REINSW CEO sets the record straight
16 October 2018
In a recent BuzzFeeed News article, Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean stated it is not in the public’s interest for real estate agents to regulate themselves. To bolster his claim, Kean cited the prevalence of underquoting* and reminded the reader that in some surveys real estate agents are perceived to be untrustworthy.

In his response to the article and Minister Kean’s comments, REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin set the record straight.

Cooperation, not self-regulation

Mikibbin says the property services industry is not seeking self-regulation, despite what Minister Kean is implying.

“The property services industry is seeking a relationship with a regulator who has competencies in the property services industry and who will work constructively and cooperatively with industry,” he says. “To me, that doesn’t seem unreasonable.” 

And Mckibbin is not alone in his beliefs. Six groups, including the Property Owners’ Association of NSW and the Real Estate Buyers Agents Association of Australia, also argued to take the property services industry out of NSW Fair Trading’s remit.

“NSW Fair Trading does not possess sufficient competencies and experience to support industry. It’s that simple,” says McKibbin.

McKibbin says NSW Fair Trading is a small dollar value-high frequency transaction regulator.

“These transactions are not typically legally or commercially complex – unlike a property transaction,” he says. “I buy a coffee on my way to work. I don’t need my solicitor’s help for that. But I do when I buy or sell real estate.

“When six industry bodies all say NSW Fair Trading is not up to the job, how can the Minister ignore them?

“Former Premier Mike Baird once rhetorically asked, ‘If industry wants to improve itself then why would Government stand in the way?’. It’s a great question, but stand in the way they do, with great enthusiasm and determination. 

“The property services industry is working hard to increase the scope and quality of the services it provides to consumers. Unfortunately, to achieve this we have to fight NSW Fair Trading and Government every step of the way.” 

Working to benefit the consumer

In the BuzzFeed article, Sarah Agar, Head of Campaigns and Policy at CHOICE, said the proposed name, Commissioner for the Property Services Industry, “raises alarm bells”. She expressed concern that the name “suggests the focus is on the industry itself and not the people that rely on that industry to give them a safe roof over their heads”.

In his response, McKibbin welcomed any contribution or assistance CHOICE and other consumer protection organisations could provide to ensure the consumer is protected.

“We want to improve all aspects of the consumers’ experience with the property services industry,” he says.
“Prior to 2002, to gain a real estate licence you had to go to TAFE for three years and demonstrate industry experience. Now it can be done in a matter of weeks. 

“In fact, you can gain a Certificate of Registration [entry level qualification] in less than a week.”

To demonstrate how easy it is to become a real estate agent, McKibbin says journalists have completed the Certificate of Registration course just so they can write an article on how pathetic the educational requirements are.

“We have made this clear to NSW Fair Trading and Government, but did they listen? No,” says McKibbin. “This level of education puts consumers at risk and fails those people seeking a career in the industry. 

“It’s incredulous that the Minister and NSW Fair Trading state they are going to lift standards one day then say they want to de-licence auctioneers the next.

“An auction is not a theatrical event. It is the making of a contract involving large sums of money and binding people to serious contractual obligations.”

McKibbin says every time he hears Minister Kean talk about the property services industry, it validates and strengthens his resolve to seek an industry-experienced Property Services Commissioner.

When asked by Minister Kean what game he is playing, McKibbin responded: “The game is called ‘consumer protection’ and you win by providing vastly improved education, training, experience, knowledge of the regulatory environment and accountability to professional conduct.”

*Channel 10 Eyewitness News recently reported that since 2016, 89 agents have been fined for underquoting – those agents represent just 0.24 per cent of all people working in the real estate industry in NSW.
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