Estate agents in England will be required to hold a professional qualification as part of new measures to clean up the house-buying market, the Government has announced.
The measures, announced by Housing Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday, will also require agents to disclose any commission they get for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers.
It's hoped the rules will speed up the process of buying a property and reduce the uncertainty created by practices such as gazumping - where someone makes a higher offer for a house than someone whose offer has already been accepted by the seller.
There are around 20,000 estate agent businesses across the country, and currently anyone can practice as an estate agent, even if they don't have qualifications.
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What exactly is changing?
The Government has said it hopes to introduce the professional qualification requirement by the end of this year, though it's unclear when the other changes will be put in place.
The Government has said it will:
- Require estate agents to have professional qualifications.
- Require agents to disclose any commission they get for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers.
- Encourage the wider use of voluntary reservation agreements - in which a buyer puts down a non-refundable deposit to reserve a property - to help prevent sales falling through via 'gazumping'.
- Strengthen the National Trading Standards team estate agency team so they can carry out more enforcement activity.
- Set a timeline for local authority searches (searches which let buyers know about things in the local area which could devalue their property) so they are complete within 10 days.
'Buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system'
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life.
"But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.
"So we're going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of 'rogue agents' and can trust the process when buying or selling their home."