The benefits of using a qualified agent – and how to find one
With the recent news that one of the property portals accidently enabled a tenant to put their rented property up for sale online via a fake agent, it’s more important than ever to make sure you work with someone who really knows their stuff.
So, how do you spot a qualified agent?
#1 Do they belong to a redress scheme?
The agent’s website should indicate which scheme they belong to. And remember, just because they have one of these logos on their website, it doesn’t mean that they’re a real member - it could be fake! – so check via the redress scheme’s own site: https://www.tpos.co.uk/find-a-member or https://www.theprs.co.uk/consumer/members/.
#2 Are they a member of a membership body or qualification scheme?
Although an agent doesn’t legally have to belong to any schemes or have qualifications, the best ones invest heavily in training their people. This is particularly important when renting and letting because there are over 400 rules and regulations to comply with and if the agent doesn’t spend any money training their staff, it’s difficult to see how they can make sure they’re letting a property legally and safely.
When it comes to buying, there are also lots of checks to be made, especially around cladding for flats, leasehold terms, and even checking who owns the property. Since July 2022, agents have had to provide ‘material information’, as explained in this video from Trading Standards. This is information that’s deemed to be required by buyers up front before viewing or making an offer on the property.
If you’re a seller, you want to make sure your agent knows all the information that buyers require, and if you’re a buyer, you don’t want any nasty surprises after your offer has been accepted that results in you having to pull out of a purchase on which you might have already incurred costs.
A comprehensive Anti-Money Laundering process should be in place which safeguards both sellers and buyers. This is so much more than just verifying ID.
Many qualified agents belong to Propertymark. They require all member agents to meet strict standards and keep them up to speed with changes, including the recent rules on providing material information and the latest laws affecting the sale and letting of properties under the Building Safety Act (England).
Other member organisations that agents can join once they are suitably qualified include RICS, whose members usually have someone trained as both an agent and a surveyor, and UKALA, which is for agents that let properties.
#3 How does the agent keep up with latest laws?
The property market has seen many legal changes over the last few years, both in sales and lettings, and it’s essential that any agent is able to keep up with the changes. This might be through their trade body (see above) or they might sign up to regular courses given by agent trainers.
Acting in the best interests of our landlords and ensuring they are covered from a compliance and legislation perspective is of the utmost importance to us, which is why we charge a small compliance fee to reiterate our confidence in ensuring they’re covered 100% of the time.
It's also worth researching to see how long an agency has been established – those that have built up years of experience are better placed to advise on changing markets and economic climates.
#4 Has your agent got Client Money Protection insurance?
If an agent lets property, they must have Client Money Protection (CMP). This is an insurance which means that if the agent goes bust or misappropriates any of the monies they’re holding on your behalf – such as rent or maintenance funds – you can get money back.
#5 If you’re in Scotland or Wales, is the agent licensed or registered?
In Scotland and Wales, there are extra requirements for agents to belong to either a licensing or registration scheme, meaning they have to be qualified to work as an agent. To find out more visit: https://rentsmart.gov.wales/en/home/ and https://lettingagentregistration.gov.scot/.
We are members of Propertymark (ARLA for lettings and NAEA for sales agents) and the Property Ombudsman. We also invest in regular training for all our staff to ensure they know the latest rules and regulations they have to abide by to protect buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants. Rest assured, if you work with us, you are in safe hands.
If you are looking to buy, sell, rent or let, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to explain exactly why you can trust us to look after you.
Looking for advice?
If you're looking to let or sell your property, we can help. Get in touch with your local branch or book in for a property valuation.