Agents ‘told’ to close offices and cancel viewings while removals firms advised to call off home moves

Estate agents should close their offices, and there should not be any in-person viewings, inspections or house moves.

That is the “view” of a senior civil servant at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, passed on to members of Propertymark.

It is the closest to being the most definitive advice yet obtained – but there is still no official, written instruction to either sales or letting agents. A request by EYE for clarification from MHCL on whether agents’ offices should stay open and whether home moves should go ahead went  unanswered yesterday.

In London, Metro has reported estate agents being among those still travelling to work on a crowded underground.

Metro named agency Dexters as having asked staff to attend work yesterday and the paper said it had seen internal memos sent to staff from  CEO Jeff Doble, including one telling staff that “while staying at home is the general advice, we join a significant number of the working population who are providing important services”.

According to Metro,  staff were told they can work from home ‘where possible’ but others will have to ‘juggle home and travel arrangements, health and distancing issues on top of working’.

Doble told Metro that around 50% of Dexters employees were not in work yesterday and that the firm was quickly winding down operations based on Monday night’s advice.

He added that his comments regarding a ‘lack of understanding’ were aimed at ‘outsiders’ who may not realise the work being conducted by estate agents amid the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “We have around 60,000 tenants who are worried about their rent and where they’re living. We also have a huge number of staff working on the frontline – with around 5,000 people due to move house in the next few weeks. That stuff can’t be done from home.

“We have seen a huge influx of work in recent days and we really need competent workers – not people doing a bit of work here and there at home.”

He told Metro that around a third of its branches would close last night, and that viewings were no longer being conducted.

In Fleet, Hampshire, an agent writing on a community social media site yesterday called for much clearer information.

She said that she and her colleagues had still been expected to go to work at the office. She claimed that staff were being targeted by her agency bosses on the number of calls and viewings they made in a day, and claimed that elderly sellers were being encouraged to have viewers round their properties.

She claimed: “So far, all we’ve been told to do is is to wear gloves.” She called for the Government to specify exactly which businesses can and cannot open.

Propertymark said that MHCLG is still looking into property maintenance tasks such as gas safety checks and hopes to issue guidance shortly.

However, Gas Safe Register has said that it is suspending gas safety inspections until further guidance from the Government, and is currently seeking guidance on work considered essential.

But in somewhat confused advice the organisation said yesterday that it is also seeking new guidance on the annual gas safety checks that must by law be provided for private rented properties. It does not suggest that these checks have been halted and advises landlords on what they should do if access cannot be gained for them to be made.

Meanwhile, removals firms belonging to trade body BAR have been told that, as from Monday night (March 23), they should only complete moves already started.

They should cancel or postpone other moves, BAR has told them.

However inventory trade body the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) last night said that its members will carry on working and will not ‘stay at home’.

Danny Zane, AIIC chair, said: “It is difficult to know if we are or will be included in the current list as an essential worker but we believe we are essential for the part of our housing market that is still carrying out move-ins. We have called on MHCLG to state whether they believe us to be essential.”


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  1. Alan Murray

    Has anybody read the list of essential companies that should open? Removals companies are not on it. So of course completions should not be taking place and since yesterday anyone who has exchanged a contract or set up a completion has been irresponsible and unprofessional and provided bad advice to their clients.

    In case nobody has noticed there is an international crisis. To attempt to move house goes against all social distancing advice given out by Government and health professionals. Anyone working at a firm of Solicitors claiming this is business as usual because they’re working on files at home as I keep reading on social media is an idiot. That is the politest description I can think of.

    If Solicitors are still trying to do completions then they are putting profit before the well-being of not just their clients but Everyone. Remember when this is all over people will recall who those companies were who treated staff badly during the crisis, but also who attempted to profiteer through it.

    We are all in this together as a world.

    1. PaulC

      The advice is clear and the press conference yesterday with Matt Hancock and q&a covered it well.

      Estate Agents can remain open. They are not shops and are NOT on the list of businesses that must close.

      Staff shoud be 2 meters apart at all times.

      Viewings should not take place.

      Val’s and take ons in our opinion should NOT take place (although probably technically allowed). If they take place probably should get a waiver from person entering people’s houses.

      Personally I would not risk it.



