Vicenç Hernández / Economist. Doctor in Economic Psychology
The need for training
Talking today about the importance of training in any professional activity is obvious. In the same way, we would discover nothing new when talking about the benefits that this training generates in return, not only to the professionals themselves, but also to the organisations and clients they serve. Professional training involves the development of knowledge, skills, behaviour and abilities necessary to carry out a professional activity efficiently.
But in spite of being a generally accepted topic and as we say, something that is rather obvious, in our country we still find a practical reality that is far from the theoretical postulates. Many professionals consider training to be important as a starting point for their professional development, even though this training is acquired through daily practice and practical work. But these same professionals reject basic theoretical training for the simple reason that it is an investment in time and money which, while not a compulsory requirement, does not generate a return in the short term.
In this article, we intend to draw attention to the urgent need for training and subsequent qualification of all the agents involved in mediation and advice in the real estate sector, both to provide a more efficient service to their clients and therefore to the companies and organisations in which they provide their services, and to give prestige to a profession that in the eyes of society moves to the sound of fashions in the establishment of businesses on the street.
The positioning of the real estate consultancy and mediation profession must move away from the current vision of easy business that anyone can access after fulfilling certain administrative requirements. The importance of the profession and the financial and economic consequences for clients of poor professional practice should be pampered when selecting the professionals who will form part of the group.
This professional training must be accredited by national and European institutions in order to manage more effectively the regulation of the profession at its different levels of action.
Without wishing to be exhaustive and to draw up a catalogue with all the training available in the sector in our country, we will address the situation of the sector as a whole. We note that there are no official training paths that serve to accredit real estate professionals, and it is generally characterised by its atomisation both in terms of the different specialities (legal, technological, commercial, financial, etc.) and in the scope of professional activity (real estate agent, property manager, developer, etc.).
There is an official regulated training, essentially at a higher level, which coincides with the university level in its different levels (graduate, master’s, etc.) of each of the specialities. Sometimes, this university degree training touches on generic aspects of various specialities without going into a specific area of professional activity in depth. But in short, it is difficult to find transversal training that develops specialists with a wide range of skills in the sector.
If we analyse the training on offer at a second level, such official training is practically non-existent if we leave out the formal declarations of some collective agreements in the sector in order to train the different types of jobs in companies. This official training is hardly being practically developed as professional training to facilitate recruitment of trained professionals for the real estate sector. Real estate companies need to hire managers, collectors, sellers and administrators with sound knowledge of their sector, which will provide them with the necessary skills to carry out their functions.
Finally, in the property training market, there are numerous entities and trainers who often provide non-regulated training to a large number of agents working in the sector. Such training often does not follow a pattern oriented, within a defined itinerary, at comprehensive training of a technician or real estate specialist.
The training of professionals in the first business link of mediation, management and property administration
In accordance with the above, there is no specific regulation in our country on the training of real estate professionals, especially in the field of mediation, management and real estate administration techniques, aimed at guaranteeing companies and consumers that these professionals have the necessary skills to provide the services they are entitled to.
The relevant dimension of the country’s real estate market, with a relevant weight in its macroeconomic figures, generates an important labour market that increasingly needs to have better trained real estate technicians with a prestigious accreditation that guarantees its clients transparency and good professional work.
Therefore, in our opinion, it would be necessary to have a professional, real -effective and efficient- accreditation that really guarantees the correct and strict training of most of the employees of the first link of the real estate companies, giving them the necessary training for their professional development, and with full professional, operative and ethical guarantees for their clients. For this to be effective, real and not just nominal, it is essential that there is complicity and collaboration between the real estate companies and the accredited training centres, as well as an independent body that regulates, supervises and controls the good work of the accredited professionals, taking care of the reputation of the certification.
This professional real estate training must be, together with university training, the gateway to professional real estate certification, which must be recognised by all actors in the real estate sector: administrations, companies and consumers.
Professional certifications measure skills and knowledge based on practice-based programmes. They are evaluated by independent committees and are granted by recognized entities in the market without commercial orientation.
Professional certifications are born with the idea of becoming standards of professional practice. The difference with academic qualifications is that the certifications are not lifelong; once obtained, it must be guaranteed at least biennially that sufficient continuous training has been carried out to keep up to date professionally.
These professional certifications are based on real data of what constitutes the practice of the profession.
The examinations for certification are based on job analysis, are linked to performance needs and are appropriate for the sector’s own service industry.
The content programmes required for the examinations are common throughout the territory of application.
The certifications offer a number of advantages for the professionals who hold them:
- Permanent expansion of your knowledge to progress professionally.
- To advance in the quality of service and in the satisfaction and loyalty of the clients.
- Acquisition of professional prestige and for hiring.
- Adaptation to current and future regulatory requirements for professional qualifications.
The professional certifications, imply for the student/professional:
- To be previously in possession of a qualification that accredits the minimum necessary knowledge to access the certification training.
- No criminal record for intentional crimes, no expulsion from school or professional association and no final sanction for a serious offence.
- Proof of experience -in some cases a priori and in others a posteriori- in the sector.
- To develop the training activity inherent to the certification: classroom training, self-study and knowledge tests.
- Signature of the code of ethics and/or declaration of honour.
