90% of house buyers want estate agents to be regulated

 

Nine out of 10 home-buyers believe estate agents should be forced to meet an industry-wide set of regulations to make sure they are up to scratch, research has found.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said its findings had uncovered a "shocking lack of consumer trust" in the estate agency profession.

It said there should be a national set of rules to raise standards for estate agents and give buyers and sellers more clarity than the current "complex" system of regulations.

Under the current rules, only agents who belong to a professional body are obliged to meet minimum competency standards, RICS said.

It said those who belong to organisations like its own face sanctions if they act inappropriately, which could lead to them losing their chartered status in the worst cases, meaning they can no longer carry out certain types of work.

The body surveyed more than 1,000 people who had bought a home or had a valuation in the last five years and found that 91% felt buyers would be better protected if there was compulsory regulation to ensure estate agents meet minimum standards.

Only around half (54%) of people who said they had not checked if their agent was a regulated member of a professional body said they trusted them to give "honest and truthful" advice.

Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "These results show a shocking lack of consumer trust in the estate agency profession.

"Clearly, when people are making the biggest purchase of their lives, they want to know that they can trust their agent and the advice they're given."

Mr Bolton King said that although all estate agents must have a redress scheme, these only deal with complaints after something has gone wrong.

He said: "This is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. What is needed is compulsory regulation for all agents that helps to raise standards and prevent problems from occurring in the first place."

The findings come at a time when the housing market continues to be subdued. Land Registry figures released last week showed that house sales have been more sluggish than they were a year ago, with just over 52,300 sales a month on average between April and July this year, compared with almost 55,000 sales a month during the same period in 2011.

Mr Bolton King said that the boost given to consumer confidence from a standardised set of rules could also help to bolster the housing market.

He said of the current situation: "It's crazy. There needs to be a better approach to this.

"There needs to be some sort of framework to help the industry sort this out."

Mark Hayward, president of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), said: "This survey underlines the critical need for better regulation across the housing sector.

"Because of a lack of Government action, the NAEA launched its own licensing scheme two years ago, to ensure consumers have confidence that they are dealing with a professional, qualified estate agent. But the NAEA can only account for its own members."

PA

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