The face of the real estate industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. Prior to 2008, the industry was bedevilled by rumours of botched deals and unscrupulous fly-by-night agents out to make a quick buck. Thanks to massive legislative and educational reforms both within and without the industry, such issues are now the exception rather than the norm.
According to Dina Porteous, a director of Real Estate Business Owners of SA, prior to 2008 there were few barriers to becoming an estate agent and, at the time, approximately 90 000 agents were active within the industry. However, mid-2008, the Estate Agents Affairs Board (EAAB) introduced more stringent requirements and qualification criteria which, coupled with the economic downturn saw the industry shed almost two thirds of its agents. Now, around 25 000 agents are registered with the EAAB.
Qualifications are key
Key to the reform has been the introduction of the EAAB’s NQF qualifications as legislated by the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA). New entrants to the industry are required to achieve the Real Estate (NQF level 4), complete a 12-month internship under the mentorship of an experienced estate agent and write and pass a professional designate exam (PDE) at the end of their internship.
If the aspirant estate agent holds a degree or national diploma in specific fields such as, for example, business administration, he could possibly be exempt from having to achieve the NQF requirements. That said, the internship and PDE requirements still apply.
A Real Estate NQF 4 RPL programme was also implemented alongside the reforms of 2008. This programme is designed to assist experienced real estate agents attain the necessary qualifications through a process of Recognition of Prior Learning. Porteous explains that those who qualify under this banner don’t have to undergo the full qualification process but are expected to meet the accreditation requirements of the EAAB, which have effectively aligned the professional education and training requirements of the real estate profession with those of the legal and accounting professions.
Of course the process has not progressed without its fair share of hiccups. For instance, Porteous explains that industry uptake has been stymied to an extent because various players believe the programmes and training are too residential-centric and should be re-contextualised within the various sectors. Lack of timely issuance of Fidelity Fund certificates and a lack of awareness as to who actually constitutes an estate agent have also proven problematic.
“That said, there can be no doubt that the industry has cleaned up its act and that the quality of service being rendered is of a far better calibre,” notes Porteous. “Education is about professionalism, and those who have stayed in the industry, or are entering it, are prepared to put in the effort and provide a professional service. Of course there is room for improvement and we’d like to see more specialisation and a greater level of transformation but overall the industry can be proud of what it’s achieved to date.”
She adds that the fact that consumers are also now far more aware and educated has also helped improve industry standards but that there is scope for improvement on this score.
Clients who want to assess the professional abilities of an estate agent before making a commitment should ask:
Can the agent show that he has a firm, up-to-date grasp of the neighbourhood’s property prices and trends, which could have an effect on the property’s sale or rental?
Can the agent give a comprehensive, written marketing plan, based on a thorough and comparative market analysis?
Does the agent’s company offer on-going training on all matters, including the legislation and financial issues surrounding property deals?