Estate agency industry faces shortage of highly trained staff

It is nearly two years now since the government announced that sales and lettings agents would need to be qualified, licensed and regulated – and we’re now waiting with bated breath for the timescale for this to be introduced.

Paul Smith

In my opinion, and as someone who has lobbied government ministers for 20 years on this matter, it can’t come soon enough.

The current massive upsurge in property demand has highlighted an extreme shortage of highly trained and experienced estate agents.

Across our own agency group, which has 2,000 staff, we are constantly looking to recruit the best candidates but finding only three out of 10 applicants come with any relevant experience.

Many of those applying are coming from retail and hospitality, looking to retrain following the pandemic, and are fantastic candidates with customer service running through their core.

But how much better it would be for all if they could have achieved their qualifications before stepping through the door, in a similar way to the financial services profession.

We, as an industry, should have come together to create our own Centre of Excellence for Estate Agency, so we could have had the next generation of estate agents already trained and qualified and ready to serve the public.

People also need to understand the importance of equality and diversity, something they may not have been used to if working in other professions beforehand. Everyone needs to show respect and all get on, and be part of the estate agency family of the UK.

Many agencies, my own included, have a robust and ongoing internal training scheme, supported by external training providers, along with a career path into more senior roles. Others prefer to train their staff on the job, supported by more experienced staff members.

But my real concern is for those agencies that have no-one to show newcomers the ropes and are throwing people in at the deep end, without the necessary training and understanding that is required.

It is important that estate agency is not seen as a ‘chancers’ job, with people trying to make a fast buck. This is not just about buying and selling homes but about meeting people’s aspirations and fulfilling their dreams.

In order to achieve this, staff need proper training and, if we get this right, this could be the rebirth of a golden age of estate agency.

We could have all paid a levy for a licensing scheme, with professional staff delivering mandatory qualifications in every aspect of our industry, including legislation surrounding money laundering and property misdescription, as well as important personal skills including customer service.

If everyone was graded and had achieved the right certificates, we could have been in charge of our own standards as a profession. instead, it will now be in the hands of a new regulator, with all the costs that this entails.

People must aspire to become estate agents. The rewards will be great if we offer impeccable service and standards. The public must be able to choose estate agents they trust – and not just because someone has a nice ad campaign or a stylish sign over the door.

Paul Smith is chief executive officer of Spicerhaart.

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22 Comments

  1. Estateagent123454321

    Look after your staff, the Spicerhaart “family” revolving door won’t need to recruit as much.

     

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  2. Casualobserver

    This guy must have the skin of a rhino.   Isn’t this the same man whose own moral compass went off the charts with how he treated his staff only 12 months ago when he threw a load of them under the bus and didn’t know whether they could pay their rent or feed their families when he could have used the furlough route and done the right thing.

    Perhaps he should take his responsibility towards this shortage of staff in his position, when companies such as his do nothing to inspire confidence that this is an industry where skill and talent will be rewarded and respected.

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  3. James White

    With so many reports of verbal abuse from clients across the Agency and Conveyancing sectors over the last year is it any wonder?

    Too many directors refusing flexible working practices won’t help their causes either.

    The pandemic has created a desire for a greater life/work balance; those firms that embrace that will attract the talent.

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    1. AlwaysAnAgent

      And someone working in a supermarket or petrol station doesn’t have to put with difficult or rude customers? It’s the same in every trade which is public facing.

      I wonder if the local supermarket checkout staff will be demanding the flexibility to work from home.

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      1. James White

        Normalising abuse would not perhaps have been my first response.
        Times have changed for many.
        Many have left or won’t join businesses that don’t fit with their desires or needs.
        With a skills shortage comes more power to the workforce… fairly simple really.

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  4. Hillofwad71

    However some big cheeses in the industry have chosen to ignore the changing landscape and still happy to recruit  new franchisees with zero qualifications and experience when licencing is on the horizon
      “The EweMove Way is tried, tested and remarkable. Here’s why it works so well when used by experienced estate agents.”
     
    I guess the sad underlying message here it doesn’t work quite so  well  for those who aren’t as evidenced  by the high failure rates which are firmly buried .  
     
    They continue  to recruit inexperienced franchisees some with no business experience but this  is somehow justifiable  by the success stories Let others roll on year by year  accumulating  debt with an inventory unable to service

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    1. jan - byers

      Licensing

      I started as a junior in 1981 licensing was being talked about then

      In effect all licensing will be able to do is possibly ban dodgy agents from trading – or will it – who knows

      All franchise groups take on anyone who can pay the up front joining costs

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      1. Gonzo38

        Franchising maybe, licensing, nope.

        Why? Franchise model is about an up front fee and a clip of the ticket, licensing on the whole is about transactional fee share.

        So the success of the licensor is directly related to, and they care bout, the success of the licensee.

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  5. smile please

    Spicerhart binning off staff at the first opportunity at the start of covid, losing Paul Sloan due to unconfirmed poor culture at the company.

    Paul Smith has the brass neck to come on here and moan about lack of quality available staff.

    Get your own house in order mate!

