Qualifications and training – RoPA is coming, so get ahead of the game

Lisa Isaacs revisits RoPA and looks at what’s filling the gap while we wait for formal qualification requirements to arrive.

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Why is there a degree of apathy around formal property qualifications and training? Why, until something is mandated, do some agents fail to embrace mechanisms that could improve their staff’s ability and overall business proficiency?

Let’s look at the relationship between an employee’s desire to receive training, gain formal qualifications and see their career progress, and the resistance of agents to invest in and commit to the calibre of their workforce. We’re in a liminal time – one where we know a formal property qualification is coming – and one where we may even promise training and development when we’re recruiting – but also a time when experience is still the most desirable commodity when there’s a vacancy to fill.

Lynn Cannell LCA JobsWhile operating in this grey area, a mismatch between the industry’s outward projection that training and development are at the heart of its offering and what is actually achieved has developed, as observed by Lynn Cannell at LCA Jobs: “Whilst we have seen a definite increase in CVs with property qualifications over the past few years, with ARLA [Propertymark] being the most prominent, it remains a low percentage. This is surprising, given the increase in property organisations promoting their full support for training and development within the recruitment process.”

We have seen a strong shift towards employees favouring companies that offer a structured training programme when looking for new employment. Lynn Cannell, LCA Jobs.

Lynn says the disparity has led her to question why there are not more staff members completing courses and gaining qualifications. “We have seen a strong shift towards employees favouring companies that offer a structured training programme when looking for new employment. It is, however, outweighed by the number of agents who prefer candidates with experience over industry qualifications.”

Tellingly, Lynn’s observation that lettings qualifications are the most commonly seen suggest having passed formal exams – and therefore having accountable levels of skill and knowledge – are more valued in the PRS.

The conversation returns to RoPA

That could change if RoPA’s recommendations are adopted, which state that all staff delivering ‘reserved activities’ employed within a residential agency should hold a qualification at Level 3 or above, with Level 4 compulsory for owners/managers.


A quick Google search tells us the conversations around RoPA were loudest in 2019. Since then, mentions have been distinctly muffled. “Since the RoPA working group published its report, the current Conservative Government has continued to say the recommendations are being considered but no formal response to the report has been forthcoming,” comments Propertymark’s Nathan Emerson.

On the matter of who can offer a mandatory qualification, we believe reputable providers should be approved and appointed. These details have not been released. Nathan Emerson, CEO Propertymark.

“And on the matter of who can offer a mandatory qualification, we believe reputable providers should be approved and appointed. These details have not yet been released.”

Formal qualifications hold little sway

For now, estate agency qualifications are dancing on the periphery of the industry. It would appear the majority of agents support the move towards regulation and they are preparing their internal training structures in readiness to comply. The lack of formal qualifications listed on CVs, however, suggests that all the time they’re not compulsory, qualifications aren’t seen as an immediate concern.

Experience first. Until the industry is regulated, the majority of agents will not embrace qualifications and personal development.

Still reigning supreme when it comes to employment prospects is experience. Joshua Rayner at Rayner Personnel agrees with Lynn on the point of lettings and the need for a formal qualification. On the flipside, he rarely has agents saying ‘I need someone qualified’ when filling a sales vacancy.

“Experience first,” says Joshua. “Until the industry is regulated, the majority of agents will not embrace qualifications and personal development.” He adds that having a number of years’ experience still matters while, sadly, a qualification is a ‘nice to have’ but not essential.

Joshua does, however, have a slight revision of his opinion when it comes to proptech. “Some clients insist candidates have a minimal education of a degree to even be shortlisted for a proptech role within their organisation and it’s the same with financial advisers being CeMap qualified.”

Qualifications are no longer deemed an essential requirement – the focus has now shifted to the right attitude, behaviours and personable skills of the individual. Ryan Doyle, Deverell Smith.

Ryan Doyle Deverell SmithThe current indifference around property qualifications is also showing at Deverell Smith. Ryan Doyle at the property recruitment specialist has actually seen a dip in demand for relevant qualifications within estate agency. “Qualifications are no longer deemed an essential requirement but an additional bonus,” says Ryan. “The focus in hiring has now shifted to the right attitude, behaviours and personable skills of the individual.”

Return on investment

Contentious as it may be, Ryan doesn’t believe that property qualifications can earn an agent more money or help them secure a job. “Qualifications will positively contribute to your overall knowledge but, ultimately, won’t determine your salary. In our opinion, the defining factors regarding how much money an agent makes is personable skills, relationship building, knowledge of a geographical patch and efficiency in work ethic.”

Ryan goes on to add that candidates who have been unsuccessful in applying for estate agency jobs shouldn’t rush out and get qualified to improve their prospects. “Of course, obtaining a property qualification is ultimately only going to upskill your CV but there is a significant cost and time required to study and complete exams. If I was advising a candidate who is new to the industry, my first point would be: are you right for this estate agency and do your personal skills compliment the job specification? This is a customer-facing role, personable skills are at the core of how to succeed.”

