An estate agent is a person authorised to act in respect of transaction(s) involving properties owned by others on their behalf.
Real estate agency has two major sub sectors; Sale of Properties and Letting of Properties.
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Apparently, Real Estate Agency offers very good returns in professional fees depending on the value of the transaction as fees are based on percentages of the transaction value which can range from 7.5 per cent to 15 per cent. It is this seeming windfall in returns that has been the bane of the industry which is compounded by the ever rising demand for accommodation.
Furthermore, the Companies and Allied Matters Act has not helped matters as the law allows every Tom, Dick and Harry to register a business that decides to deal in property brokerage or estate agency. This situation has given leeway to grossly unqualified and untrained persons to flood the real estate agency sector to the detriment of unsuspecting members of the public.
The bastardisation of the sector today by these quacks can never be overestimated. Today, members of the public have had very bitter experiences in the hands of these charlatans posing as professionals. We have heard cases of charging of exorbitant professional fees as high as 20 per cent and above on annual rental lettings as against the conventional 10 per cent.
Some quacks have been reported to abscond with client’s rent after receiving such payments from prospective tenants. Some are known for not properly screening prospective tenants, who later become problematic, for tenanted apartments, all they are after is their agency fee.
These charlatans are also known for providing wrong information about properties they have advertised for sale or letting, thereby disappointing the prospective buyer or tenants as the case may be at the point of inspection. Some of these untrained persons also have a poor grasp of the property related laws, thereby making their clients, to almost always, be found on the wrong side of the law. It is disheartening to note that in spite of the spate of these gross anomalies, there seems to be no respite for the sector from the hands of these misfits.
The good news is that registered Estate Surveyors and Valuers (ESVs) are regulated by the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board on Nigeria (ESVARBON). The board, via its regulations exercises wide reaching powers to sanction and even deregister erring members. Consequently, the fact that members of the public can write petitions to the Board makes it difficult for ESVs to engage in sharp practices in estate agency due to the fear of losing the license to practice.
We, therefore, cannot underestimate the role of ESVs in the practice and sanity of estate agency in Nigeria. A regime of regulations, ethical reminders, sanctions, training and retraining prepares the ESVs to discharge the duty of estate agency with all sense of ethics, professionalism, honesty and devotion. I hope this piece addresses these facts fact that members of the public must come to realize.
George Madu, an estate surveyor and valuer, wrote from Abuja