Death, divorce and moving house - long regarded as three of the most stressful experiences you are likely to have. While estate agents cannot take all the blame for the stress of moving, they are certainly unpopular, with research showing that almost a quarter of sellers would choose a different agent next time. 

Yesterday, the Government announced plans aimed at driving up professionalism within estate agency and streamlining the conveyancing process. 

Many consumers might be surprised to note that currently anyone can set themselves up as an estate agent; there is no requirement for any qualifications. In an age of increased risk and regulation, this is something of an anomaly, and one that is set to end.

Under the plans, estate agents will be required to hold a professional qualification and to be transparent about the fees they receive for referring their clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers. 

Other measures designed to make the system easier, faster and more transparent include:

  • encouraging the use of "voluntary reservation agreements" to help prevent sales falling through and to tackle gazumping;
  • setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days;
  • requiring managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable; and 
  • strengthening the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so they can carry out more enforcement activity which includes banning agents.

Of course qualifications in themselves do not guarantee a professional service but the proposals seem sensible. We will have to wait and see whether they improve the experience for consumers.