Unscrupulous estate agents exist, deceiving the public in many ways, from buying properties on the cheap or selling to friends at reduced prices by limiting the market, through to embezzling client’s money, whether rental income or tenants deposits. Agents who have elected to be NAEA or ARLA Propertymark Protected Agents commit to ensuring they work to a high ethical standard and have Clients Money Protection and Professional Indemnity Insurance, and commit to ongoing Continuing Professional Development, not only to ensure they maintain their professional knowledge but also to develop their skills to benefit future clients and customers.

Last week found a number of the Moores’ team in Wakefield, spending a day at a Propertymark Conference to enter 7 hours of CPD into our diary for 2018. This is expensive for a small firm like Moores, not only in cash-terms but also in time, but we consider it a valuable investment in both our future and the service we deliver to customers.

The day was split into 4 sessions; 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, with the final session split into 2 sessions itself – one aimed at sales agents and the other at those who concentrate on lettings. The topics ranged from an overview of the market and how new legislation will affect sellers and landlords, to brand marketing (the creator of the advert for Go Compare and Sheila’s Wheels was fascinating), professional data analysis and how it can help attract buyers and tenants, especially through social media, through to the bottlenecks being experienced by sellers and buyers in the conveyancing world, and how estate agents can help facilitate a smoother moving experience for both parties.

The Property Ombudsman herself was in attendance and gave us food for thought regarding their decision-making processes on tenant’s and buyer’s claims for compensation – something more and more landlords are experiencing – and how a competent agency team can help facilitate a fair outcome for both sides. We had to adjudicate on a number of real-life cases; thankfully our judgement was pretty much in line with the Ombudsman’s actual findings!

The 50 or so agents in attendance went very quiet during the lecture of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) by a young lady from a specialist IT security organisation. It is clear we all have a lot of work to do in readiness for the May 2018 deadline. I made four pages of notes on this topic alone, but from how I’m interpreting the GDPR, small firms like ours have the least to fear; it’s the bigger agents with 10’s or even 100’s of estate agency offices who face the biggest problems. Our data is already held securely and the procedures we have, and those we shall put in place by May, can be monitored easily within our single office building. Larger organisations will need a team of auditors regularly checking processes and procedures to ensure compliance – I suspect negotiators in such offices will feel like they are being subject to regular interrogations! Deleting a person from a database will be fun, especially if it’s held locally, ensuring the timescales are met and appropriate letters issued. How will data on local backup’s be erased permanently? Can that be managed locally and then centrally within the 30-day timeframe? And what happens when a buyer registers with more than one office but the agent accidentally changes an initial or nomenclature and the duplication is missed? Oops? I’m not sure the bigger agencies will have time to sell or let property – they’ll be too busy double-checking data and meeting compliance targets.

It was good to chat with some of the other agents around Yorkshire about their local markets and issues, over coffee and then lunch. There were some interesting ideas floating around, but what was obvious was the variance in the markets around the region. Supply and demand differs significantly from city to city and town to town, and the different local economies have a huge impact on the local property markets. There’s no doubt that sellers and landlords need local experts to sell and let their properties effectively – now more than ever. I’m not just talking about listing property; I mean actually finding buyers and tenants and getting the sale or letting “over the finishing line” – it’s the end result that counts. Of the 50 or so agents at this regional conference there were only 3 companies represented from Leeds. We’re on good terms with the other two (and of those in the Leeds Estate Agents, Surveyors and Valuers Association), but what does it say about the remaining estate agents in Leeds and their attitude towards their profession with such a low attendance?