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Complaints Against Real Estate Agents Reached 10-year Low Ahead Of Market Bounce Back

Complaints against licensed real estate professionals reached the lowest level in 10 years, in the 2019/20 year the industry regulator says.

The Real Estate Authority (REA) received 288 formal complaints in the period July 2019 to June 2020, marking an all-time low.

The volume of complaints was down 37 per cent on 10 years ago, when REA was first established to regulate real estate professionals in New Zealand.

The figures are detailed in the REA 2019/20 Annual Report for the year ended 30 June.

REA Chair, Denese Bates QC says the drop in complaints reflects the work of the organisation to lift professional standards, and an increased focus on early intervention to resolve issues before they become complaints.

“REA has worked hard to support high standards of conduct for licensed real estate professionals through our continuing professional development programme, improved guidance and by responding to a high number of enquiries from the sector,” says Denese. “The reduction in complaints shows that this work is having a positive impact.”

Research highlighted in the REA Annual Report also shows that public confidence in real estate professionals is increasing. Belinda Moffat, Chief Executive, says there have been lifts in the number of buyers and sellers who consider agents to be professional, well-regulated, well-monitored and fair.

“Buyers and sellers of property deserve to feel confident that there’s a regulator out there setting a robust minimum standard for conduct, training, and expertise for real estate work,” Belinda explains. “Our research and case load indicates that the vast majority of real estate licensees are professional, competent, and trustworthy. More than anyone, it’s these seasoned real estate professionals who want to see those who break the rules be held to account for their poor behaviour.”

Of the 288 complaints made, 82 resulted in a finding of unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct against the licensee. This equates to less than one per cent of the 15,520 professionals who hold an active real estate licence.

No room for complacency among COVID-19 uncertainty and market bounce back

While complaints against real estate agents reached an all-time low in the year to June 2020, the property market has bounced back at full force since the COVID-19 lockdown. With this increased activity, REA has seen more activity in phone enquiries, and complaints in the current year.

Belinda says in this context it’s important that real estate agents continue to adhere to the professional conduct and client care rules as New Zealand navigates the uncertainty of COVID-19 and a pressured real estate market.

“While the market remains buoyant, stock is low and the country is facing a range of economic challenges. This is putting pressure on both real estate professionals and people who are buying or selling property,” Belinda explains.

“Agents should continue to show high levels of professionalism and compassion as they work to support buyers and sellers who are navigating a real estate transaction at this time,” she adds.

“REA will continue to support real estate professionals to understand and fulfil their obligations. We’ll also keep working to provide consumers with an accessible and effective complaints process, and information to help protect them from harm when they’re buying or selling a property.”

REA continues to reach consumers with independent real estate guidance

An REA-commissioned Nielsen survey of New Zealanders who have engaged in a property transaction in the last 12 months showed that just 39 per cent of consumers feel empowered when buying or selling a home. REA is working to lift this figure as part of the organisation’s commitment to consumer protection and harm prevention.

“We know that the more a person understands about the real estate transaction, the more empowered they feel,” Belinda says. “That’s why we run settled.govt.nz, an independent government website that guides buyers and sellers through the property journey, step-by-step.”

Among Kiwis who have visited settled.govt.nz, the number who feel empowered climbs to 51 per cent, compared to 39 per cent (all consumers).

“Buying or selling a home is the biggest financial decision most Kiwis will ever make, and it can feel like a complex legal process. Having access to impartial and clear information helps people feel more confident and empowers them to make better decisions,” Belinda says.

Download the REA 2019/20 Annual Report in full to learn more.

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