In my line of work, part of the remit is to collect evidence of deals done on other property similar to ours. We call around other agents and get them to talk us through what they've done, how they've done it, why they've done it, and what they got out of it.
Most of the time this is sufficient, but sometimes things turn nasty* and we have to get mean. And then there are quite strict guidelines on what is good information and what is bad information.
Good information is what you get when someone knows all about a deal and can fill all the details into a schedule, chapter and verse, add it all up, explain it all, sign it and seal it in blood. We like that. It makes us happy. Bad information is when some bloke down the pub says, "between you and me, I heard that shop x was leased to retailer y and they paid a million pounds for it! Of course, I might have misheard ..." We don't like that. It makes us anxious. It's known as "anecdotal evidence."
It strikes me that the same boundaries could be applied to all intel. When you are given information (by which I mean "gossip") you should ask for some kind of authority. The giver of the gossip should have all the information to hand, be able to analyse what they have heard, write it down, and sign it. Anything less should not pass for good gossip. Anecdotal evidence should be taken with a pinch of salt.
I'll give you an example from the Family Tooting.
Christmas of, I think, 2004, was the last that Granny Tooting spent with our side of the family.
She was a lady who, in her time, had enjoyed a gin and a fag. Actually, at one point, Granny Tooting was enjoying a litre of gin a week, and 40 John Player Special a day. God love her, she was pickled. She'd lived the Ex-Pat life, travelling the world with my Grandfather, in New Zealand, Mexico, India, Peru and Trinidad, and probably others that her booze-addled brain couldn't remember, staying in each country for a few years, before coming home long enough to pat her son (raised largely by his Aunt) on the head, and leave again. In each country they soaked up the local delicacies, largely orally, in liquid form, on the rocks. Granny was quite the girl.
My father's family was from a small village in the Dulais valley in South Wales, and Granny would have been in her twenties in the 40s. Life was staid and sensible then. People didn't do frivolous things. Excitement was rationed. So Granny married Grandad in the mid-40s, and he was considered to be a catch because he'd trained as an engineer in mines, and would earn a good trade. That she was to turn into a mildly alcoholic old lady at his hand wouldn't have occurred to anyone. He was a Good Man and that was what counted.
So, against that backdrop, picture this scene. Post Christmas, pre New Year 2004. The Tootings have finished their dinner, cleaned up, and are sitting in the living room watching seasonal TV specials. Celebrity Mastermind comes on the telly and no-one can muster the enthusiasm to change the channel, so we start watching. An ex-soap actor steps forward, and sits in the black leather chair. Chosen specialist subject ... the life and films of Richard Burton. Naturally we play along, despite only knowing a handful of answers between us. End of round, and there's a pause.
"I could have married Richard Burton when I was a girl," pipes up Granny.
Another pause. Four Tootings gawp at her open mouthed whilst we churn this information. About the right age. One valley over. The could, very conceivably, have been at the same dance hall at the same time. Father Tooting lets his head drop into his hand and sighs.
"Dada [her father] didn't approve though. Said he'd never amount to much. Not like your father," she nods her head towards Father Tooting. "He was an engineer. He was really going places." She picked up the empty gin and tonic glass and stared hopefully into the bottom. No-one said a word.
Is it true? Who knows. There's no-one left to ask who would remember, and even if there was, they mightn't say. So I guess it has to be disregarded as anecdotal evidence.
All I do know is this. My Granny could have been Elizabeth Taylor!
The Tooting Grandparents
*"When Surveyors Turn Nasty" will TOTALLY be the title of the film of my life. It will be a deep psychological thriller. I will be played by Angelina Jolie who will survey her socks off!