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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Reforms win industry support as trade groups jostle for influence

Trade bodies and property firms have strongly welcomed the recommendations for root and branch reform of the agency industry - and have put themselves forward as key players in the ‘new world’ of regulation, licensing and training.

The proposals came from the Regulation of Property Agents working group, in a 534 page document released yesterday.

Sean Tompkins, the chief executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, says: “Ensuring consistent minimum standards across the sector for agents is vital to upholding the public interest. That's why the RICS congratulates Lord Best, working group members and the Ministry for these sound recommendations.

"The process has helped to highlight the leadership that the chartered surveying profession demonstrates through its long-standing commitment to upholding the public interest, through effective, independent regulation. This is clearly reflected in the report, which has recommended that the new state regulator should be able to delegate regulatory functions to a professional body which can show sufficient regulatory independence and competence in that area.”

The RICS statement points out that it is well positioned “to play a key role in the future regulation of residential property agents” and is “working to obtain recognition for the relevant RICS professional membership grades (chartered and associate), within the new regime and the recommendations published. We are also considering the development of a range of RICS vocational qualifications to meet the new licensing requirements, and to provide a stepping stone to gaining globally recognised RICS professional status.”

Meanwhile David Pilling, head of lobbying and policy at redress operator Ombudsman Services, says: “As the only redress provider to be involved in the working group, we believe that the recommendations contained in this report have the potential to make a significant and positive difference to consumers.

“We think the proposed regulatory body could play a key role in fostering a culture of openness, transparency and accountability across the property agent sector – ultimately raising standards and improving outcomes for consumers.”

With agent training being a key element of the RoPA proposals, The Able Agent is quick off the blocks publicising the ABBE Certificate in Property Advice and Practice (CePAP) - a Level 3 qualification registered with Ofqual.

The Able Agent direct Charlotte Jeffrey-Campbell says: “Even without today’s announcement, there are many core industry issues that come up again and again; namely training new starters and keeping existing staff up to date with legislation changes in both estate agency and lettings. In a difficult market place, agents need confidence advising customers and the skills to spot business opportunities….and in a marketplace where business owners have a genuine risk of a prison sentence and fines, training should be aiming to solve these real problems”

Meanwhile estate agents themselves have been muted in their response, with few going on the record.

“Any form of regulation is a step in the right direction and a step that the industry has been needing for a long, long time. Really, we would like to see this regulation stretch to all of those operating in the sector, whether they be a letting or estate agent, a property listing portal or a short-term letting site” says Marc von Grundherr, director of London agency Benham and Reeves.

“To date, a lack of licensing, a code of practice to adhere to, and the requirement of qualifications to actually operate as a property professional have resulted in a number of below-par agents dragging the good name of the industry down with them” he adds.

And Sam Mitchell, chief executive of online agency HouseSimple, has told his Twitter followers: "This is a positive step for the industry and we welcome regulation."

The National Association of Estate Agents has already made its views on the report clear.

It said yesterday: “These are substantial changes which will require agents to start making preparations now to ensure that they are well placed for when these proposed qualification requirements are introduced. 

“While we anticipate that the need for property qualifications will be phased in, we advise agents to get ahead of the competition and to stand out by adopting the new requirements early. Propertymark can support you and your organisation both with getting qualified and preparing for regulation.”

The Regulation of Property Agents working party recommends:

- a new independent regulator to lead a new public body to oversee a new regulatory regime for property agents; 

- the new regulatory regime will be binding on companies, and certain individuals, that act as intermediaries to property transactions; 

- those who are regulated will have to be licensed by the new regulator;

- the regulator will also be responsible for an overarching statutory code of practice, with different parts binding on agents depending on their area of work;

- a new ‘modular’ approach to qualifications, required for individuals within regulated companies “allowing agents to become proficient in those aspects of property agent work as suits the needs of their role and career, subject to minimum requirements”; and

- the new regulator is central to “a system of enforcement and redress which takes on, at their discretion, the support of national and local trading standards, of redress schemes, and of professional bodies.”

You can see a full summary of its proposals here.

  • Andrew Stanton Estate Agency Insights Strategies

    Obviously trade bodies and training entities look to embrace further regulation, as it is their interest, but what amazes me is that the very people, the people in the frontline doing agency every day, are never consulted. This ivory tower approach goes a long way to explain any muted response as Graham calls it from agents. I re-state again that the opening premise for further overarching regulation as set out in the ‘new big ideas’ from a 70 year old peer, is that the public do not trust agents. My experience is that overwhelmingly vendors, landlords, buyers and tenants in the main do trust agents that is why there is so much repeat business. Maybe, it is time that trade bodies instead of embracing more regulation, regulation which might actually undermine their present power base, actually took time to positively put forward to the ‘doubting public’ the real solid hardworking and professional way that 99% of the agents conduct themselves at present. I think it is high time that agents actually educated the general public into how complicated agency is, then the perceived ‘disconnect and distrust’ that is the genesis of the latest government recommendations might be stopped in its tracks and instead the government might actually do things that help an industry which performs a very vital role, both to the economy and on a personal level to millions of people. Thoughts.

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    More rubbish from vested interests. If we were that reviled people wouldn't use us. Its one of those myths that gets perpetuated without foundation. When someone says, i hate estate agents, as one did last week whilst on holiday, and you ask them if they've ever had a bad experience the answer is always NO.

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    Whether this is good or bad for consumers and the industry will be entirely dependent on how well executed and implemented it is. Based on government track record it doesn’t look good, but we can hope.

    I fear, however, that it will take a long time before the consumer sees any improvement (if any) in their moving experience because, as far as I’m aware (I haven’t read all 56 pages) the proposed licensing doesn’t actually include any changes to the moving process.
    So, even if all agents get licensed, what improvements for consumers are expected?

    I’m hoping for the best, but given the widespread lack of understanding of what agents do by press, government, investors and much of the tech community, my expectations are low.

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