    2. Truthspeaks

      Respectfully agents/developers don’t help, they get in the ears/heads of buyers and bully them into doing exchanges, just for their bonuses.

      most lawyers I’ve spoken to, don’t want to exchange a thing atm,  that’s from one man bands, to the big conveyor belt companies!

      its so easy to blame the lawyers every time, they are an easy target.

      At the end of the day, They can say don’t do it until they are blue in the face..  but if their client says do it, they don’t have a choice.

      don’t see why people think agents are angels, they are the problem 50% of the time! And it’s about time some of them took a look in the mirror and understand that

    3. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      As the owner of a conveyancing business with everyone working from home, I take issue with them being described as “idiots”.

      Suffice to say we are also not putting profit ahead of everything else.

      Our job is to help our clients move through the conveyancing process and to try and help reduce the appalling stress that they are under.

      Obviously completions cannot be achieved for the majority but for us to stop working for our clients would be downright selfish and uncaring.

      1. #ImpressiveConveyancing



        Peter – well said. Some of the usual people posting without a clue again.

        Few get that conveyancers make very little money from conveyancing, and it certainly doesn’t go in our pockets. £900 for 12 weeks of work. We do what we do, as client delight is our priority. Yes, there are conveyancing businesses in bed with agents neither of whom care about quality and want to make as much money from the public and offer rubbish conveyancing – we all know the conveyancers and the estate agent chains.

        The majority of us are only interested in pleasing clients.

        Right now, I am sat in my home office, surrounded by 70 client files (a-z) ready for the next 50 emails 15 phone calls like yesterday, from clients panicked about what to do, estate agents calling me as they trust me to know what is what for general advice, yet with a crappy printer/scanner, no secretary, remote access that is 90% speed of being in the office, no ability to go in my car to post anything, and yet ……no reason at all to put pens down, when we have the next 3 weeks pdf lockdown (it will be 6+ you watch) to progress conveyancing either to exchange contracts (with a longstop date far away) or to a point where we can then exchange when we are back to the office.

        True, I’d fire a conveyancer if they reported to me on the legal papers by a 200 page pdf with attachments – rather than a bound report indexed that as ours love – but clients are thrilled after just one day that we are showing business as usual, and working electronically for this temporary time.

        And yes, we plan to complete some deals too, as some will not require moving into, and how about:

        “If you have sold your home and completed then you’re home has moved and you can travel to your new home with your possession where you can then stay. Discuss.”

        We need a little perspective here too  – if it is just 3 weeks (ok probably 6-9) then there are firms who take 3 weeks longer than us for their average time of handling conveyancing.

        But so few conveyancers will put pens down. Certainly not ours. Sure, lock-down/remote working will be an excuse not to work – it’s why I am not a fan of remote working…and after one day I am still not sold on it (I am so curious to know after 3 weeks what I will feel about remote working….I suspect I will find it to be 60% my usual pace and so unacceptable for me as a conveyancer), as I am constantly reminded of the cliché scene of an overweight British road worker reading The Sun newspaper – but thankfully, we recruit fine conveyancers, and it is already great fun seeing ’email all’ messages from the Team with issues and questions.

        Instead, we work within the confinement, as people still want to move and want conveyancers to help them achieve that. We remain replying to emails, taking calls, answering letters/enquiries, constructing Property Reports, checking on where other conveyancers are (if thy are closed because they don’t have remote working ability), updating estate agents, sending contracts and transfers out to sign and scan/post back (when they are out for their jog). The conveyancing process continues.

        If a client wants to delay, then that is fine with me, and their file is out of the A-Z and awaits when they want to continue.

        Deals will take place on undertakings to send originals, conveyancers will act in good faith to re-exchange on deals where existing exchanges preclude a completion. It’s great industry spirit.

        And 10 conveyancing quotes on Monday, 5 yesterday – be doom and gloom on your own time, meanwhile conveyancers are busy moving people.



        1. Alan Murray

          Again we’re seeing the selfishness of the British public and businesses that will only prolong this crisis,  this time disguised as professional advice. Some people will desperately say anything to justify their conduct, and blame everybody else as they are always right.
          Surely we can all agree that we want it over as soon as possible and pull together?

