Mad plan to license estate agents is just a membership drive

In a move worthy of General Melchett, the Stephen Fry parody of Earl Haig and the Great War generals, the National Association of Estate Agents has announced that henceforth it’s membership cards can be turned over and will double as a ‘license’ with the result that this morning two thirds of practicing estate agents are apparently not qualified to carry out their business. I am one.

Sadly the Captain Darling of the piece, Peter Bolton King the NAEA Chief Executive has allowed his masters to mistake a worthy aim to which many in the industry aspire with a cheap publicity stunt to bolster a falling membership. The public will be more confused than ever since some will no doubt fall for this shabby rouse and may think that they can not deal with someone who happens not to be a member of a club.

More than two thirds of estate agents – including all those who are Chartered Surveyors and members of RiCS do not carry the property equivalent of a Kidney Donor card. My membership of the AA doesn’t replace my driving license – this is a cheap stunt that has backfired.

Housing minister Grant Shapps is reported to have welcomed this move as a sensible alternative to government legislation. He seems easily impressed – if he and the National Association are to be believed, the cost of this exercise is the 20,000 estate agents who are now facing unemployment or the costs of re-training to meet the membership, sorry ‘license’ criteria required to join the NAEA.

It remains to be seen whether the public will be fooled into asking estate agents for the ‘Corgi’ style licenses that gas engineers are required to hold. The NAEA backed away from supporting a genuine industry-wide initiative earlier this year that could have delivered a robust and credible licensing scheme. Rather than support the raising of standards across the entire industry they have opted for a lame ‘land grab’ for new members. The National Association could have served both it’s existing members and the profession far better had they worked with the majority of practicing estate agents who presently see no benefit in being a member of their organisation.