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  6. majortom1

    Seemed a good suggestion to me-pretty much every agent I have spoken to admits the same shortage of staff-this story typically met with a torrent of abuse with nothing constructive to say

    Need a new PB story to feed the trolls.

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  7. 00-AGENT

    There are plenty very skilled and highly trained agents out there but they build their branches up to become market leaders you will never attract them nor their staff – if you want to reset your branches running at loss you need to put up some serious six figures dough to attract BM’s who will build back up from scratch and get the job done which wont take 5 minutes either

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  8. conoco9

    I worked for a major corporate for a few years and I will say that that the middle management such as area directors are a disgrace to this profession. No forward thinking, just yes men looking after their Audis and inflated salary. That is where the training is needed.

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  9. Ric

    I’ve got more staff than stock.

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  10. jan - byers

    Problem is most companies pay poorly

     

    When i got into the business on 1978 it was well ;paid

    in 1983 I ran an office in Reading.

    I had 5 negs working for me .

    They were all good guys.girls who have gone on to be very successful.

    They earned around 25k -m in today’s money that is £86k

    They had an XR3i company car – petrol card

    Negotiators just do not get anywhere near that sort of money now.

    So it has no attraction to people who want to earn good money especially with the long hours and weekends involved and indeed the lack of respect from the general public

     

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    1. Hillofwad71

      You must  have been busy in  Reading  during that period All  that office  devlopment  and action off Basingstoke Road
      Decent Terraced  houses in the roads between London Road & the University   for around £23 /25k   which I guess were a bit of a bellwether of the market 
      Your neggies  could pick one of those up for a years salary
      Boomsville    

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      1. jan - byers

        H.O.W,

        Yes mate was crazy – we were also involved at Lower Earley.

        Sounds as though you know the area?

        I know the University area very well.

        I was at Black Horse Buckell and Ballard until 89.

        Yes the negs did well these were guys and girls who were aged 20-mid 20’s all owned at least one house.

        🙂

         

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        1. Hillofwad71

          B&B The very 1st to be swallowed up by Black Horse which must have occurred when you were there

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  11. Agent91

    Shocking coming from a man who binned off 400 staff ten minutes before the furlough scheme was announced with no warning, leaving them not knowing what’s happening or whether they would survive the pandemic with no income.
     
    No wonder no one decent wants to work for you and when they do, they leave under a cloud.
     
    The interview process for Spicerhaart is like trying to get into MI6 with the amount of phone interviews, face to face interviews and tests you have to do and when you finally get through all that you realise how staff are not looked after at all. All well and good sitting at the top saying all this Paul but maybe you should take a closer look as to why many agents wont apply to work for you.

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    1. htsnom79

      Because good agents, really good agents, have no place in these places, it’s not necessarily Spicer’s fault there are too many people and too many bills and too many ways to stay afloat debt/bastard employer/alternate income streams to stay afloat/ just the general North Korea that those hierarchical structures cannot but help.

      Hybrid won’t work cos you can’t do it all and call centres cannot back you up in a business uniquely local, corporate won’t work unless they get some version of Steve Jobs other than that it’s fleece the customer externally and play game of thrones internally,

      Best way of getting from A to B?

      Competent teams of 4-8 where it doesn’t matter who you deal with as it’s culturally uniform, if I’m looking for a team member there are no titles as once there were, just a business card in company logo/colours and a name, I want professionals who can do everything from washing up to solving technically complex or emotionally charged transactions.

      And I don’t want them to be miserable doing it, a wise man once said to me ” htsnom, remember, it’s all just a game *

       

       

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  12. Gonzo38

    Jan – buyers pretty much hit the nail on the head;

    if you’re 22, fresh out of uni (over half of 20 somethings now attend), looking for a career, are you going to want to take a job that’s probably salaried below the minimum wage (certainly less than restocking at Tesco or Asda), has long hours, often you’re expected to work all weekend and yes you’ll get a company car, but you don’t drive (only 30% of 17-22 year olds now hold a licence)?

    Maybe estate agency just isn’t as sexy as it used to be for young, bright stars? It’s not as if there aren’t other options crying out for their talent.

    Talk of a shortage of skilled staff is just, well, plain silly. If people aren’t attracted to the profession then patently there will be a shortage of skilled people further up the chain.

    More to the point, why would a business rely on someone else to train and skill up their people (after all, isn’t that what skilled staff are)? Oh, I guess they forgot to grow their own…?

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  13. Head held high

    I was employed by Chewton Rose / Haart last year after a rigorous selection process, 2 telephone interviews, tests and three face to face interviews. After working for them for just two weeks I was then laid off without furlough at the start of the first lockdown, only to then be approached by them last summer to come back and work for them again! An offer I declined! Unbelievable how they treated hundreds of people, even more unbelievable is the fact that Paul Smith has the audacity to moan about under trained staff! Look after your own staff and maybe more people would want to work for you ….

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  14. Gangsta Agent

    ha ha ha Spicerhaart want a centre of excellence for estate agents, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. You really could not make this stuff up, comedy gold

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