A new licence to help consumers choose qualified real estate agents has been launched in the UK as part of a major push to raise standards in the industry.
The licence launched by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) aims to protect consumers from unprofessional agents.
It says that a licensed estate agency branch means consumers are guaranteed that at least one agent within that branch is qualified in residential property sales, either through a formal qualification or through length of service in the industry.
Currently there is no barrier to anyone setting up and practising as an estate agent in the UK. There is no legal requirement for estate agents to obtain the new licence, leaving consumers with a clear choice over whether they choose a licensed or unlicensed agent.
‘Nobody would knowingly get into an unlicensed taxi. However thousands of people are willing to entrust one of most important transactions of their life to people who are not qualified or experienced,’ said Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the NAEA.
He is urging all sellers and buyers to ask their prospective agents, ‘Do you have a licence?’ and Bolton King said if they don’t, ‘they should ask themselves whether that’s the best place to market their property’.
It means that the estate agency in the UK will be seen as a two-tiered industry – those agents who are licensed and those who are not. ‘I think the public will welcome the distinction and I believe that this move will raise standards across the industry,’ added Bolton King.
UK Housing Minister Grant Shapps welcomed the move. ‘For years I’ve been calling for better standards throughout this industry, so I’m delighted the NAEA are taking matters into their own hands and launching a licensing scheme that will ensure their members become known for their professionalism and integrity,’ he said.
‘I call on all estate agents to sign up and make sure they’re not left behind when consumers vote with their feet. This is exactly the sort of measure the housing market needs, simple and sensible changes that are driven by industry and designed to deliver results. By ensuring they enjoy the trust of people buying and selling homes, estate agents will inject greater confidence and movement in the housing market,’ he added.
The licence will also guarantee the agency is covered by required amounts of Professional Indemnity Insurance. They will also undertake 12 hours of Continuing Professional Development every year, commit to keeping up to date with industry developments and be bound by the NAEA’s rules of conduct.
The NAEA represents around one in three estate agents in the UK. It has proposed to get as many members as possible licensed by June 2011.