The real estate sector in Malta, as with many countries worldwide, plays a significant role in the economy and provides numerous employment opportunities. Recently, questions about the professionalism of real estate agents in Malta have arisen, sparking debates about the need for industry regulations and standards. This blog post aims to explore these concerns, shedding light on the real estate landscape in Malta and how it compares to its counterparts overseas.
Malta's Real Estate Industry
In 2020, a significant shift occurred in Malta's real estate sector with the introduction of the Real Estate Agents, Property Brokers and Property Consultants Act. The Act mandates that everyone operating within Malta's property market, from agents to branch managers, must hold a licence. This move aimed to enhance industry professionalism by ensuring that all practitioners meet certain standards of competency and conduct. However, the implementation process has been fraught with challenges, and a substantial number of agents are still unlicensed.
The Licensing Conundrum
Despite the legal requirement for licensing, many agents in Malta and Gozo have applied for the licence thus far, leaving over a thousand agents operating without a licence. This non-compliance has resulted in uneven standards of professionalism across the sector. Without comprehensive enforcement, unlicensed agents can offer real estate services that lack the professionalism and high standards that industry stalwarts have worked to prioritise in recent years, creating untold damage to customer confidence in the market and licensed agents’ hard-won reputation.
The lack of enforcement and transparency is mainly due to insufficient manpower, miscommunication, and a lack of accountability within the industry. The authorities had to make adjustments to the law to cater for their responsibility to the industry, which has overwhelmed the Licensing Unit with requests and support issues. This has resulted in a situation where licence numbers have not been issued, and many agents are operating in the dark.
A Comparison with Overseas Counterparts
Comparatively, the real estate industry in many other countries has a robust regulatory framework that enforces agent licensing and sets professional standards. For instance, in the UK, Australia, and the US, real estate agents must complete professional qualifications and adhere to a code of conduct to ensure a high level of service to clients. Any breach of these standards can result in penalties, including fines and licence revocation.
It seems that Malta's real estate industry still has some way to go to match these international standards. A lack of initial consultation and the ensuing confusion has made it difficult for agents who have invested time and money to develop a course to ensure compliance and accreditation in-line with the licence. The industry must now overcome the system’s future issues.
Despite the challenges, there are signs of improvement. Companies like RE/MAX Malta continue to set an example in terms of licensing compliance, agent professionalism, and providing a high-quality customer experience. They have partnered with an accredited institution and their own training academy and HR department to achieve compliance.
Furthermore, there are calls for a PR campaign led by the authorities to promote licensing and its benefits for both property professionals and the public. This would offer more education on the subject both in traditional media and in the digital sphere, hopefully leading to increased compliance and professionalism across the industry.
The journey to improve the level of professionalism among real estate agents in Malta is a work in progress. However, with the right steps, it is possible to align the industry with international standards, ensuring a more professional and trustworthy real estate market for both practitioners and clients alike.