Britain’s real estate agents have applauded the government’s plan to professionalize the property sector, welcoming today’s announcement by housing secretary Sajid Javid that agents in the UK will be required to hold a professional qualification in order to practice.
“We’ve been campaigning for a more professional estate agent market for years, and are really pleased the government is committing to this,” said Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, a British organisation of professional real estate agents. “For too long, unprofessional agents with no qualifications have been able to operate in the sector, and advise homeowners as they undertake the most important purchases and sales of their lives.”
Peter Wetherell, chief executive of London-based agency Wetherell was also enthusiastic. “It’s the estate agency version of ‘draining-the-swamp,’” he said. “It is amazing that you now have regulated bouncers for nightclubs, but you can be a window cleaner one day and then an estate agent the next!”
Some groups, however, have called on the government to go further. Paula Higgins, chief executive of Homeowners Alliance, said that while the reforms would do much to “send the cowboys packing,” the government should also ban estate agents from offering services to both the buyer and the seller in the same property transaction.
“We regularly hear stories of the estate agents encouraging sellers to accept an offer from someone who has agreed to use the estate agent’s broker,” said Higgins. “Or of prospective buyers denied the opportunity to view a property unless they speak to their in-house financial adviser.”
Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey MP, also said the government measures fell short. “After eight years of failure on housing, this is yet another half measure that will do little to help private renters,” said Healey. “Since 2010, Conservative ministers have blocked Labour’s proposals to crack down on rogue landlords and stopped Labour councils from bringing in licensing schemes to drive up standards.”
But for Becky Fatemi, managing director of London agency Rokstone, the new regulations are a welcome change, and may encourage fresh talent to enter the industry. “Professional qualifications will hopefully encourage more women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds into the estate agency sector,” she said. “In the next generation we need to have estate agencies run by women and people of colour.”
The initiative comes as a new YouGov survey shows that aggressive real estate agents are among the top deal breakers for London property seekers. The survey, commissioned by property marketplace House Shop, found that a pushy real estate agent would be a bigger deal breaker than finding out that a murder had been committed in the property.