      2. Alan Murray

        Peter Ambrose as the man who wrote an article last month calling people Nazis there is an element of pots and kettles with taking offence to what is an informed observation. In fact I will take it as a badge of honour.
        I speak from experience and the behaviour of conveyancers particularly over the last twenty four hours, from stories people have been telling me and from what I have read and seen, has been deplorable at best.
        And another thing. How many of these “conveyancers” bumbling on have advised clients their houses they are buying are basically worthless for the foreseeable future and anyone who has bought a house recently is going to facing massive negative equity for an unknown period. Newbuilds are likely already to be worth considerably less than purchase price, as anyone who worked through the last recession will know. I think your Firm opened after the worst effects of that recession?
        And interesting my original comment was removed. Presumably someone complained, I wonder who? I was not aware our lockdown has taken us into North Korea territory yet? Interesting how ill judged opinion pieces about Nazis are allowed but constructive criticism of certain people isn’t?
        Again we’re seeing the selfishness of the British public and businesses that will only prolong this crisis. Surely we can all agree that we want it over as soon as possible?

  2. londoneye

    Did you read the first line of the article?  If you did what did you not understand?

    1. AgencyInsider

      To which, add the second line:

      That is the “view” of a senior civil servant at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, passed on to members of Propertymark.

      I am not saying for one moment that agents sholuld ignore the view. It makes total sense to follow it. But it is NOT official policy or law and if you begin to let civil servants dictate behaviours based on their ‘view’ you are at the thin end of a very big wedge.


      1. londoneye

        It’s nothing to do with allowing civil servants to dictate. It basic common sense. It was clear what was going to happen here and we as a firm had a plan B. Some firms didn’t, now they are making staff work from an office. We are all working from home. Speaking to clients and tenants. Applicants enquiries are way down and it’s about looking after you current business.  

  3. jackoTLG

    If a construction site is allowed to be open, why can’t a person move house as they planned to probably for many months now. It’s clear the government is allowing some parts of the economy to tick over. That may change, but atm house moving should be allowed given other activities like construction are allowed to be open.

    1. mattfaizey

      Personally I think those firms who can’t weather a short storm financially are clearly mismanaged and badly run. They are zombies who should be allowed to fail.
      This virus kills the weakest, and that is horrible.
      It might also kill those weakest firms who were half dead already.
      Then the fittest can get on with it.

      1. Eyereaderturnedposter12


        A couple of points-

        How ‘short’ a storm do you envisage? It seems to me that as a minimum period of ‘locking down’, the country is potentially looking at 12 weeks/3 months.

        You’ll note the press has recently (yesterday if I recall correctly?) described how Wuhan, is now coming out of its ”lock down” period. Taking into account, that your contingency planning should have at least 1 ‘scenario’ based on a zero (or near to zero income) over that period + limited income over a further 6 months (possibly longer), I suspect there will be many firms who struggle through this period…and almost NONE who are able to retain (not ”furloughed”, made redundant or asked to take some form unpaid leave) all staff ‘as is’/under the current structure.

        To believe that after a short/3 month period, that business will return right back to where it left off…may be overly optimistic. The cumulative effect of the three months of very little commerce on a national scale, will take its toll on the entire economy. Some who may have intended to move pre-March 24th, will lose their jobs in the meantime, some who had intended to exchange/complete, will too struggle (or find it impossible) to proceed after this period.

        What we’ve witnessed thus far, is, I fear…only the tip of the iceberg.

        On a secondary note…your last two lines read (ever so slightly) like something of the National Socialist Biopolicy handbook (albeit in a commercial context).

        1. mattfaizey

          My comments are designed deliberately to wind up those Agents and Solicitors/Conveyancers who we all know full well are putting their cashflow before lives and decency.
          Frankly it’s disgusting. Read what I’ve written lower down, read the other comments.
          If firms are that desperate for cash then they’re zombies. They are badly run, mismanaged and the economy broadly would be better off without them moving forward.
          As for ‘short storm’. Anything up to 3 months for me is what this means. If we all do our bit and act responsibly then just maybe it will be measured in weeks.
          Having agents and conveyancers and movers being complete pr1ck5 and encouraging wholly unessessary human activity, contact and spread will mess this up for everyone.
          Moreover those in the process happy for movers to spread this disease in the name of their profit frankly need a slap. How about those same removal men spend the day at their parents or grandparents house? Would they like that?

