A cartel is a coalition of political or special-interest groups having a common cause, as to encourage the passage of a certain law.

In Australian real estate the cartel is indeed alive and well. I posed the question in part one – “how has this situation been allowed to happen”?

The answer to the overarching problem has two origins:

1. The different guidelines governing real estate in every State and Territory
2. The different level of training required to be an agent in every State and Territory

The formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 gave the States the power to regulate real estate. The States made little if any effort to pass uniform laws governing the industry and as a result we have a mish mash of requirements across the country. There is the Office of Fair Trading in NSW which is charged with the responsibility of looking after real estate agents in NSW.

There are equivalent bodies in every State and Territory and co-operation between these departments seems limited at best. Therefore the laws under which agents operate and the training required for real estate have been vastly different across the country since Federation. Bringing the States and Territories together and gaining agreement for a National system has been impossible to achieve.

Like any industry lobby groups act to alter decisions in favour of themselves. Each State has a Real Estate Institute and there is also a National Body. The Real Estate Institute of NSW has always been a major advisory body to the NSW Government when decisions have been made to alter the requirements of real estate agents or the real estate industry.

The Real Estate Institute of NSW like any organisation relies on the money it receives from memberships from real estate agents and other related bodies and as such it would unwise of them to get offside with a large number of agents by pushing for reforms which would revolutionise the industry – reforms which might be unpopular with their paying members and thus reduce the amount of money received in the form of annual memberships. Even worse would be to get a major franchise chain like LJ Hooker or Ray White offside as the risk to membership monies would be all too great.

So in understanding who is acting to advise and lobby the Office of Fair Trading and other Government bodies we start to see the cracks start to appear in the assurance of the integrity of any advice. It is also important to note that the Real Estate Institute in each State is a major training organisation, making considerable money from providing training courses like the Certificate of Registration and the Real Estate Licensing programs.

Would it be in the interest of these bodies to advise the Government in every State and Territory to form a national system? By doing so each State and Territory Body would be unnecessary and in doing so they would all be out of a job. Would it be in their interest to advise the Government to increase the educational standard of real estate entrance to Bachelor level, thus reducing their training revenues and moving education across to Universities?

As we begin to pull the process apart it becomes very apparent that the entire advisory system has self interest at heart and changing the status quo will be extremely difficult indeed. It takes just one person to start a revolution and as we continue to examine and expose the real estate cartel next week we will look more closely at the influence of the large franchise chains and existing real estate agents in maintaining the status quo. In doing so a National Forum in 2008 may be possible and true change as part of the “Education Revolution” might be just around the corner.

Michael Marquette
michael@marquetteturner.com.au

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