The news that agents were going to have to fork out thousands of rand to take part in the EAAB’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme broke just before Christmas, and judging by the reaction of agents on social media, the news put a serious damper on their festive cheer.
To be fair, it’s important to note that there is nothing new about these sorts of programmes. Various professional bodies around the country have implemented compulsory ongoing educational initiatives aimed at keeping their members up to date with changes in their fields. Agents’ main concern is whether the EAAB is able to establish its own platform to roll out the programme and the costs associated with this decision.
As things stand, agents and principals who are in possession of a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC) will have to pay R2,000 and R2,500 a year, respectively, to attend various courses. These courses will earn the agents CPD points, which will be awarded when they attend a training course that has been accredited by the EAAB. According to the EAAB’s website, the required 20 CPD points are made up of five non-verifiable and 15 verifiable CPD points in 2015.
Not surprisingly, the CPD was the main topic under discussion at the various Rebosa road shows that were held around the country earlier this year. Principals’ reactions at the Durban event ranged from anger to outright disgust at the very idea of handing yet more money to an organisation that doesn’t have the best reputation for keeping its administrative affairs current. The general feeling was that although the initiative was, on the face of things, a good idea, the ability of the EAAB to actually roll out a programme of this magnitude was questionable.
Principals are not the only ones getting hot under the collar. Jeanne van Jaarsveldt, president of IEASA, said agents took exception to the compulsory payments, and the fact that the implementation was undertaken without any consultation with the industry was fuelling frustrations. He said he believed the roll-out of a structured CPD learner programme was possible and the EAAB’s intentions were honourable, but says the institute was concerned about whether this has been carefully thought through and if any attention has been given to the road forward. When asked whether agents believed the EAAB was in a position to implement something of this nature, he said: “At a recent EAAB road show in Durban, the question was raised as to what the EAAB plans are for the CPD roll-out of verifiable points and the question could not been answered. I believe this is the main stumbling block.
“Through this process the EAAB is raising in excess of R70m with regard to the roll out of the CPD programme. The institute’s concern is that the board is fundamentally using a big stick by threatening to withhold FFCs if the fees are not paid. In our opinion, this is totally uncalled for, given that the purpose of an FFC is to protect buyers and sellers from unscrupulous agents by allowing them to claim from the fund.”
The fact that agents are being asked to hand over a considerable amount of money without having a clear understanding of what they will be getting in return has also angered them. The EEAB had not secured trainers prior to making the announcement, and the pay-now-train-later approach is understandably controversial, given the difficulties the EAAB has had in the past.
Although the IEASA accepts that the EAAB is the only institution that could implement and administer the CPD programme, it believes that the process being employed is not ideal and has the potential to fail if not monitored with care.
Given the lack of information, Rebosa has voiced its concerns and it makes a valid point: at time of writing there was very little information about the courses the EAAB plans to present. “It is quite extraordinary that a whole programme can be announced without any content except the cost and penalty for non-compliance,” said Rebosa Chief Executive Jan le Roux. “The vast majority of the industry is excited and positive about learning opportunities and has absolutely no objection to the principle on which the programme is based. However, no consultation of any nature has taken place. Good practice dictates that industry players should at least be consulted. Such consultation would inevitably lead to a better understanding, a more positive response and more relevant content.”
Rebosa has also raised concerns regarding the cost of the programme. “The cost has been communicated at R2,000 plus VAT per agent and R2,500 plus VAT per principal for the first year of the three-year cycle. “No explanation was given for the differentiation in cost, and cognisance must be taken of the fact that many ‘principals’ are agents, that is, sole proprietors. It is hard to understand why such an agent/principal must pay a higher fee for the same education that an agent employed by a principal would be paying. Unfortunately, because no information regarding the content of the courses has been made available, this cannot be put into perspective at the moment.”
The cost is not the organisation’s only misgivings: “Whereas it is true that many other professions have similar programmes and very often at a higher cost, it should be noted that the economic scale of presenting these courses to approximately 38,000 estate agents must and should bring down the cost per person dramatically. A good argument can be made that these courses can be presented at half of the amount currently being charged.”
When approached for comment on the CPD issue, Johan Gouws, COO of Keller Williams Realty said that the group was all for the development of anybody who was exposed to clients in the real estate process and was in full support of the prescribed programme. “Our reservations regarding the programme are linked to our experience of the EAAB, which is notoriously inefficient. My suggestion is that the EAAB first upgrade its own staff and management to a level of acceptable service delivery before taking on another project at a time when estate agents are already feeling ostracised by their own industry’s body of control.”
A large number of agents have voiced their concerns regarding what sort of training will be offered. Questions such as: will the training cover all aspects of the real estate arena including courses for rental agents and managing agents? Will there be specialised courses for principals, or will they be required to attend the same courses as their agents?
Grant Gavin, who heads RE/MAX Panache says: “The training will need to add value to agents in terms of making them more productive as estate agents, and more professional in terms of meeting the needs of their clients. It also needs to assist them with their overall professional development as estate agents. To date, we have not seen any course outline or course material and therefore our most pressing concern is that training content may be pushed out quickly to meet a tight deadline rather than the needs of the agents.”
Perhaps the issue that is causing the most consternation is the fact that the EAAB is seemingly turning a blind eye to those who operate illegally in the industry. One agent, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he believed that the EAAB was in effect penalising those who elect to comply with the law and who are in possession of valid FFCs. That the EAAB does very little to clamp down on illegal operators forces those who had already completed the legally required educational requirements, such as the NQF 4, to undergo yet more compulsory training, meant, in his opinion, that the EAAB was acting in bad faith. “Why doesn’t the board get everyone on the same page as far as training goes before it starts to implement yet another costly exercise?”
Rebosa has reiterated that the EAAB is adamant that the CPD programme will go ahead despite the misgivings of just about everyone in the real estate sector. Education is key to any profession, and if the CPD is properly implemented, South African agents will be among the most educated in their field. The jury is out.
Words: Lea Jacobs