Estate agency staffing crisis at worst in a generation, says UK’s longest-standing recruiter

There is the worst shortage of estate agency staff in a generation, the UK’s longest-established specialist recruiter has said.

Anthony Hesse, who founded his business Property Personnel in 1988, said that the need to attract the right recruits to estate agency has never been greater.

He said that he expects many to come from outside the sector – with no experience – and that some of these candidates will be the best.

Hesse said: “In estate agency, we have always prioritised attitude over experience.

“And this doesn’t only apply to someone looking for their first job. We regularly place personnel who have never worked in the industry before – many of whom go on to hold positions at managerial level, with some even running their own estate agency businesses.

“In fact, over the past five years, around a third of our placements (31.2%) have had no estate agency background whatsoever.”

He said: “Some of our biggest successes are with people from the world of hospitality – such as those working in hotels, restaurants and conference centres.

“These are people from customer-facing roles, who work long hours, and are used to a demanding clientele who expect a high level of customer service.

“Those who are the right fit for estate agency tend to have excellent inter-personal skills and experience of having to deal with numerous people at the same time, all with their individual competing interests at heart.”

Hesse added: “The agency sector is experiencing the worst staff shortages in a generation at a point when the property market is going through a very challenging time.”

He went on: “A lot of our clients would prefer someone with the right attitude, drive and determination, rather than years of experience, because they are a blank canvas to work with.

“They can also be trained in best practice from the very start and have a commensurate expectation as far as salary is concerned.

“Ultimately, though, it’s about ability – and estate agency is one of the professions where the label ‘no experience necessary’ can genuinely apply.”

The Government has recently announced that it will introduce mandatory qualifications before either estate or letting agents are able to practise.

Hesse said that he did not think a mandatory qualification would “do any harm” but whether it would eradicate rogue agents was highly debatable.

He added: “Also, I think a lot would depend on the content of the syllabus, how relevant it is, and how difficult it is to gain such a qualification. Too easy, and no one would respect it. Too difficult and it might put people off.

“From a recruitment point of view, I’m sure it can only be a positive as I believe a professional qualification would potentially make the business more attractive to talented individuals.”

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  1. J1

    I expect that the main reason is that salaries have plummeted, as the onliners have been dipping the pockets of established agency businesses, who can no longer afford experienced staff.

  2. PaulC

    Our Best Staff all had ZERO experience in the industry prior to joining us.

    Its all in the training and support

    That said the money we pay in this industry is Mickey Mouse in my opinion.

    We are slightly different with no commission in our company. Bigger Basics and Shared Bonus across the company approach (Think John Lewis but Monthly)

  3. Michael

    We too have large base & small commission.

  4. surrey1

    Having recently been recruiting I gave up on a search for a senior neg. There were plenty of trainees or old dogs like me that only know agency. Everything in between seems to have vanished.

  5. smile please

    These people say they employ people on a large basic and small commission, do you mind sharing what the average basic you offer is?

  6. PeeBee

    “In fact, over the past five years, around a third of our placements (31.2%) have had no estate agency background whatsoever.”

    I wonder if Mr Hesse could kindly advise as to what percentage of those placements are still working in the industry, and what percentage of those are still with the same employer?

    Thank you.

    1. PeeBee

      Please explain the reason behind the ‘Dislike’… they’re a perfectly sensible questions – and ones which many I believe would like to know the answers.

      People actually in the industry, that is, not the ‘Dislike Troll’ sector of the readership…

      1. DuckandDomintheunsoldBungalow

        I can give you 1 statistic, I started agency November 2013 on a maternity cover contract, no experience. Then started working full time contract a rival local agent between June 2014 to November 2017, only left as I have moved across the country and now working at a corporate agent. In my experience (only working in small offices) I’ve seen other newcomers come to the industry, all of which are still working at estate agents (to my knowledge).

        1. PeeBee

          Thank you for that.  The sharing of your personal experience is most appreciated.