- To contribute with the periodicity that will be determined the certificates of accredited continuous training.
By way of example, we will refer to the EFPA certification, which accredits and certifies personal financial planning and consultancy professionals throughout Europe. This certification is mandatory for all those professionals in the financial sector who carry out these functions, whether they are employed or self-employed.
EFPA establishes four categories of certified professionals:
- European Investment Assistant. The person who recognises the qualification required to provide information in accordance with ESMA’s guidelines and the criteria they set out on knowledge and skills for providing investment information.
- European Investment Practitioner. The person who recognises the qualifications required to provide advice on a regular basis in accordance with ESMA’s guidelines and the criteria they set out for knowledge and skills in investment advice.
- European Investment Advisor. Person who certifies the professional suitability to carry out tasks of advice, management and financial consultancy to individuals in personal or private banking, financial services oriented to the individual client and any professional banking, insurance or independent function that involves offering an integrated service of wealth and financial consultancy.
- European Investment Planner. Person who certifies the professional suitability to carry out comprehensive personal financial planning tasks of a high level of complexity and volume.
European real estate certification, a need for training for technicians in the second link of the real estate sector
In our opinion, just as there is EFPA in the financial and insurance sector, certification of real estate professionals at a European level is necessary.
All those real estate professionals whose professional performance without adequate training could be detrimental to consumers, and therefore generate a reputational risk that could affect the whole sector, should be certified. Therefore, the scope that should be given to these certifications should be considered by means of an itinerary for each of the standard positions in the real estate companies that allow the professional growth of the certified professionals.
In our opinion, several competence levels should be established, with a standard certification for each of them. As a mere theoretical exercise and in the absence of a specific technical nomenclature, we suggest that three levels of competence be established:
- Higher level. This person would be the manager who accredits his or her ability to manage real estate companies, in the broadest sense and therefore with extensive and contrasting experience and broad knowledge of management, technology and regulations governing the various real estate services.
- Medium level. This person would be the specialist who accredits his or her ability to manage departments and/or real estate offices, with experience and knowledge of management, technology and regulations governing real estate services in his or her specialty.
- Basic level. This person would be the specialist who could prove his or her ability to advise clients, with experience and knowledge of operations, technology and regulatory standards required for real estate services in his or her field.
Each level must therefore have a series of obligatory subjects that are necessary, according to the criteria of the certifying body, to enable the correct exercise of their profession and to guarantee the market that the professional is equipped with the necessary tools to provide the best service to their clients.
Ongoing training is that which guarantees the maintenance of the professional’s training standards in order to continue providing their services effectively for his or her clients, with up-to-date knowledge. This is all the more important because of the speed at which “new knowledge” is circulating today, especially technological knowledge, which requires the permanent recycling of the agents providing the services.
In certain EU countries, accreditation of further training is a prerequisite for real estate agents to maintain their operational “licence”.
In professions such as auditing, it is essential to have accreditation of continuous training in order to be able to continue practising the profession and therefore be authorised by the Spanish Official Registry of Auditors to carry out official audit and advisory work respectively, and to have the authorised firm responsible for the corresponding reports.
Professional certifications also require the permanent retraining of certified professionals, so that they remain valid. They are usually required to justify an accredited training with a teaching dedication -presential or online- determined to be carried out in biannual periods.
In our opinion, continuous recycling is also a key element for professionals in the real estate sector, so that they can provide a high quality service to their clients. The continuous changes in legal and fiscal real estate regulations, directly motivated by the Administration, and also indirectly by the social agents, make this necessary. Let us not forget either the evolution of marketing techniques, consumer psychology, professional ethics and above all, the dynamism of technology, which is the key to making the service efficient and also as an instrument that differentiates it from the competition.
For all these reasons, we maintain that it is essential that all the professionals in the sector, once they have reached the appropriate level of training, must necessarily maintain it through duly accredited retraining at a contrasting level, by means of the appropriate certification.
Conclusions and recommendations
In our opinion:
- In our country, we currently do not have the precise homogeneous training of real estate technicians in terms of quantity and quality.
- The real estate sector needs more and better trained professionals with up-to-date knowledge to provide an adequate service to clients.
- The real estate sector needs rigour and transparency to allow a better reputation for professionals who meet the requirements of the relevant accreditation.
- It is necessary in the country the effective development of the training of the first professional real estate link, as a previous instrument of the training of the basic personnel of the sector.
- At European level, there is a need for the certification of real estate technicians, as an instrument to regulate the labour market and to serve the consumer.
- Continuous training of all real estate professionals is essential to guarantee a constant improvement of a service of vital importance for most families.
We the authors would be satisfied if after reading this article, we have generated interest on the part of professionals on how to improve their training and that they assume that this is not limited to specific training or obtaining a degree or accreditation, but to a continuous process of training throughout their professional life. Likewise, that the ad hoc European bodies and the administrations of the different countries begin to consider the need for this accreditation as one of the instruments for providing a quality professional service to consumers, without which the rights of the latter will be effectively called into question.
Although in this article we have made express mention of mediation and consultancy professionals, our proposal for certification should broadly cover other professional groups related to the sector and which in practice are complementary activities for the same end client.
 Source: EFPA Spain (www.efpa.es)