It is now absolutely clear that an extension, probably of a whole year, is needed on the January 2014 deadline given by the Estate Agency Affairs Board to unqualified estate agents to obtain the now mandatory NQF4 and NQF5 qualifications, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group.
At the moment the Estate Agency Affairs Board expects all unqualified estate agents to pass their examinations and to be in possession of Fidelity Fund Certificates (which ‘licence’ them to operate as estate agents) by the January 2014 date mentioned.
Those estate agents who continue to do estate agency work without their FFCs in 2014 will, says the board, be operating illegally, their documentation can be challenged in law and they will not be entitled to collect fees.
“If the board sticks to their viewpoint,” says Clarke, “it will simply mean that for much of 2014 there will be too few estate agents to serve the South African residential market – especially in the previously disadvantaged areas, where currently very few estate agents are fully qualified. Almost certainly then what will happen is that homes will be sold ‘illegally’, i.e. by estate agents not in possession of FFCs . The residential sector’s efforts to transform the industry will be especially hard hit.”
Currently, says Clarke, only 32,718 South African estate agents have fidelity fund certificates, 10,373 are estate agency principals,12,160 are full estate agents, 10,183 are interns and 47 are attorneys. The EAAB cannot give accurate figures as to how many of these FFC carrying members have already acquired the mandatory qualifications.
Although ‘human nature’ (especially a tendency to postpone necessary action) can be partially blamed for the backlog of unqualified estate agents, the inefficiency of the EAAB has also helped to bring about this situation, says Clarke.
“The Board has consistently fallen behind on the deadlines which it was supposed to meet and for a long time, estate agents could not get the basic required training materials. Furthermore the setting up of the Professional Designation Examinations and the supply of training material for this examination are also many months late.”
Right now, says Clarke, the EAAB has not yet finalized the guidelines for one of its most important training programmes, the Continuous Professional Development initiative. For this training, which is mandatory for all qualified estate agents, the allocation of points for the various training initiatives has not yet been finalised and no one really knows how to go forward from here on. This, says Clarke, will cause a larger number of estate agents to fall behind on their training schedules.
On the positive side, said Clarke, it has to be recognised that the level of professionalism which the Estate Agency industry is now aiming at will make South African estate agents the best qualified and most regulated in the world today. While this is in every way to be welcomed, he said, it should also be recognised that over regulation can destroy initiative.