There is a disconnect in the property industry, and much work to be done to correct perceptions of the sector. It wasn’t that long ago that the role of estate agents was featured in the list of the least trusted UK professionals, despite research from the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showing the majority of home buyers and sellers have satisfaction levels with estate agents above 80%.
It’s therefore time for the industry to come together to bring those views in line with the reality of the role and the crucial part that estate agents play in an often life-changing decision.
Elevating the industry’s image
While impressions can be hard to change, highlighting and promoting what goes on ‘behind the scenes’, including the training, skills and drive needed to work in the industry, is key to elevate the standing of the estate agent profession. With expert local knowledge and an understanding of the wider property market, estate agents can become trusted advisors to their customers – delivering the high levels of satisfaction reflected in the BEIS study. However, to gain that trust, in a highly competitive market, agents need the right skills and qualifications.
The recently-launched Government Kickstart scheme is one way for the industry to ensure that those interested in the estate agent profession are given a chance to gain the necessary skills and grounding to become a trusted and knowledgeable professional. The scheme provides funding for employers to create new six-month job placements for people aged 16-24. Kickstart will deliver the opportunity for our industry to change perceptions from the ground up, positioning the sector as desirable and one in which to ultimately build a valuable career, not just a job.
This is extremely important in the current economic climate, especially given recent news that the UK unemployment rate has reached its highest level in three years. As a result, a lot of workers are looking for job security – or even a job – whilst home buyers are more wary of making big decisions and are currently more cautious of where to invest their money. Positioning the housing sector as a desirable sector to both work in and trust during times of uncertainty is a major step the property industry can take to tackle unfair and unwarranted public perception.
Apprenticeships take centre stage
While the Kickstart scheme has given the profession a robust channel through which to engage, enthuse and educate the next generation of estate agents, it is crucial that this positive initiative is backed up with continued career and skill development. Only then will reputations remain strong across the industry.
This is where apprenticeship schemes come into their own. Typically associated with learning a new skill from scratch, including hairdressing or plumbing, in the property world, apprenticeships are key to building local knowledge and sales skills for estate agents. This includes upskilling agents and supporting teams to become knowledgeable, trusted advisors and ensuring they have a deep understanding of the market so they can pass that knowledge on to their peers and customers.
Apprenticeships play a key role at LRG and very much support the recommendations by the Regulation of Property Agents working group to highlight the value and need for standards across the sector, minimum entry requirements and continued professional development. Talented and driven individuals who thrive on the Kickstart scheme and want to pursue a career in the industry will be offered apprenticeships with LRG, to continue their training and add value to not just our company but the wider industry, and ultimately, our customers.
As well as those just starting out on the career ladder, age or previous experience is no barrier to apprenticeships, with qualifications available for those at all levels – whether you’re starting out or developing new skills. Indeed, figures show that 2018/2019 saw the largest increase in apprenticeships by those aged between 35 and 44, with 21% more starts in that age group than in 2017/18.
Promoting positive change
There is uncertainty for the future of many industries in the current climate. Every sector is having to adapt and evolve in order to survive. People will always need to rent, buy and sell property, so it is in the best interests of the industry to make sure the sales process is as smooth and supportive as possible. This requires the best local professionals, with the right skills, who are given a clear career path to build trust with clients and position the industry as supportive and transparent.
The property market is in a strong position to elevate career opportunities and promote the qualifications and skills for estate agents looking to take the next step. We have seen first-hand how industry apprenticeships can dispel myths and gain the trust of customers and potential job applicants. It is up to the industry as a whole to put the emphasis on skills, qualifications and training, to bring everyone up to the same level so that we can shift any negative perceptions of estate agents. Through embracing this approach, we robustly support the call for more regulation, training and support across the industry.
Hannah Cooper, Group HR Director, LRG