          1. Happy Daze!

            Matt…. thou doth protest too much 😉

            1. mattfaizey

              you’re likely right. I do.
              I’m mainly concerned with getting back to work

          2. Eyereaderturnedposter12

            Matt… Was your ex-wife a conveyancer/solicitor by any chance 😉
            All joking aside…In a period of great turmoil, may i suggest that seeking to ‘wind’ anybody up (with the deliberate intent of doing so) as being a little insentitive…Make no mistake, this is (and will be proven to be) nothing short of an economic catastrophe. Not wishing to put a dampener on your hubris, but this isnt going to ‘blow over’ in a matter of weeks…
            I’ll also add that, IMHO, financial planning for a three month period, expecting everything to immediately return to normal (revenue levels, commission income, rental payments, exchanges/completions) could be viewed as naive and lacking in real-world planning. There are muliptles of Agencies (many of whom are national/”big names” [Countrywide/Leaders Romans, to name but two examples]) who have a weight of debt hanging on their balance sheets.
            Surely, you would not class ALL agencies who will struggle finacially, as being ”Zombies”(?). Sure as night follows day, not only our industry will suffer but so will every other industry (perhaps with the exception of Andrex, Kleenex, Tesco, Sainsburys and the like!).
            In reality, those agencies who cannot support the costs of running their businesses on a zero income scenario for a 6-9 month period, will need to have cash reserves to cover at least 6-9 months of all current running costs, to come out of this unscathed. I can tell you, as someone who runs a multi-branch SME…the costs are not insignificant.
            The matter of the virus, is only serving to compound a situation of an industry (and its client base) that has been under significant pressure for years before now…  
            Yes, agreed. It will be a long slogg…and one that will see many casualties…across the board.

            1. mattfaizey

              No hubris here. I’m genuinely scared

        2. J1

          You sound as realistic as I feel eyrreaderturnedposter12 – this is going to be a long long slogg

          All the happy clappers who are preparing to be “ready for take off” are the idiots in this – they are probably arranging viewings still…..

          Think of your country, think of your friends and family and mostly think of our oldies – they need you right now

          Only Morons are going out when they don’t “have to”

          Stay at home Morons………

      2. SoldPal90

        So for you it’s a case of I’m alright Matt!

        Have you considered;

        Young start ups maybe heavily leveraged; whom were hoping to break even this year.

        Owner/Partners of established co.s may have taken on additional lending to facilitate a buy out

        Business owners maybe getting divorced.   Theres a whole multitude of scenarios

        Sorry Matt but that was just ignorant


        1. mattfaizey

          Im gutted for innocent victims, and who knows, maybe my firm will be one.
          The individuals I spoke to and had pressure from yesterday were not. They were / are established businesses. And their conduct is abhorrent.

        2. Property Ear

           Very true SoldPal. Matt’s comments regarding zombies are naive to say the least. He is clearly unaware of some of the financial problems even the most professional and capable agents are having to face up to.

    2. Property Ear

      Some of today’s posters aren’t listening – take a look at the hospital corridors teeming with gasping victims. STAY HOME, STAY HOME, STAY HOME!

  4. Jockey

    Glad we are set up to complete virtual valuations and viewings, interactive, between customers and vendors with us overseeing from the centre – all real time – it pays to prepare and take action early I suppose.

    1. Ric

      Good one.

    2. surrey1

      How do you measure a house virtually?

      1. Woodhen

        At the end of the day buyers will still need to physically see the property. Virtual only suits the Agent to remove timewasters from the viewings list

  5. MarkRowe

    First of all, well said Alan. Are there really, I mean really still people left that have any doubt as to what is going on here? I’m confused and most of all sad to learn the true colours of quite a few recently, both local to me and in the industry as a whole. The whole article and the reports of some others has really shown me how it needs to change. This is the real change, not the age old online blah blah debates, It’s about people and how you treat them. I wish all the staff at Dexters well, I also wish all of the people they have come into contact with well too. I’m wondering what effect that would have had on their families who were probably very confused, upset and stressed that their partner, son, daughter, sister, brother, mum, dad etc were still coming into contact with the public on a daily basis. Basically, where the hell has your humanity and thought for others gone if you really think that staying open now in our industry is ‘essential work’, and I’m pretty ****** sure that as 1,000’s of other agents are working from home you’re not that ****** special and can do it too!