    2. Anthony Hesse

      Hello Mr PeeBee, when I have some time I will try to get some figures to you, but there is quite a lot of work involved there going back over 5 years!  I am, however, confident that they will be positive. That’s born out by the fact that our clients come back to us time and time again, partly due to the fact that a high percentage of our candidates stay. The main problem with trainees is that until they start the job, they never really know whether they are going to enjoy it or not, so there are always going to be some casualties, especially early on. I’ve just had a very brief look back over our placements for the last two to three years and, interestingly, the attrition rate whilst low is slightly higher with experienced than inexperienced candidates!  PS It wasn’t me who disliked

      1. PeeBee

        Hello Mr Hesse – and thank you for the response.

        I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying. 

        In fairness to your goodself, it is my expectation that minimum 25-30% of ‘newbies’ to the job fail at the early stages, due mainly to their own expectations being completely at odds with the reality of the job – but that figure will vary dramatically dependent on the market forces at the time they enter Agency.

        I have hired dozens of people from without the industry over the 30 years I have been in ‘Management’ positions.  I have seen very few of them fail – and many of them are still in the industry today.  I have also employed those from within – some with pots of experience – and been often disappointed with what they brought to the proverbial table.

        Whilst they don’t actually know what’s about to hit them, employing out-of-industry people with no experience generally = no awkward baggage picked up along the way to divest them of.

        And it’s all about the person.

        btw – I didn’t think it was you for a nanosecond.  I think we all know – from a very short list – who it will be that gets a warm, fuzzy feeling by hitting the ‘Dislike’ icon of my every post like a demented Duracell #bunnyboiler…

  7. MrLister

    With agents slashing their fees and staff earning less commission we’re going to see more receptionists and less negotiators.

    We pay quite high basics for our area with commission made up of 50% personal and 50% office. The higher basics have definitely helped us to attract the right people. Generally we headhunt. 6 months ago we managed to get a very good branch manager from Connells and employed his as a lister. Better basic than Connells and he’s on to earn 25% more this year.

    Bottom line, pay for and invest in decent staff and you’ll reap the rewards. A sales office is no place for “receptionists” on the front desk.

  8. MattGiggs19

    NOT IN THE WORLD OF PROACTIVE AGENTS. We all know the biggest pleasure OR pains in any business are the PEOPLE.

    Agency ‘barrier for entry’ has been lowering year on year since rightmove became MANY agents BEST negotiator (not all)

    Recruitment is the biggest investment agents should make RIGHT NOW, NOT GIMMICKS but only if leaders were more focussed on finding the right ‘people’ not focussing more on ‘numbers’. The pressure of filling spaces or roles should be replaced by a mentality of getting the right people with the right attitudes, filling the right roles with the natural talent!

    The talent IS OUT there but only if companies know HOW to attract them. We need to find out if an individual has the natural resources and a real talent to fulfil the role we recruit for, they must understand the vision of the company, then meeting the leaders/company expectations and behaviours.

    Many agencies often focus on ‘BUMS ON SEATS’ and this allows for the skill- less individuals to wait for listings and sales by relying on ‘RIGHTMOVE’ or ‘MARKETING’ gimmicks to do the job for them.

    There is no such thing as “BAD TEAMS’ just ‘BAD LEADERS’ who set lower standards.

    The reaction recruitment process is the poison for your business so my opinions are based on my successes. Unfortunately WAY MORE long term issues arise with people like the above headline suggests and the reactive world most agents work in means they are constantly turning over staff and giving less confidence to their clients.

    1. Always be interviewing.

    2. Do not fall for recruiting experience over attitude.

    3. Recruit SLOW and fire fast is the only way!

    Leaders with clear visions, who recruit people who believe in what they believe in, they attract and find the talent. These leaders who are invested’ in a proactive recruiting process, they have an ON-BOARDING process, they also understand HOW to train and retain talent to leverage their business and continue to thrive while the rest fail.

    How many great people with great attitudes will want to work in a business which does have higher recruitment standards?

    Leaders need to be way more emotionally intelligent than ever BUT companies do not invest enough in growing the real leaders potential. REAL people leaders understand ‘how’ to attract and retain talent which ‘fit’ the roles they step into to prevent the above headlines from happening!



    1. PeeBee

      “Do not fall for recruiting experience over attitude.”

      It’s a common belief that there is no such thing as “attitude”.

      But don’t worry – it’s also a common belief that Elvis is alive and well, and resident on the Moon…


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