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.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: 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. 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. Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark said: We particularly welcome the commitment to further regulation - we have 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.