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Phil Spencer: You're never too old to learn

Not every story about our industry makes me smile but I was delighted to read in the trade press about someone who got his first qualifications in estate agency after 38 years in the business!

Simon Caird, managing director of Cairds Estate Agents in Epsom & Ashtead, has extraordinary experience at a string of well-known estate agencies, including now his own.

But he’s taken the view that it’s never too late to learn and, as importantly, reap the business benefits too.


He’s told Property Industry Eye: “It seems to me that agents who invest in knowledge and a qualification, will naturally stand out from the crowd when trying to secure an instruction.”

Good on you Simon, I couldn’t put it better myself.

Growing Industry Qualifications Available

There’s a string of industry qualifications available now and while experience is invaluable, it is not the only way to become respected either within an agency or amongst existing and local customers.

I think the traditional image of “learning only at the coal face” probably counts for less with younger consumers, who have grown up in a culture where far higher percentages of people go on to university or secure vocational or professional qualifications when they are in their teens or twenties.

This isn’t to downplay the importance of experience - far from it - but age and years in business alone may count for less than we think in some people’s eyes. And Simon Caird shows that even with extensive experience, qualifications can add something extra.

I’ve got a special respect for the work of Propertymark (although, as they say, other qualifications are available!) and Propertymark has a slew of training opportunities in residential sales, in letting and property management, auctioneering and more detailed work such as inventory management and deposit protection.

I unashamedly promote the idea of lifelong learning and training, whichever course you take, especially as our industry remains under scrutiny.

More Regulation Likely

Although it’s gone off the front pages recently, there is still a long-standing commitment for the government to act upon the high-profile report from the Regulation of Property Agents Working Party.

That group’s recommendations won all-party support and putting those recommendations into action remains a real possibility, for whoever is in government.

Here’s a quick reminder of what RoPA called for:

⁃         All agencies operating a residential property business to be licensed with directors passing a ‘fit and proper person’ test and hold a qualification at Level 4 or above;

⁃         All staff interacting with the public and employed within an agency to be licensed and adhere to a Code of Practice, and to hold a qualification at Level 3 or above;

⁃         A new regulator to oversee compliance with an overarching Code of Practice.

There were plenty of other recommendations, too, but you see my point - securing qualifications now, before such recommendations are put into action, may well save time and put your business at an advantage when further regulation comes in, as it surely will.

Short Term Advantages Too

Even if law changes affecting the industry take some time, I believe there are short term business advantages.

You see many agencies proudly boasting of their award successes, at the ESTAS or other events, and rightly so - your agency may be amongst the winners, and you should be delighted that you’ve beaten the competition.

But why not do the same about your staff qualifications? Evidence of learning on an agency website, in a branch window and on a letterhead is not showing off - it’s offering reassurance to potential and existing customers, and almost certainly giving you a unique selling point when compared to your rivals.

Why Wait?

The market may be a little quieter this year than last, although it’s arguably rather better than some pundits feared. But with volumes down a little, at least on the sales side, there’s possibly more time to take the plunge with qualifications.

Doing that alongside the day job won’t be easy - it never is - but our increasingly competitive industry means the career benefits to the individual and trading benefits to the business have rarely been more important.


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