  6. J1

    Jeff Doble needs his head looking at….. A pound before a person attitude is not needed at this time.

    The virus does not move around by itself – it is people that transport it.

    Stay at home ………

    1. Happy Daze!

      I agree!! The longer people talk about ‘grey areas’ and ignore the advice, the longer it will take to come out the other side and then it will be 6 months plus before we see light at the end of this dark tunnel. It’s obvious that a letting/ estate agent is not a ‘key worker’ (I’ve had my own agency for 15 years btw) so don’t be selfish and stay at home!!!! Moving home is not life or death but moving from home to office right now very much is!!!

  7. mattfaizey

    Right now, frankly the situation is absurd.

    Yesterday I had clients on telling me that their soli/conveyancer wanted them to complete Friday/next week, even 6th April. What is more concerning is the supposed ‘professional’ told them to keep ringing movers until they found one that’ll do it.

    This conduct is gross. Once again we see the most undervalued sector in this home selling/buying process generally being the most responsible and professional. Movers.

    As I wrote to Rob Hailstone via WhatsApp yesterday;

    Conveyancers need to remember thy are in an office or home office. Not in houses. If they have the balls to handle other people’s stuff and breathe their air, then comment.

    Otherwise they should shut up.

    The same is true for agents. Soft surfaces can hold this virus for days. Moving firms protective coverings are in use at each home. To have them in use now is irresponsible. Moreover encouraging the public to have individuals they know nothing about breathe, cough, sneeze or leave sweat on or in their homes is crazy. This goes both ways too.

    Plus, I wouldn’t want to take possession of a home inside which a surface may have this virus.

    I appreciate many EA’s and Agents are basically on their backsides financially. This however is not a reason to wilfully endanger the public or moving company staff.

    Moreover, the handful of movers seeking to profit need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

    BAR should be applauded. Those firms who are prepared to take a massive hit (mine has a £25k per month payroll now going unfunded) should be applauded.

    Gov – You need to sort this out pronto. We now see conveyancers cannot broadly be trusted (like that’s news!) but certain conveyancers, and EA’s, and movers who are endangering the lives and wellbeing (both physical and economic) of the country are an abomination. It is you Gov who are at fault first, them second.

    I had an agent yesterday afternoon (3pm ish so after NAEA email) tell me he is trying to get an exchange sorted this week for a move next Friday. Initials of the man CH, no doubt you’re reading this, it was me you spoke to, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Gov. and MP reading this – sort this out. Otherwise those who are being responsible will feel abused, and unfairly persecuted

    1. Alan Murray

      There is one well known social media poster who made a big deal about not sending his children to school even though his wife was a key worker and they should go. His reasoning was that he didn’t want his children mixing with others who may have the virus. Fair enough. Except the same person has been quite happy if his social media postings are true, to advise his clients to move house. Meaning they have potentially Removals companies in their house and an unknown number of people could be exposed to the virus. Hardly practicing what he preaches. If his family are to be kept safe why is he happy to expose his clients to a risk he would not personally take? Because he won’t get paid if they don’t move that’s why. Hypocracy of the highest order. Profit before human decency from a man who claims to put clients first. People should remember his, and a lot of others, conduct when instructing a Solicitor in the future. Scotland has suspended conveyancing. A sensible move it should happen in England to stop the numpties trying to bumble on. I make my comments as a conveyancer of almost forty years experience. I have seen a lot in that time including two recessions. But in the last 24 hours some of the comments I have seen have made me embarrassed to be part of the profession. New lows are being plumbed.

      1. mattfaizey

        you should name this person after taking screenshots of the comments.

  8. Ric

    Work from home simples.

    No viewings, walk ins, valuations, measure ups etc means surely enquiries can be managed at home, of which enquiries I would imagine will drop to near zero from today onwards (during the lockdown)

    We owe it to everyone to get this right.

    The message to all vendors and buyers needs to be one of unity from Estate Agents… calm, for 3 weeks calm, no panic, no price reductions, no nothing. Get everyone’s mindset in a calm place that nothing can be done, it is nothing to do with your marketing, the price or anything, solicitors being slow is not their fault, nor is it the fault of a buyer a survey cannot be done, just calm for 3 weeks whilst the Country pulls together.

