“COME ON AGENTS, LETS BE HAVING YOU?”

As you ought to know, the RICS and NAEA have jointly sponsored a review of the estate agency profession and asked the ex-director-general of OFT Sir Bryan Carsberg to undertake this review. You can learn more by going to http://www.rics.org/MyRICS/Regulation/carsberg_residential_review240907.htm. In particular, Sir Bryan has been asked to focus on regulation and redress in both sales and lettings, efficiency of transactions and development in technology and opportunities for innovation.

In addition to inviting comments from the profession, from interested parties and from the public, a team from RICS and NAEA will attend a series of regional consultation meetings that have been arranged. The first was held in Newcastle, the second in Manchester was cancelled but there are four more planned – in Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol and finally back in Manchester. 

Contributions are invited before mid-January and Sir Bryan hopes to report next spring.

I went along to the London meeting in St James’s last night where I expected the Great and the Good to be assembled to provide Sir Bryan with an insight into what is really wanted. Members of the National Association would join grandees of RICS I had thought and share their vision for the next generation. Consumer groups would plead for some kind of licensing, the Law Society as well as individual lawyers would explain the benefits of e-conveyencing (or more likely explain why they didn’t like the idea of e-conveyencing) and familiar faces from the heady world of London agency flush with record fees and big bonuses would be there to contribute experience and wisdom from the real world. In the event, I was one of just seventeen people who turned up, five of whom were from red-faced RICS acting as our hosts. Thank goodness that Sir Bryan hadn’t felt it necessary to attend. He might have got the wrong impression.

Although we were told that Sir Bryan is to meet with over 120 ‘interest groups’ over the next few weeks, a review of the UK private residential property market had managed to bring together just a dozen people in the Capital. If it hadn’t been quite so tragic, it would have been funny. RICS and NAEA have grasped the baton and invited everyone to contribute to a debate about the future of their industry and full marks to them for doing so. We discussed the merits of a Notary style system, of bringing in Home Condition Reports and of some form of licensing. We had a lawyer, an NAEA member from 300 miles away in the North, a trainee surveyor as well a sprinkling of ‘older’ hands. But, as we have seen with the Housing Act (and other Government legislation like smoking and hunting) it is only when the writing is on the wall that people bother to look up and take notice. It is only when we are forced to confront something like Home Information Packs that martyrs like Nick Salmon appear to lead but frankly, we shouldn’t need brave people like Nick who give up their time and income to help dig us out of a mess we have sleep-walked into. We have the opportunity to describe our idea of a perfect world before more Panorama-inspired legislation is forced upon us and we wake up complaining that no one consulted us. Well they did – they’re doing it now!

I’m afraid that ours is an idle profession where most people don’t care and expect others to sort things out for them. They are quick enough to whinge when they find that their old branch line has been ripped up or that they can’t hunt or smoke in their office but they do chuff-all about it. If I’m wrong, then Birmingham and Cardiff, Bristol and Manchester will be packed out but in the meantime, as you celebrate Christmas this year with another round of drinks, raise a glass please to James Scott-Lee, to Peter Bolton-King, to Nick Salmon and all the others before them who stood up to do your dirty work for you. You should appologise that you are too busy getting pissed to support their efforts to improve your industry but you should warn them that if they muck it up, you will unreasonably hold them responsible and will be joining the hoards calling for their resignation. It’s the sort of thing that happens to the national football team – but it shouldn’t happen to an industry like ours.