Nathan, however, is at odds with Ryan when it comes to the benefit of formal qualifications. “Not only are qualifications advantageous for a business model but also lucrative for the employees themselves. Those with a Propertymark qualification are likely to get between £2,000 and £4,000 extra in salary.”

Charlotte Jeffrey The Able AgentCharlotte Jeffrey-Campbell at The Able Agent concurs. She says agents who train and gain qualifications to increase their knowledge base can expect to earn a higher wage and their employers should be prepared to manage this.

“Faced with the need to adapt and differentiate in order to thrive in this difficult market, I firmly believe that every agent should be looking towards having recognised qualifications with post-nominals (letters after their name),” she comments.

Post nominals command instant recognition, and are the quickest and easiest way to communicate credentials… and a commitment to continue their professional development. Charlotte Jeffrey, The Able Agent.

“Post nominals command instant recognition, and are the quickest and easiest way to communicate credentials. They also highlight the company and agents’ commitment to continue in their professional development.”

Ryan does concede on the point that qualifications do carry weight and professional gravitas. “Historically, qualifications would be seen by business owners as an important tool to show their customers that they fully understand the legalities behind selling, renting or managing an asset.”

With RoPA still on the radar, post nominals after every estate agent’s name is a reality. Maybe a compulsory qualification will revolutionise how consumers view estate agents? Maybe it will mark agency out as a skilled profession and not ‘just another sales job’?

The truth about training

While we wait for a formal qualification to arrive, more attention is being placed on staff training. The topic is a weirdly fractious one, with a long-held belief among some agents that they will spend time and money training staff, only for employees to take their new-found knowledge somewhere else.

The topic was discussed at The Negotiator’s recent conference. When delivering his Top 10 Ps for Estate Agency Success seminar, Michael Day at Integra Property Services (with an impressive set of letters after his name, including MBA FRICS FNAEA and FARLA) highlighted the importance of people.

Michael’s thoughts should allay the fears of agents who think training only benefits a competitor. “People are the largest area of expenditure in a business, so get the best from employees. Look after them and engage in training so they’re the best they can be. Untrained, unskilled staff who stick around are worse than great staff who may leave.” Michael also added that training allows an agent to be consistent with its proposition, which can prevent poor customer service.

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Lack of career progression can deter applicants

Enriching a workforce via training is a sentiment reflected by Charlotte: “Agents should not be scared to invest in training and qualifications for their staff. It’s actually rare that we see employees who become more qualified or developed leave for another job.”

Charlotte adds that problems can arise if an agent doesn’t provide any opportunity for development: “When training isn’t provided, swathes will leave to go to a more supportive employer – one who is ready to fund training.”

“And those agents who do go on to qualify through training – where costs were covered by their employer – are generally more loyal in the workplace. It’s something we see time and again. A lack of career progression is an issue in our industry. The focus needs to be around upskilling staff because those who feel promoted and rewarded will be less likely to leave.”

Phasing out bad habits

Training is more than a tick box exercise when trying to attract new talent or retain existing staff. Older and experienced agents may want to look away now but training also prevents new joiners and younger team members from picking up bad habits from their peers.

When asked if mimicking the working style of colleagues can be a negative thing, Charlotte says it’s important to be mindful that it’s easy to get into bad habits and for these habits to rub off on others.

“It’s vital to embrace new approaches to agency and the skills of the younger generation, as well as the nature of a more youthful target audience,” says Charlotte. “For example, people want new methods of finding a property on social media. If an older management team doesn’t relate to this, they won’t see the value in social media, which could restrict growth.”

“We are in a period of change. Technology is evolving and AI presents a huge opportunity. Not having a ‘bottom up’ mentality of teams sharing ideas and updates with senior management may mean opportunities are missed.”

What next?

While a timeline for RoPA’s recommendations to be implemented remains unknown, we do know agents are already questioning who initiates a formal qualification? Lynn notes that there is already interest from candidates who want join a company that provides training and puts employees through exams. “The responsibility presently appears to be weighted on the employer to be the provider, as opposed to an expectation among employers for candidates to come pre-qualified,” says Lynn.

The questions continue. Should those brand new to agency get qualified using their own initiative (and money) before they apply for jobs? Should agents with vast amounts of experience be made to sit an exam to become formally qualified? On the latter, Nathan says that regardless of how long they have been working in the industry, it is “likely that all property agents will be required to be qualified in order to practise.”

We could be heading for a stalemate, with talent being lost at both ends of the experience spectrum if and when a mandatory qualification is introduced. More immediately, Joshua is worried by the LinkedIn Analytics statistic that reveals UK property is losing 5% of its workforce every year.

“We are a declining industry and therefore the need for experienced people to replace experienced individuals leaving the sector is the issue.” Where a formal qualification fits into this picture is up for debate.

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