Seeff is way ahead when it comes to meeting the requirements of stringent new legislation that is expected to completely overhaul the real estate industry. In order to fast-track the re-qualification of existing agents across the industry, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process has been put in place.
All RPLs have to be completed by the end of 2011. Brought on board to specifically drive the process for Seeff, Gillian Hollander, Seeff's Skills Development Facilitator, believes that the new legislation, which was gazetted in July this year, will benefit buyers and sellers as well as agents themselves when it comes to career development and professionalism.
"The training regulations for agents will serve to professionalise the industry through recognising the skills and knowledge that an agent has or needs in order to sell houses. This will foster respect for agents among consumers and will change the picture that they may have of estate agents. In addition, new entrants into the industry will have to have the qualification in order to practice as an agent - thus reaffirming the quality and expertise of agents following a career in the property industry."
Seeff began the process of re-qualifying its agents in April 2008. Hollander is confident that all Seeff's agents will have completed the process by the end of 2009 – a remarkable feat when one considers that some companies are yet to even put the process in motion.
"Nationally Seeff has put 347 agents through the RPL process. Of the 347, 343 are Competent and will receive/have received the FETC: Real Estate NQF 4 qualification. As at 1 May 2009 Seeff has 810 agents nationally, so we have done 42% of our agents to date. This means we have 463 agents still to be RPL'd. Seeff applied for bursaries from the Services SETA which is being released in tranches of 200. The release of the next 200 is imminent and the process will continue."
Hollander said that Seeff's commitment to assisting its agents - through applying for its own discretionary grant funding for bursaries for its agents as well as via its wider infrastructure - had been matched by the commitment of those in the field. "All along, Seeff's approach has been very hands-on. Principals are going through the process along with individual agents, which fosters team work. We have had excellent results and huge support for the process."
Tony Hickman, Regional Chairperson of Seeff KZN, says the process means the education standards of agents and principals will be at a level unprecedented in the industry in the past, adding that Seeff does not subscribe to the view that this will result in the industry being over-regulated.
"In KZN 50 Seeff agents have been RPL'd and 49 were found competent. The agent who is not yet competent is in fact remediating currently and should be found competent soon. KZN have in total 82 agents as of 1 May 2009 and therefore we have completed RPL for 60% of the agents and have 40% still to complete.
"Many agents have left the industry recently – some reports put the figure as high as 60% - due to the recession and extremely tight trading conditions. It is very unlikely that these individuals will return when the market improves – largely due to the new education requirements. We believe that this is a positive situation as the industry can then move forward with fewer but well educated agents who will render a new level of professional service to all their clients."
The co-principal of Seeff Uvongo and Seeff Margate, Elsabe Els, says Seeff is the only agency on the KZN South Coast that has agents that have completed the RPL – which has had unexpected consequences: "Some of our agents have been approached by agents from other agencies who actually want to buy the whole file with the proof of evidence. A lot of copies have to be made of various things, which is obviously very time-consuming (it took us 2 weeks of hard work to get it together).
We are in the fortunate position of having Gillian on board to guide the process of what we needed to get together, a boon which I suspect the other agencies don't have. Some agents have been approached by owners/principals to join their firm on a higher commission split if they have completed the RPL."
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