People have been calling for estate agents to be made professional for a long time, as this makes it easier to find trustworthy agents and to uncover dodgy ones, which in turn helps to maintain best practice across the industry.
The government recently announced proposals to regulate the industry and to make other improvements, including professionalising it and reforming the property buying and selling process.
These new government plans mean it would become compulsory for estate agents – both in sales and lettings – to have a professional qualification and also to be 100% transparent about the fees they get for referring clients onto solicitors, mortgage brokers and surveyors.
Managing agents and freeholders would need to offer up-to-date information on leases for a set fee and within a set timetable. This, would, according to the government, put an end to the situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and agents.
There’ll also be a timeline for local authority searches so buyers can get the information they need within ten days. Alongside this will be guides telling people how to buy and how to sell so that all consumers are more informed about the property-buying process and their rights.
Conveyancers under scrutiny
There’s also a plan to bring consumer groups and conveyancers together to create a “consistent set of performance metrics for conveyancers” so that consumers can have more information – and thereby more power – to choose the best service available.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team will have more powers beyond those outlined in the Estate Agents Act (1979). It’ll be able to use more enforcement activity such as banning rogue estate agents and giving warnings to any not playing quite fair.
No more gazumping?
There’ll be more encouragement to use voluntary reservation agreements, which can help to prevent sales falling through because of gazumping. Gazumping is the bane of many a buyer’s life because they have agreed a price verbally with the seller, only to be outbid by another down the line.
An improvement in industry standards
Although the government recognises that rogue agents are rare, the estate agent sector needs to become more professional so it’s seen as more trustworthy and reliable, as well as accountable.
At present, anyone can become an estate agent and this does lead to the industry being accused of unprofessionalism and of being unscrupulous. If every agent has to be qualified, it tightens up the sector and increases trust in both the individuals within it and their ability to do the job.