Compulsory qualifications for estate agents to be introduced in England

Estate agents in England will be required to hold a professional qualification and be transparent about fees charged under a Government bid to rid the property market of rogues.

The professional standards that will become obligatory will be in line with those currently required for conveyancers, surveyors and solicitors with the aim of driving up standards.

With over one million homes bought and sold in England each year, delays and complications during the process cause unnecessary financial and emotional stress, according to Housing Secretary Sajid Javid.

He pledged to bring the industry up to new standards and get rid of rogue estate agents and managing agents with the aim of making the process of buying and selling a home more transparent, more efficient and faster.

According to Government research, more than six out of 10 buyers and sellers have experienced stress, and around a quarter of sellers said they would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again.

Estate agents will now be required to hold a professional qualification and to be transparent about the fees they receive for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage broker

Other measures to make the system easier, faster and more transparent include encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and crack down on gazumping and setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days.

Managing agents and freeholders will be required to provide up to date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable which Javid said will end the current situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and their agents.

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team will also be strengthened so they can carry out more enforcement activity which includes banning agents.

‘Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life. But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty,’ said Javid.

‘So we’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of rogue agents and can trust the process when buying or selling their home,’ he added.

Mark Hayward, chief executive, of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), pointed out that it has long argued that estate agents should be recognised as professionals. ‘This is an important step towards achieving this and we look forward to working with the Government,’ he said.

‘For too long, unprofessional agents with no qualifications have been able to operate in the sector, and advise home owners as they undertake the most important purchases and sales of their lives,’ he pointed out.

‘Our research has found that the process of buying a home is more stressful than starting a new job, undertaking home renovations or planning a wedding, so it’s important that agents are well-informed and professional, to make the process as easy and stress free as possible,’ said Hayward.

‘Enforcing compulsory qualifications will result in a fairer industry not only for consumers, but for the professional agents who have undertaken qualifications in order to deliver the highest standards every day,’ he also pointed out.

He explained that there are approximately 20,000 estate agent businesses across the country, and currently, anyone can practice as an estate agent. ‘The changes set out will professionalise the sector, creating a more trustworthy and reliable industry who will be better held to account,’ he added.

Guides on How to Buy and How to Sell will be developed and published to ensure customers are better informed of the process and know what questions they should be asking. The Government will work with consumer groups and industry to develop a consistent set of performance metrics for conveyancers, so consumers can make a more informed choice.

To bring the profession into the technology era, a working group will be set up to bring industry and partners, such as the Land Registry, together to look at developing innovative digital solutions to speed up the home buying and selling process.

Russell Quirk, chief executive officer of hybrid estate agent Emoov, believes that the current process is outdated and works in favour of estate agents rather than consumers. ‘For far too long the estate agency industry has got away with providing below par standards to the determent of those it is supposed to support and serve,’ he said.

‘Home buying and selling must be improved and by increasing the speed of a transaction, with the addition of a higher degree of certainty and stability, fewer sales will collapse, less money will be wasted and there will be less stress for buyer and seller alike,’ he added.

He also revealed the Emoov has been working with the Land Registry, lender the Nationwide and the Law Society to provide guidance and advice on how to better the UK home buying and selling process.

‘One area we’ve highlighted that is in dire need of improvement is the lack of regulations and qualifications required and so we are vehemently in favour of licensing agents and delighted to see this change in the industry,’ he concluded.