A balancing act is needed between lowering the barriers to entry while retaining standards that lend the industry credibility, tainted as that reputation may be following the recent debacles in the Estate Agency Affairs Board.
Education and continual training are regarded as the only sustainable way of raising the professionalism of practitioners. Estate agents are required to complete national qualifications framework (NQF) level four training by the end of 2013 if they wish to remain in the industry. The question is whether this is enough to lead the industry to new heights.
"They are generally very simple qualifications, but people tend to have a perception they are difficult," said Nontokozo Zondi, the Services Seta's manager of the real estate, commercial property and auctioneering chamber.
She has been working with the board and industry bodies to facilitate the move to professionalism in the sector.
She said although more than 4 000 estate agents had already attained the NQF4 certification, they were but a fraction of the 40 000-odd registered agents. Not all of them would have to complete the course and exams, however, because they had been exempt based on prior experience and learning.
"The challenge we have is attracting young black people to the industry and we need greater collaboration between business, government and other institutions over possibly restructuring how the industry works," Zondi said.
This was a reference to the commission-based pay structure that often left newcomers without income for six to 18 months — a point that was raised for reconsideration.
Zondi said the Services Seta's focus extended beyond estate agents to ensure greater inclusion of other disciplines, such as property and leasing management. She also raised the matter of appropriate qualifications that principal agents should have, currently NQF level five.
An issue that frustrated more widespread skills and enterprise development, she said, was that only businesses that complied with basic registration and governance rules qualified for incentives the Setas offered.
She acknowledged that the industry was bound by a raft of strict and onerous conditions, but said they were needed to protect consumers.
Zondi said she hoped to gain insights on how to address these issues and how the Services Seta and the board could tackle continual training and skills improvement to ensure world-class standards.