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By Graham Norwood

Editor, EAT, LAT & LLT

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Does experience still count in estate agency?

“I’ve got 47 years of experience as an agent. Do I still have to get a qualification?” asked one attendee at a webinar on regulation this week.

It was one of many queries on the vexed subject of the mandatory training of agents, likely to happen in 2022 or 2023, providing Brexit and Coronavirus are sorted by then and the politicians can turn their attention to something else.

Giving the answers at the webinar was Mark Hayward, outgoing chief executive of NAEA Propertymark and someone with probably approaching that level of experience himself.

His starring role in the webinar was down less to his decades of experience, however, but more to his membership of the Regulation of Property Agents working party, which is setting the agenda for qualifications and training within the industry.

Like anyone would, Hayward expressed sympathy with the sentiment behind the question - few people like change, especially if they’re already good at how things are right now.

But dutifully the NAEA boss said ‘Yes’ - the agent would still have to be trained and secure a qualification when the time came.

“Look at it this way. If you went to the dentist and thought he’d been trained 47 years earlier, you might not like it” suggested Hayward.

Well, up to a point. Having 47 years of experience doesn’t mean all learning stopped in 1973, presumably.

The agent asking the question (no names were given at the webinar) would almost certainly have had to keep himself up to date with the Estate Agents Act, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, the Consumer, Estate Agents and Redress Act, AML, Right to Rent, deposit protection schemes, and a host of other acronyms, regulations and legislative changes in the past 47 years.

So that anonymous question raises the issue - how much is experience worth in the agency industry?

According to the Regulation of Property Agents recommendations (and I’ll assume you know roughly what they are if you’ve got this far), experience isn’t worth a lot in itself.

To meet modern expectations of accountability and transparency, there has to be a highly visible and respected qualification plus a system of redress: it isn’t just a case of actually knowing the right stuff yourself, it’s being seen by consumers as knowing it. And the theory insists that there must be a regulator because…well, there must be regulations.

This isn’t a sceptical view as there’s plenty of evidence in other parts of our lives to suggest RoPA might well be right: I bet we all think more of our plumbers, ambulance medics and AA roadside repair crews these days than we would have done half a century ago, when they could have been completely unskilled at their respective disciplines?

Yet there is a niggling thought that there will be unexpected casualties of RoPA - experienced agents who may simply not be cut out for learning and examinations in the 2020s.

There probably won’t be many, but will those be the victims that RoPA didn’t mean to hurt? In other words, agents who are good, honest, skilled but just awful at doing a test?

My guess is that there will be plenty of wriggle-room when RoPA is eventually remembered by politicians and slowly but surely becomes law.

It may well be that the currently inflexible qualifications-are-all approach might be softened.
So is there a way of ‘counting’ experience as part way to a qualification? Or is that automatically unfair to those who work hard and train for a formal qualification too?

What’s your view?

*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and now Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn

  • Simon Bradbury

    Does experience still count in estate agency? Of course it COUNTS but the ROPA qualification will still be necessary and is the right way to go in my view.

  • Richard Hancock

    The thought of sitting exams does make my blood run cold, but I realize that in order for the industry to move forward in a professional way, the general public who use our services are entitled to expect a higher standard from us. ROPA is a long time in coming, but thank goodness it is.

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    Quite frankly regulation can't come soon enough. If it helps to get rid of rogue agents and bad practice then surely it can only be a good thing

  • Michael Day

    Qualifications have always been useful and exams results are a measure of learning and knowledge but are certainly not a judgement on integrity or good practice.

    Governments have, since not introducing section 23 of the EAA 1979 (competency requirements), always preferred competition over competency.

    There is plenty of legislation governing the industry and its practices - it is robust enforcement that is needed.

    I’m in favour of raising standards but mandatory qualifications without licensing and enforcement will be a missed opportunity.

    I think we are at least 4/5 years away from ROPA (needs a syllabus, exam structure, regulatory body, licensing, time to implement etc) so many have time to develop their exit strategies if they wish to call it a day.

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    I personally think experience comes above someone who can sit an exam. The way forward like alot of companies should be so many CPD hours and training courses so you are up to speed with the current rules and regulations that come into place. Someone who has been in the industry for 10 years+ should just refresh their memory with courses and training. I agree someone who just has started and has no experience should sit some sort of exam. What we dont want to do hear is lose good agents who have been in the industry for many years who aren't great at taking exams. Estate agents have enough pressure at present with Covid rules and Brexit looming. NAEA even have an associate grade which means you can use their logo if you have been in the industry for over 5 years. ROPA should introduce something similar.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    I wouldn't be happy to see an unqualified dentist who has been trashing peoples mouths, very professionally I might add, for years who has decided that with their 40 years of experience, they don't need to take any exams?!?
    A good estate agent who has been amenable to adapt to the changing needs of their audience should have no issues. Hopefully this is designed to weed out the less than professional members of the industry who have not adapted and simply got away with the way they do things for years, just because they have been doing it for a long time.
    That doesn't make it good or right.
    Everyone complains about the 'over valuer', perhaps no one trained them correctly and they need to sit some form of exam to get it right?!?

     
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    Where do you draw the line when it comes to an exam? You can't have been serious saying that honesty and experience can replace the inability to sit an exam. Why would agents be treated any different than gas installers, electricians, pilots or ferrymen? Regulation is overdue, the decent/honest/experienced agents will surely get through any exam with flying colours. No?

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    • 31 October 2020 19:40 PM

    When qualifications were required for the IFA sector 90% left the sector.

    Might a similar situation occur with EA/LA!?

    CPD is as has been suggested a better way of ensuring up to date info is imparted to those in the industry.

    I suggest 35 hrs of such CPD training every 5 years.

    This CPD is required in the transport industry and really is no hardship.

    It costs about £400 every 5 years.

    Of course skilled industry participants may become trainers thereby leveraging all there long experience and knowledge.

    Many EA/LA could become excellent trainers and it would give a new lease of life to those that are considering retirement from the main profession.
    I consider ALL LL should also be required to undergo 35 hrs of CPD training

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    What skills can an agent actually be tested on. Selling a house is in fact a simple process. The onky thing they can be tested on the the legals which are not very complex.

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