A Qualified Success

Published 20 August 2019

LearningAt this time of year, young people are finding out their exam results and pondering what they do next.  Their career choice will be based on all sorts of factors, including their natural skills and aptitudes, the opportunities which present themselves, and what their dreams and aspirations are.

Inevitably, that choice will be coloured by the reputation that each career has.  There will always be glamorous, highly-prestigious professions, and there will always be those which are tainted by not so good reputations.

It’s probably fair to say that over the years, estate agency has fallen rather more into the second of these categories.  There was a time when I didn’t tell people I was an estate agent, preferring to use the rather vaguer phrase ‘I work in property’.

The truth is that most estate agents are highly professional, but their reputation has been sullied by a small number of sharp operators who have taken advantage of the fact that there are no barriers to entry to becoming an estate agent – anyone can simply set themselves up as one.

Given that we advise people on the sale and purchase of their single biggest asset, this cannot be right, and at last that situation is heading for change.  A report last month from the snappily-titled Regulation of Property Agents Working Group recommends that anyone working in estate agency will have to have a relevant Level 3 qualification, broadly equivalent to an ‘A’ level.

The obvious advantage for our clients is that they will know that they will be dealing with people who have the knowledge and skills to do the job properly.  If the recommendation is accepted – and it seems likely it will be – it will be illegal to work as an estate agent without the relevant qualification.  The only losers will be the rogue operators who will be forced out of business.

There is another, less obvious benefit.  Driving out those rogue operators will, in time, vastly improve the reputation of the profession, and this is turn will mean we will start to attract more high calibre young people into estate agency, which will drive up standards even further.  It’s the very definition of a virtuous circle.

It’s not clear when the new regulations will come into force, but those of us who believe they are a good thing are not waiting.  At Arnolds Keys, we have already put all of our residential sales staff through the Level 3 qualification, and we are even opening up our in-house courses to staff at other agencies, because we believe that driving up standards in the sector as a whole is more important than inter-firm rivalry.

Ensuring that all estate agency staff are suitably qualified will be a very reassuring move for vendors and buyers alike.  But they don’t need to wait until the new rules come in; a reasonable question to ask any estate agent who wants your business is whether their staff are already qualified.  If the answer is no, you can draw your own conclusions.

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