The government has revealed a huge overhaul of the industry and sales process that for many estate agents will be a once-in-a-lifetime revolution in the way they do business.
Announced yesterday by Housing Secretary Sajid Javid, they are backed by the National Association of Estate Agents.
The new measures include mandatory qualifications for agents and greater transparency about referral fees when passing on client leads to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers.
“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,” says NAEA Chief Executive Mark Hayward (left).
Other measures include the introduction of ‘voluntary reservation agreements’ to stop gazumping, although these will only be encouraged, not enforced.
Javid also says he wants to limit how long local authorities take to complete local searches to ten days, and force managing agents and freeholders to provide information about leaseholds more promptly.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, which after a flurry of activity last year has been quiet of recent, will be given more funding and have its role extended including to investigate and ban errant agents.
The government has justified its reform of the profession with its own research, which it says shows nearly half of sellers thought their buyer might pull out of the deal while a quarter would use a different agent next time they sold a property.
“We’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat,” says Savid Javid.
“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.”
But the measures weren’t universally applauded. Buying agent and media commentator Henry Pryor (right) said: “Whilst almost everyone says there is a problem less than 1% of people who could have complained about an estate or letting agent actually contacted an Ombudsman last year.”
A timetable for the introduction of the new measures has yet to be announced.