Over 75 000 Agents Feared Lost

You may not have read it in the headlines - but there are a whole lot of estate agents who have gone missing. In 2008 there were a total of 95 000 registered agents operating in South Africa. Fast forward to today and according to the Estate Agents Affairs Board there are just 11 261 qualified agents and 8 163 qualified principals (owners of agencies).

Obviously loads of agents have left but more importantly, the ratio of agency owners to agents tells us that there are many small agencies thriving in the current environment. Lots of top notch agents have left the big names and gone on their own. I often ask potential sellers 'if they needed a major operation would they chose the hospital first or the surgeon first?'

The prevailing theory is that the dramatic decline in agents is due to the property bubble bursting. But it is largely due to the new compliance regulations introduced in July of 2008. Today agents have to pass difficult exams to qualify for either an NQF4 or (for principals) an NQF5. They must attend continuous training throughout the year to maintain their status. An agent must hold a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate (these are renewed every October) in order to operate legally and for attorneys to transfer any properties for them.

The more compliance demanded the less number of people who will measure up to stringent standards. This brings us back to the reality of today. Yes there are a lot less agents. But what you now get is someone who is a true survivor, well trained, extremely dedicated, and very professional.

For those of us who have been in the industry for a long time we remember the days of the part-time agents. Heavily perfumed ladies who called you 'darling' and 'doll'. They were clearly in their sixties but their business card photo was from their matric dance. We called them 'desperate housewives' - and they gave the industry a bad name. Like all the missing agents, they are thankfully long gone.