Why does the general public have such a poor perception of agents?
Is it because they are often image-conscious, relatively young, and not recognisably qualified?
Anyone who has tried to buy, sell, rent, or let a property in the UK has a negative story to tell about an estate or letting agent, and with minimal levels of regulation, few barriers to entry, and a lack of a tangible product, it is easy to see why.
Can a leopard change its spots?
Gaining an industry-level, legally-required qualification would not only ‘weed out’ those agents who are treating the job as just a pay-packet rather than a career, but it would also mean that the general public would treat agents with a little more respect to begin with and, as you can imagine, they will receive a better service as a result.
If you walk into a pub and ask for a pint, and while the barman is pulling it you say “And make sure it’s not watered-down” without a hint of sarcasm, you can safely say that the pint will be lifeless, with a big head, and generally unpalatable. Funnily enough, this is just how an agent should treat you when you walk into their work place and make assumptions as to their credibility and ability. But they have to smile, keep calm and carry on, because landlords and tenants alike are an agent’s lifeblood.
So how can agents turn their public perception into that of a US-style ‘Realtor’, one of their most revered professions?
Agents, like landlords, should embrace further regulation (not bureaucracy – that’s another issue!) in order to distance themselves from rogues and protect the idea that renting is just as viable an option as buying.
Because property investment is a long-term endeavour, landlords can be forgiven for being short-sighted and trying to save every penny, whether it is on buildings insurance, repairs, or the agent’s fee. But why do we, as landlords, have to use a Gas Safe-registered plumber and an NICEIC-registered electrician, but not an ‘insert-acronym-here’-registered agent? After all, it’s all well and good getting a gas safety certificate, but who’s going to monitor when it expires, keep up with changes to legislation, provide copies to the tenant, and arrange for a new one? Yes we can all do this ourselves, but we can also clean our own cars, clear our own gutters, and do our own tax returns, but we pay professionals for speed and peace of mind.
The future’s tight, the future’s change
Agents need to shape-up, there’s no doubting that. But it costs time and money to gain qualifications so unless agents are forced to do so, they won’t, because why should they? And so it comes down on the landlords and tenants as customers, to demand more, expect more, but most importantly, pay a fair price for quality service, without it leaving a bitter taste in their mouths.