The irony is, perhaps, that so much of this regulation is ‘under the radar’ to the consumer and to critics who think we are all unregulated from tip to toe.
As an industry I believe we should do more to publicise our quality and show how we strive to reach the highest standards.
One way is to make sure we’re supporting industry trade bodies and to let the public know that membership of these groups really mean something.
I don’t buy the argument that trade bodies are unimportant with few returns to members.
Propertymark, for example, was successful at persuading the government to include commission in the furloughed pay received by agents during the pandemic. It also led the lobbying of government two years ago to introduce a stamp duty holiday which helped agents (and conveyancers, surveyors and more) weather the economic fallout of Covid.
Trade bodies help the bottom line too.
The likes of Propertymark, the Guild, the Federation of Independent Agents, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the National Residential Landlords Association all offer deals allowing members can access outsourced services at discount rates.
They also serve as a gateway to outsourcing some essential but time-consuming red tape - for example, many bodies have deals with firms which help agencies comply with new anti-money laundering rules. I was shocked to hear that 25 per cent of agencies still fall foul of the AML regulations…my guess is that many of these may not be in trade bodies.
And most of the bodies I’ve just mentioned put extensive resources into training, so offer a professional path for careers in agency, operating to the highest standards.
But even more importantly in my eyes, these bodies offer agents the perfect opportunity to let customers see their credentials and quality.
Show Your Standards
A trade body notification in an email signature, a sticker on the door or a reference on property details and letterheads shows the public that an agent is going the extra mile to operate to the highest standards.
And why not frame your trade body code of conduct and display it? Let’s shout about how good we aim to be! After all, most of us spot the food hygiene stars on windows of restaurants and cafes, and driving instructors have their qualifications framed on the office walls.
In my recent podcast series ‘How to Move Home the Right Way’ I’ve heard firsthand from Propertymark, what they stand for as a membership organisation and what that means for the consumer.
Preparing For More Controls
There’s a further advantage that several leading trade bodies have and that’s their involvement in the Regulation of Property Agents working party.
There’s been a lot of publicity in the industry about RoPA but if you haven’t heard about it, don’t look away because you need to know. Its recommendations about stricter mandatory training and qualifications for agents have been accepted in principle by the government.
And its proposal for a new industry regulator - a powerful body that would sit above the likes of The Property Ombudsman - has also been accepted by government.
Most industry trade bodies have been at the heart of high-level discussions about RoPA, so the membership rules and standards of Propertymark, and some other bodies, are already being shaped to prepare agents for the tougher mandatory regulation that is likely to be introduced in the next few years.
We’re emerging from the worst of the pandemic - let’s hope so, anyway - but there’s evidence that the economic fallout of Covid is about to arrive. Higher prices, waning consumer confidence, and that may bring turbulence to the housing market this year.
So if competition between agencies becomes more intense, and possibly with fewer buyers able to take the plunge, we need to bring to the fore every weapon in our armoury.
Commission fees, our performance record, reviews and word of mouth from past customers are all key of course - but let’s put our professional standards up front too, and let the agents that strive to be the best proudly show those credentials to the public.
*Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Phil’s Move iQ Pro, is coming in 2022! It will connect select property professionals with Move iQ’s consumer audience. If you’re interested in hearing more subscribe here.