    Calm… just a ickle bit of calm.

    1. MarkRowe

      Perfect, we’ll said Ric.

      1. Highstreetblues

        Solicitors are being slow and the incompetent ones are being found out. Those working from home and using technology effectively will thrive after this is all over. They can exchange now and complete later.

        1. GPL

          Nonsense highstreetblues
          I’ll leave it at that, for now. 
          Better to think about how magnificently all the frontline people are doing, 1stly all the Medical Staff/NHS, those others supporting, the lorry drivers, supermarket workers, those checking on neighbours …..the list is Endless. 
          Thanks to all of those people who are in this together, however ……on the Frontline.
          As my wife went off to work earlier, NHS, preparing for bigger things ……I worry for sure ……but we’re in this TOGETHER ……aren’t we?    

        2. Ric

          Can they Highstreetblues? So what completion date will they set? On or before Dec 31st 2021 just incase? You are aware mortgage companies can withdraw mortgage offers between Exchange and Completion and a whole host of other things can go wrong between exchange & completion, putting people at huge risk in a VERY unknown time if the legal contracts are executed without certainty on the completion. On the assumption you DO NOT have the docment knowing EXACTLY when the lock down will be lifted and removal companies can help etc etc, then you are just creating a stack load of extra work, amending contracts and changing things.  Everyone should accept we/they will do all we can to get to the furthest point we can before the transaction may then just stop. But suggesting Exchange beyond today, legally committing people in a time when who knows what, is at best stupid.  Not the time to have a pop at a solicitor or give it the tech savvy people will be better bla bla ****.

        3. Happy Daze!

          Highstreetblues …. what a silly thing to say….

    2. GPL

      Spot-on Ric. 

    3. JamesDB

      Could not have said it better Ric…


      IF we ALL do our bit, and help this global situation we all find ourselves in, then maybe, just maybe, we will get back to where we were heading after this is all over, and before long we will all be too busy to care again.


      For now though, we should all be at home,

    4. Comp29

      Best comment on here.  We wonder why we have one of the worst reputations as an industry and why there is so much legislation trying to ‘clean us up’.   I have closed my doors and my staff are working from home.  No appointments.  Doing our bit to try and stop the spread of this horrendous virus.  I am hoping that we can get through this but if we can’t we will start again.  Its quite simple.  Health before wealth.

  9. GPL


    There’s a time to comply with physically closing. Yesterday was it.

    Most of us will be remotely “working”, whatever form that takes.

    We, like so many businesses are in a holding pattern, 3 weeks for sure, 6 weeks will not be a surprise, 9/12 weeks possible.

    We can only do, what we can, to emerge on the other side.

    Challenging it undoubtedly is, that’s an understatement, however, it’s not The End. We are not The Human Race if we don’t emerge from this. There will be a New Beginning.


  10. Woodhen

    The market is dictating we stop working…..enquiries since last Friday 0……tenants allowing viewings 0… willing to work, a handful for emergencies only. Life is on hold for the next three weeks and the property industry needs to really get over it ASAP

  11. J1

    Lives matter

    Estate Agents Don’t

    Jobs matter – that’s why the government are providing financial support…….

    Viewings, valuations and take on’s don’t matter

    Front line workers and health professionals do matter and they need us to stay home to reduce the pressure on them

    24 doctors have died in Italy

    87 People died in the UK yesterday – next Tuesday it may well be 300

    Only Morons are going out un-necessarily

    Don’t be a Moron – stay at home

    1. Branchowner

      On average 1800 people die in the UK EVERY day …. 87 more than usual died yesterday. Over 600,000 people die in the UK every year. The virus is terrible for everyone affected but does need to be in perspective to avoid unnecessary panic and stress which will only cause additional problems including panic buying and people who really need cleaning products / food etc to suffer.

      1. Happy Daze!

        Branchowner ; whilst I agree with your sentiments these posts are nothing to do with whether or not there should be an actual pandemic situation. The fact is we are all in lockdown and all our businesses have ground to a halt so debating whether or not there’s anything to worry about in terms of death count is over…. whatever the death stats are, the world has shut shop and we’re all suffering…this is real now!


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