Why such a negative sentiment towards the estate agent?

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Rowena Scicluna

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the real estate industry. After the industry went through a turmoil, end 2019, interest in property started picking up again in February, however, COVID-19 seems to want to have its way too and all operations have now stopped.

Everything has impacted our way of working, from listing properties, advertising, negotiating and conducting viewings. Everything is now shifting to online. So much uncertainty and scepticism still. People are not understanding what the best way is, whether to stay put or to keep looking for their dream home. 

What perplexes me is the fact that as estate agents we must be compliant with FIAU regulations, pay taxes like any other business along with many other obligations which we gladly abide by.  How come we are not directly listed in the Annexes to be able to opt for the government grant? It seems that once again, the institution has completely forgotten us.

Don’t we depend on sales or letting of properties to earn a wage, to be able to pay bills, mortgages and rents? I am sure that I am not the only one feeling discriminated and deprived from my rights. I agree that individuals who work in the catering industry are given grants to support their families during these exceptionally hard times. Don’t we all have families at home? Or perhaps being a real estate agent is not a job? Perhaps one might think that it is all about showing a property… or maybe it is my fellow competitors who at times shoot themselves in the foot with their bad publicity and how they treat their customers! However, at the same time I am sure that we have all been to a restaurant, and have not always received an impeccable service. The grant is not discriminating against the level of service given but against the industry.

Taking a leap of faith and venturing from a paid job to a non-paid job is a risk. Truth is we do not get paid for our jobs; we do not get paid for meeting up on Sundays with clients who decide to meet us simply to shop around. We too would like to be with our families. A true dedicated estate agent knows that this is not a 9 to 5 job and working late and during weekends is compulsory.

We have struggling months when we cannot sell and have to rely on a previous sale to get by.  Other days you wake up again trying to be positive and give your best to get a lead that can materialise. If you do your job well with a dash of luck, you might sign a promise of sale and then you get to reap your earnings when the contract is signed. Worst still, with the delays in construction, which an estate agent does not have any control whatsoever, only means that our wage is earned a year or more later. How would any other worker feel if one’s wage is postponed by a year? 

As an estate agency we provide a service to customers who trust in us and who specifically look for our services. We have also been waiting for government to issue a licensing for agents, which I am sure most of us are willing to do. 

Our business has been dramatically impacted and since we have now closed our offices, the phone has ceased to ring and enquiries have shrunk down to almost none. We are trying to work remotely, however, since the courts are closed, it is not easy to conduct business online as it does not depend only on us. We are trying to promote online campaigns to show prospective property buyers that we are still available and can still pass on all the knowledge needed. Moreover, one must understand the limitations to show properties, hence, making the buying process even more difficult.

So, dear Prime Minister do consider us as contributors to society, people with families and people who are struggling too.