeff replied.
“Nevertheless…” said Mrs. Roberts. “If you have the information and we are entitled to it then you may as well share. It’ll come out through the lawyers otherwise.”
“Alrighty then. Best to do things without those legal folk when possible, isn’t that so?” He paused to reopen the document folder, his face falling as his gaze landed on the paper again. “A small number of deaths as I said. Two in the age 70-90 region, which will of course have no bearing on the resale value of the house. One murder of a middle-aged adult. There is one child death – maybe four or five years old, they couldn’t quite pin down the age or era – but no haunting predicted. All good really.”
Mr. Roberts had a furious coughing attack. “All good? Sounds awful.”
“A child?” his wife asked. “Oh. Oh dear. We want to start a family.”
“We don’t have to have children,” Mr. Roberts suggested.
“What?” she asked, appalled. “We want a large family, don’t we?”
She ignored him and stared at Jeff. “We could live here until our child is three years old and then move out for a few years. They’d survive.”
Jeff shrugged. “What you do won’t change anything. If the tragedy is related to your family, nothing you choose to do will avert it. If not, it’s a waste of time worrying about it.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “Then we can’t live here.”
It was her husband’s turn to place a hand on her shoulder. “Darling, they do these reports on every house. People die all the time. They couldn’t even pin down the date. Shouldn’t you be more worried about the murder?”
Her mouth fell open. “I know for a fact I’m not going to murder anyone and you love me too much to kill me, so that’s not even a concern!”
The estate agent laughed softly. “Look, this tool was created by the insurance men. Suits and brains, trying to reduce their costs. You can’t avoid what’s going to happen to you, so buy or don’t buy. The report won’t change and nor will you.”
Mrs. Roberts leant over the table and clasped his hands: “Please, you can run the report again. Double check. Ask for more information.”
He removed her fingers one by one. “That’s not how it works,” Jeff said with a sniff. “It’s a covenant between building spirits and insurance men. They run the spell, they get the info, then it’s set down in ink and blood. There’s never been a rerun yet. Nearly everything predicted has come to pass. 98 per cent success rate.”
He deposited both Roberts back outside with a stark warning. “If you don’t make an offer soon, someone else will. A house with only four deaths in a hundred-year period? They’ll fight over it!”
Mrs. Roberts didn’t know what to say once she was left alone with her husband. A possible death versus a definite home. How could she choose?
“Something else will come up, dear,” he said. “It’s not like we’re in a hurry.”
“Of course we’re in a bloody hurry,” said Mrs. Roberts, furious at his indifference. The house meant the world. Her future child more so. This was their dream!
She’d end up killing him if he wasn’t careful…