The professionalism and general competency of SA estate agents will be noticeably improved in years to come, says Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties, - and the catalyst bringing this about will be more comprehensive compulsory professional qualifications.

As has been widely publicised, by 2010 every one of SA’s 73 000 registered estate agents will have had to pass the National Qualification Framework’s Level Four examinations.

These have been drawn up by a “standard generating body”, in conjunction with such roleplayers as the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa, both of whom report to the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA).

Any agent failing to comply with the training requirements will not be issued with a Fidelity Fund Certificate and will, therefore, be disqualified from selling property. However, new agents can operate for a year, with a learners’ certificate under the mentorship of a qualified agent.

So far, so good.

Now the NQF criteria have been extended to make it obligatory for estate agency principals to pass an even more stringent Level Five examination, designed specifically for them. If they fail to do this, they will be disqualified from acting as principals.

Clarke, who was a member of the standard generating body responsible for drawing up levels Four and Five, said that the qualification will be registered by January 2008. It will, he said, go a long way to raising standards among principals. There is a strong emphasis on correct business practice, accounting, communication and staff motivation and the industry,
he adds, has room for improvement in all these fields. A new code of conduct will also result in higher ethical standards.

The good news, says Clarke, is that the current principals and agents can qualify through a process, called Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) which takes account of their track record and experience. The RPL arrangement allows principals to prove that they have acquired the skills to act as heads of agencies. This could mean that they only have to complete some of the unit standards required for the Level Five exams.

Further good news, said Clarke, is that current principals (as at 31 December 2007) will not be required to first complete the RPL process at NQF Level Four, but can immediately be assessed at NQF Level Five.

“As always, when something new and revolutionary – with a huge potential for raising standards – is mooted, there has been some scepticism about what it will achieve. However, the signs are now unmistakable that the industry will by these measures be raised to a true profession, one for which the education standards will be demanding. We are entering a new era, in which estate agents in SA are on the same level as those in other progressive parts of the world – and in which the principals will be well equipped to cope with their demanding jobs.”
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