Magnifying glass in front of an open newspaper with paper houses. Concept of rent, search, purchase real estate.Government plans to professionalise the estate agent market and crack down on ‘rogue’ agents have been welcomed by industry bodies.  Estate agents will have to hold professional qualifications and be transparent about referral fees that they receive in the future.

Over a million houses are bought and sold in the UK every year – but around a quarter fall though and more than six out of ten buyers and sellers find the process stressful.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced plans which it says will drive up standards.  These include:

  • Estate Agents will be required to hold professional qualifications
  • Fees earned from referring clients to solicitors, mortgage brokers and surveyors must be disclosed
  • Clients will be encouraged to sign ‘lock-in’ agreements to reduce gazumping
  • Local authority searches must be completed within 10 days
  • Managing agents and freeholders must provide up to date lease information for a set fee
  • Trading standards to be strengthened to allow more enforcement action, including banning agents

In further steps, the government is planning to publish guides on ‘how to buy’ and ‘how to sell’, so that customers are better informed.  It also wants to introduce performance metrics for conveyancers and speed local government searches through better technology.

Industry bodies have welcomed the government’s plans.

We particularly welcome the commitment to further regulation,” said Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark.  “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.”

Paula Higgins, CEO the Homeowners Alliance, said: “These reforms – which the HOA called for – will go a long way to bring more certainty for homeowners and help stop sales falling through.  In an industry tarnished by Wild West attitudes, these reforms will send the cowboys packing.”

Brunel Professions believe the plans could reduce negligence claims.

 “These plans will benefit the vast majority of estate agents who provide their clients with an excellent service,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions.  “Removing the rogues and reinforcing quality in the market should reduce negligence claims, which could attract more insurers into the market – hopefully reducing premiums.

The government has published a press release announcing its proposals.  Reports on the plans have been published by BBC News, YourMoney and FT Adviser.

Brunel provides a wide range of Professional Indemnity Insurance broking services to property professionals.  Click here to find out more, or call Mark Sommariva on 0203 475 3275.