National licensing delayed to 2013

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Steven Cross, Simon Parker and Stacey Moseley

National licensing for real estate agents is now due in 2013, well after the original July 2012 deadline, yet key industry stakeholders are hopeful the delay will yield diploma-level licensing and continuing education requirements.

“In reaffirming its commitment to the reforms, [the Council of Australian Governments] COAG has offered welcome clarity to industry and tradespeople by announcing that the first wave of national licences will now be introduced from 2013”, said the chair of the National Occupational Licensing Authority’s Board (NOLA), Elizabeth Crouch.

According to COAG, national licensing will now commence for the first tranche of occupations, which includes real estate agents, in 2013.

Ms Crouch said COAG members noted that the complexity of the reforms made it impossible for national occupational licensing to commence from 1 July 2012.

“In confirming this new timeframe, COAG has provided certainty to businesses and individuals who are waiting for the introduction of this reform,” she said. “Now we can proceed with the important job of talking with businesses and tradespeople to ensure that the new national licensing scheme maximises benefits for all such as improved labour mobility and better productivity.”

REIA president Pamela Bennett has welcomed the announcement but has warned against settling for a lowest common denominator outcome.

“The REIA has supported national licensing and recognises the benefits this will bring to both the industry and to consumers through improved mobility between jurisdictions and a uniform approach across Australia. However, it is imperative that standards are not lowered for the sake of expediency”, Ms Bennett said.

“The key to providing a low risk professional service to home buyers is through a high level of initial qualification and through compulsory ongoing professional development to maintain these standards and to keep abreast of the changing regulatory environment that agents operate in”, Ms Bennett added.

According to the REIA, current examples of the changing requirements and responsibilities for agents imposed by government include the administration of paid parental leave and the anticipated reporting requirements associated with the introduction of mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency ratings.

“The need for a high level of training and professionalism is across the spectrum of real estate transactions. With more and more individuals having an exposure to commercial real estate, either directly or through their superannuation fund, it is equally important that buyers and sellers are receiving sound support by having the sale of commercial property undertaken by licensed professionals”, continued Ms Bennett.

Similarly, Tim McKibbin, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW), said it is important to get the national licensing scheme correct the first time around.

“We are very supportive of the concept but we must get the harmonisation of the national licensing right,” he told delegates at a joint REINSW and Real Estate Employers' Federation (REEF) of NSW Industry Update in Parramatta yesterday.

“We can’t just rush it through, it needs to be well planned and thought out. It is like a driver’s licence - sure, you can drive anywhere in Australia but having local knowledge of an area is definitely an advantage for a driver.”

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