Skip to main content

Trust me… I’m an estate agent with an A-Level

A Level
By Debbie Standen
01 February 2024
Agents & Consultants
real estate

Thank goodness, we’ve found the cure for corruption in the estate agency industry and, perhaps, Britain as a whole: an A-Level. 

Last week brought - yet another - rather baffling big idea in the bid to have a pre-election voice on the subject of the housing market, in the form of the Shadow Minister, Matthew Pennycook’s, proposal to require all estate agents to hold minimum academic credentials in a bid to “drive out cowboys”. 

The amend to the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill currently going through Parliament would require estate agents – old and new - to have at least one A-Level and all directors of estate agencies to have an undergraduate degree. If passed, all practitioners will have 24 months from the date the bill becomes law to comply.

The proposal hasn’t come out of thin air. Calls for a properly regulated industry where agents can be “trusted and respected” have united the public, industry bodies and many estate agents themselves keen to improve the reputation of the sector. 

In 2019, The Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) report was published following a review by Lord Best and, among its many recommendations, suggested minimum qualification levels. Here, a “Level 3” included A levels, A-S level and NVQs for agents conducting general professional work, and “Level 4” the likes of a Higher National Diploma for agency managers and directors.

The glaring question, however, is how academic aptitude answers the need in question. I am honestly not sure how an A-Level is certification of a trustworthy human being.

The response to the amend has been similar to that of Lord Best’s RoPA. Uproar. And not solely confined to the so-called “cowboy” industry itself. A write-up from a Law Professor in this week’s Spectator captured the sentiment with a particular lexical flair, describing it as “laughable”, “intellectual snobbery” and “eye-poppingly silly”. 

A point being raised widely is the living proof the job can be conducted with integrity, regardless of schooling, with the many well-respected professionals in the sector who have built successful careers and enviable client lists in the absence of an academic background. I have been lucky enough to work with and learn from many of them.

The secret to their success is the likes of people skills, entrepreneurship, creativity and advanced problem-solving: some of the wider pool of skills and talents employers are urged to embrace and encourage, which this move would blatantly undermine.  

Another significant oversight is the impact this could have on diversity in the sector. Is this really the time to be adding barriers to a sector that has struggled to keep up with the pace in the DE&I evolution? 

The call for greater regulation is certainly a valid one and there is as much desire for improvement of standards from within the industry as there is around it. It’s their hard-earned reputation after all. But the idea that skill and integrity is assured through the ability to sit an exam? A C minus at best. Must try harder.