Blitz on bogus agents

OSWALD Nyakunika, the newly elected president of the Estate Agents Council, has vowed to root out bogus estate agents because they are tarnishing the image of the profession.

Nyakunika, a Bulawayo-based property consultant who is also a managing partner at Knight Frank Bulawayo, past president of the Real Estate Institute of Zimbabwe and a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, was elected chairman of the Estate Agents Council on April 14.

Nyakunika said the main thrust of the council this term would be to raise the profile and professional standing of estate agents. Here are his views on how he intends to achieve this goal:

How do you intend to raise the profile and professional standing of estate agents?

The formal sector is well regulated. There is, therefore, need for us to concentrate on ensuring that every agent sticks to the professional ethics and code of conduct.

We will not tolerate any of our members operating outside the law. If they do, we will issue "stop trading notices", which will bar the member from operating. We are going to conduct seminars for our members to remind them of what is required of them.

Our biggest problem, however, is not our members but the informal sector and bogus estate agents. There is a lot of confusion among the public about who is genuine and who is not.

The informal sector and bogus agents are operating illegally. Registered agents are governed by the Estate Agents Act, which stipulates what they should do.

What are you doing about these bogus agents?

We are trying to work hand-in-hand with the police to ensure that their illegal operations are stopped. We are also conducting seminars to educate the public not to deal with bogus agents. We have even approached the press to help. The Financial Gazette, for example, does not accept adverts from unregistered agents in its property section. We are trying the dailies as well but we have had little success.

We have got a lot of promises but nothing concrete. The main problem with the bogus agents is that they are preying on the uneducated and the low-income earners. It is a scourge because it is depriving people of their hard-earned income.

I can understand the plight of the dailies. The act does not stop anyone from selling his or her property. It only stops a third party from selling someone's property, perhaps this is where they have problems deciding who is who.

How about registered agents who flout the law?

The profession is adequately regulated and the majority of estate agents operate within the law. We do have isolated minor cases of breach as regards advertising, largely to do with offering inducements and misrepresentations. We will continue to encourage members to be honest and factual in their dealings with the public since for many people their biggest investment in life will be in property especially the house they live in. Therefore the profession demands a high level of professional ethics and conduct.

What are you doing about prices and rentals?

We continue to address public concerns as regards property prices and rentals. Things went haywire from June 2003 because of hyperinflation. We even started reviewing rentals every quarter but we have since stopped that. We are now reviewing them half-yearly.

We believe there is need to encourage development and increase stock thereby controlling prices. However the high building costs have tended to deter new developments and in some incidences resulted in many building projects being abandoned.

Suffice to say many rentals are largely by agreement. Despite the limited stock there exist mechanisms and formulas that ensure there is no exploitation and aims at achieving fair rents. Historically fair rents have been considered as being:

*10 percent of property values after allowing for recurrent expenses

*10 percent of depreciated or final building costs after allowing for recurrent expenses.

*Up to 10 percent of turn over after allowing for recurrent expenses.

The latter links rentals to business performance and has been applied where particular businesses are having difficulties.

We hope to see an end to hyperinflation by the end of this year and hopefully a reduction of inflation to two digits. This should stabilise property prices and rentals generally.

But things seem to have changed drastically after March 31?

It's too early for us to judge what impact this will have on the property market. This was all about unfulfilled expectations. It has definitely fuelled a lot of speculation, but the question is, is it long term or short-term? I think it is short-term.

 

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