What it takes to be a real estate agent

At the end of last year, the Office for National Statistics announced that 562,000 people were employed in real estate in the UK; the largest number since records began in 1978. Danny Gabay, director of Fathom Consulting, even coined the term, “a nation of estate agents”.

But is it as easy to become an estate agent as this fact might imply? What qualifications do you need? What costs are involved in setting up an agency? And what legislation and rules must you comply with?

In the UK today, you do not need any formal qualifications to become an estate agent. Obviously qualifications such as GCSEs will set you in good stead with potential employers, but it is not a legal requirement to have a qualification related to the practice of estate agency.

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Hence there is often a sense of “anyone can become an estate agent”, and it is hard to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Clearly, having an understanding of property matters is important, as is a basic understanding (at least) of consumer law, marketing, sales and negotiating skills. But to highlight professionalism to customers, a recognised professional qualification is recommended. This not only provides the technical knowledge needed to operate in a competitive market, but gives confidence to your customers, your staff, and to yourself.

The National Federation of Property Professionals Awarding Body offers a range of respected and well established estate agent qualifications suitable for both established agents and those wishing to become agents. These qualifications not only boost your credentials as an estate agent, but are also set at the required level of qualification accepted for membership of the National Association of Estate Agents.

When setting up an estate agency, there are many costs to be aware of. It is almost impossible to estimate the exact amount of financial backing estate agents need, as much of it depends on the size of the office and chosen location, particularly for those planning to set up in London.

The cost of renting an office will be one of the biggest expenditures. Even if one chooses to set up in a relatively low-cost area, remember that estate agents will probably be looking to rent in a high footfall area, which is likely to be expensive. The cost of premises does not end there – agents will also be footing the bill for utilities such as electricity, gas, water, and internet/phone, as well as furnishing/decorating costs. Security, safety measures and business insurance should also be budgeted for.

Prospective agents also need to think about employees’ salaries. Online recruitment company estimates that the average salary for an estate agent is £32,500 a year, and those in charge need to take a salary as well. In turn, these employees will be adding expenses such as petrol costs and company phone bills. Another major expenditure for agents is advertising and publicity; spreading the word and attracting business. This includes office window, website, For Sale boards, and other forms of advertising. The cost of brand awareness can even affect items such as the paper used for letters, which will need a letterhead incorporating the company logo.