The regulation of the profession of real estate agents is not homogeneous in Europe. In Northern Europe the real estate sector is regulated by only a few rules and by the great sense of responsibility of professionals, who train themselves constantly and always keep themselves up to date. In Southern Europe regulations are more pressing in order to face a more indulgent mentality that is less used to the spontaneous sense of responsibility of the individual.
Italy is examining the changes introduced by the new directive of the European Union on real estate business activities. Since 2001, in Italy it is compulsory to hold a secondary-school degree and an insurance cover. It is mandatory to make a training course and pass the relevant exam. This system grants a highly professional approach along with a full client protection. Furthermore, real estate agents in Italy have a joint and several liability for the payment of the registration fee.
The practice of the real estate agent profession is absolutely liberal in Spain – as stated in the Law 47/2000 that has been modified by Law 10/2003 – even if this system is mentioned as a negative example. Critics say the high presence of unlicensed real estate agents has caused the uncontrolled rise in prices that has characterised the Spanish property market in the latest years. The Spanish government has tried to reorganize the real estate sector by issuing the royal decree 1292/2007 in which the general statute of the official school of real estate agents was approved. This law obliges the boards to undersign a liability insurance.
A real estate agents’ register does not exist in Hungary, Romania, Greece and Bulgaria, where, anyhow, it is compulsory to be registered at the Chamber of Commerce, to have a secondary school diploma and not to have a police record.
Controls are very strict in Germany. Agents are obliged to have a municipal licence and may attend three-year courses with different specialization options.
Austria is taking into account the possibility to abolish the real estate agents’ register that 15000 realtors have joined; however, the self-regulation system would remain strict and agents may be suspended from the profession if they do not respect the unwritten laws of public policy and morality.
There are 50 thousand real estate agents in France. The profession of realtors is regulated by the Law 2004-634. There are several professional training courses, but it compulsory to hold a licence – the green card. The agents who work without the green card may be sentenced to 6 months- 2 years of imprisonment, if they receive a deposit and work without a written mandate signed from the vendor.
In the UK and Wales, the National Association of Estates Agents suggests the characteristics one should have to work as a real estate agent: good educational and excellent communication skills. Anyway, since the introduction of the Home Information Pack, real estate agents have a higher responsibility. The Fair Trading can delete the agents’ registration and forbid their business activity in case of default.
Furhtermore, the agents of Northern Europe – such as in Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Finland, Ireland and Denmark – work exclusively for the seller and become, therefore, specialised consultants. In Italy, instead, the agent cashes commissions form both the buyer and the vendor.
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