Chris asks Rachel: Why should estate agents be qualified?

Christopher Watkin is a renowned property journalist who guides, supports, mentors, consults, counsels, and partners with hundreds of UK Letting & Estate Agents in their quest to grow their lettings and estate agencies businesses. He invited our MD Rachel Ritson to his studio in Grantham for a series of video interviews all about the property industry.  This is the first in our video series:

Why should estate and letting agents be qualified?

Rachel and Chris talk property industry qualifications.

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(Chris): Hi it’s Chris Watkin here and I am joined by the wonderful Rachel Ritson who is an estate agent from Cumbria and has been described by Property Academy‘s Peter Knight as one of the best estate agents in the UK.

I want to talk to you about RoPA, formal qualifications for estate agents, why people don’t grow up wanting to be an estate agent, and how the industry could be more respected because of qualifications.

So…. Rachel, do you think all estate agents should have a qualification?

(Rachel): Yes I think they should. We moan that estate agency is not viewed as a professional service so we need to take that on board.  We need to decide what we are going to do about that, and stop moaning about it!

(Chris): Ok, so the ROPA regulations are suggesting (although that is not set in stone yet) that all customer facing employees need to be qualified to Ofqual Level 3, and you, as a boss, need to be Level 4 qualified. An NVQ Level 4 qualification cannot be done by you just rocking up at the test centre, it is serious stuff.

Are you prepared to do a level 4 qualification?

(Rachel): Yes. I would be actually. I am passionate that we are perceived as unprofessional, anybody can set up an estate agency, so we have to put our money where our mouth is!

(Chris): Some estate agents are saying that they have been in the business so long that they should be ‘grandfathered’ or ‘passported’ through, is that fair?

(Rachel): If they have been in the business that long, and they have that much experience, then it shouldn’t take them too much effort to pass that exam.

(Chris): So if someone has been in the business for 30-40 years, it shouldn’t give them – in your opinion – an automatic right to not have to take those qualifications.

(Rachel): No because it’s a long time to be in an industry but things change, you can drive cars until you are 70 or 80, but if I was asked to take the highway code, then I would probably fail it!  So even if it is seen as a refresher, if we are to get the respect for the industry then it has to come with the accreditation.

(Chris): So do you think that we will lose people from the industry because they will refuse to take the exam?

(Rachel): I think anybody reasonable who values their business, and values estate agency, would respect that legislation. Ok it might be a bit of a ball-ache but accept that ‘them’s the rules’ and we just have to get on with it!

(Chris): Ok so that is existing estate agents, but what about school kids..? Do you think that if they want to become estate agents should they be taking qualifications themselves?

(Rachel): I think if there were NVQs or apprenticeship schemes which gave them entry into the industry, I do not think there is anything wrong with working and studying at the same time, that would work well for estate agency. This job is so much more than just customer service, we need negotiating skills, we need to fully understand the sales process from start to finish, know all the legislation, stamp duty and all of those sorts of things.

(Chris): I only just found out over the weekend that there are a couple of further education colleges who provide an estate or letting agency qualification, one in Brighton, between the ages of 16-18.  Were you aware of that? I think that is wonderful, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some college leavers who knew what they were talking about!

(Rachel): Yes 100% agree with that! For it then to be perceived as a career path. You can come into estate agency – start on front desk, do the whole customer service piece, you might want to head off into sales, or customer service might be your thing, it might be property management you then might want to get into people management to own your own business. There are lots of different routes through estate agency where you can progress.  It should be perceived as an exciting career.

(Chris): So why do you think people don’t want to be estate agents, or don’t grow up wanting to be estate agents?

(Rachel): I don’t think they grow up not wanting to be estate agents, I just don’t think they’re aware of the depth of the job and the job satisfaction it offers.

(Chris): Would you change industries now?  Would you want to change industries?  Or do you now have the words ‘estate agent’ if I cut you in half?

(Rachel): I would love to be a part of representing estate agency better.  Absolutely.

(Chris): I’m talking more about being an estate agent.  Thank you though, I know that is one of the reasons you are here today.  But do you think you could change career, could you decide to be an accountant tomorrow for instance?  Or is estate agency now in your blood?

(Rachel): I love the variety of the job, I love the people.  I love the fact that we solve issues for people.  No, it’s me now.

(Chris): It is the best job in the world, isn’t it?

(Rachel): It’s a bloody good job! And that perception that we just stand at a door and let people into a house.  The amount of people who come into the industry and say “oh my gosh, I didn’t realise how hard it is”.  It’s that we have to get across.

(Chris): And what would your message be to 16,17,18 year olds watching this video and are thinking about being an estate agent?

(Rachel): There is an exciting career there and every day is different.  Systems and processes are the same but the minute you layer in people. That’s when it gets complicated!

(Chris): There are estate agency platforms where you can do estate or letting agency qualifications off your own back and they are not that expensive either.  I don’t know about you, but if there were 2 candidates in front of you and one had the qualification and one didn’t, if they both had the right attitude, I know who I’d choose.

(Rachel): Yes of course they have the grounding there.

(Chris): Thank you for your time today Rachel. Let’s hope that with the introduction of ROPA (Regulations of Property Agents) we can turn the job back into a profession as it was seen to be in the 70s.  That would also help to earn decent money, as fees have been coming down over the past 15 years and that’s hard.