It may surprise many people to learn that in theory anyone can start an estate agent business without any recognisable qualifications. This is an issue which has been discussed time and time again in the past. While there were promises of stricter regulations, and the introduction of professional qualifications, nothing really changed. However, Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has today announced welcome plans to introduce professional qualifications into the England estate agents sector.
Bringing estate agents up to date
When you bear in mind that conveyors, surveyors and solicitors all require professional qualifications to operate, it is difficult to understand why estate agents have for so long operated on a different regulatory basis. There are more than 1 million homes bought and sold in England each year and, rather alarmingly, 6 out of 10 customers said they would use a different estate agent in the future. This perfectly illustrates the variation in service standards which often create undue delays and in many cases financial stress.
One of many other issues under review by the UK government is greater transparency when it comes to fees received by estate agents from solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers to which they refer their clients. In reality, it is simply a case of asking the estate agent about their relationship with a variety of other professional bodies but making it more transparent will inject more competition, hopefully to the benefit of homeowners. It will be interesting to see the variety of different commission arrangements throughout the industry especially when you bear in mind that many sales fall through often at great expense to clients.
Speeding up the information flow
The government will also legally oblige managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information, for a set fee, within a specific timescale. At this moment in time lease holders are often at the beck and call of freeholders and agents as they look to clarify their own position. It also looks as though local authority searches will be lodged under stricter guidelines with information to be made available within 10 days.
In many ways some of the new web-based estate agents are making full use of the digital revolution while the industry as a whole seems to be well behind the curve. Forthcoming changes to the estate agency sector will place greater emphasis on information flow and transparency in a bid to speed up the purchase process. The authorities have also flagged the idea of voluntary reservation agreements which should help to avoid gazumping in the future. However, if you were a seller why would you voluntarily shut out potential late bids?
Tackling rogue elements of the estate agents industry
The fact that in theory anyone can set up an estate agent business with no formal qualifications is alarming when you bear in mind the purchase of a home will for many people be their largest ever financial commitment. Those on the rogue side of the fence will likely disappear into the darkness when the qualifications come into play leaving, in theory, a better regulated estate agency sector with far better standards of service.