The RICS has called for estate agents to be compulsorily required to have qualifications.
It says it wants to see all agents required to sign up to a professional regulation scheme, to ensure customers are dealing with an agent who is suitably qualified to broker their sale and can advise on the processes involved.
The RICS says it is needed because the property market is gradually opening up again to first-time buyers – of whom almost a third admit they do not understand the house-buying process, while 80% believe that compulsory regulation of estate agents would help consumers.
The RICS says the market has seen an upturn in activity since various government initiatives. While this has encouraged first-time buyers, 29% say they do not understand the house purchase process and 30% claim that their agents failed to give them advice.
The organisation argues that there is no statutory regulation to ensure agents are suitably qualified, while those who are not members of a professional body are not obliged to meet minimum competency standards.
This means that consumers are potentially dealing with an agent who could be providing inaccurate advice.
Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: “When making the biggest purchase of their lives, it’s important that buyers – and especially those who haven’t been through the purchase process before – understand precisely what is involved.
“This is particularly relevant now, with the market now seemingly over the very worst and more first-time buyers in a position to make a move.
“By using an unregulated estate agent, people are potentially dealing with someone who doesn’t understand the technicalities involved in buying a home or their obligations to consumers.
“I would recommend that anyone who is buying or selling a house checks that their agent is a regulated member of a professional body, such as RICS, who have met minimum standards of competency and understanding.”
The RICS issued its call after independent research among over 1,000 first-time buyers.