Real estate regulator steps up to make a difference

13 October 2021

A record number of real estate licensees, and a rise in complaints from consumers are some of the key trends highlighted in the Real Estate Authority (REA) Annual Report published today.

REA Chair Denese Bates acknowledges that the 2020/21 financial year has been a challenging year with the impact of COVID-19 and a highly pressured real estate sector. REA’s 2021 Annual Report shows that REA has risen to the challenge and its work has supported high levels of professionalism in the sector and reduced harm to consumers. 

“REA’s goal is to improve the wellbeing and living standards of New Zealanders and to see empowered consumers working with trusted real estate professionals,” Denese said.

“The 2020/21 Annual Report shows the positive impact REA is making in the lives of everyday New Zealanders by educating licensed real estate professionals, informing consumers, and protecting buyers and sellers from harm during real estate transactions.”

REA Chief Executive Belinda Moffat said licensee numbers grew steadily during the financial year. As at 30 June 2021, there were 16,257 licensees and an increase of 54% new licences issued compared to last year. 

“With an increase of new joiners to the industry and a highly pressured market, REA has worked hard to support the new professionals meet the standards expected of them. As an industry, we need to ensure that new licensees receive appropriate training and supervision to help them meet the high standards required of them as real estate professionals,” Belinda said.

“Throughout the year REA has provided licensees with timely guidelines for conducting real estate business under different COVID-19 alert level changes.”

REA also focused on increasing consumer awareness of its work and its role as the conduct regulator of the real estate sector. 

“We also focused on reaching consumers to help guide them through the real estate transaction through our consumer website Settled.govt.nz , our capable enquiries team, our digital communication campaigns and channels, and by working with media,” Belinda said.

“Completing a review of the real estate qualifications framework was a highlight and the product of work with key stakeholders, REINZ and The Skills Organisation. This review has resulted in new qualifications which will help enhance the pathway for salespeople to become branch managers and agents,” adds Belinda. 

The Annual Report highlighted increased activity in all areas of REA’s regulatory work with the real estate sector, including: 

  • 2,597 new licences issued (up 54% from 1,687 in 2020/21)
  • 22,603 phone calls received by REA (up 5% from 21,510)
  • 1,664 complaint enquiries received (up 38% from 1,204)
  • 320 formal complaints received (up 13% from 284)
  • 105 Complaints Assessment Committee decisions issued
  • 182 complaints through the early resolution process resolved
  • 48% consumer awareness of REA (up from 39%)
  • 1,022,602 visits to settled.govt.nz (up 11%).

Belinda said REA was not surprised that complaint numbers rose in 2020/21 given the heightened activity and pressure in the market, and a greater awareness of REA’s role as industry regulator.

Despite the increase in volume, surveys conducted by REA show that customer satisfaction with their services remain high: 

  • 81% of licensees agreed that continuing professional development programme overseen by REA had improved their knowledge and understanding
  • 94% found REA’s compliance guidance useful
  • 77% of participants in the REA complaints process agreed the process was independent, fair and transparent.

“As the conduct regulator of the real estate profession, we aim to promote and protect the interests of consumers, and through our work raise confidence in real estate agency work in New Zealand. A large proportion of the sector work hard to meet the standards expected, and so it is important that we provide an effective service to hold to account those who do not. This has been a key focus in the last year.  

“We encourage consumers who have any concerns about a real estate transaction to contact REA. Every enquiry helps our team identify potential causes of harm and helps us develop strategies to enable real estate professionals to prevent and mitigate risk of consumer harm. Equally, our team is able to provide information to consumers to help them understand the real estate process and alleviate concerns and resolve issues before harm occurs,” adds Belinda.

Belinda said REA is particularly encouraged by the success of the settled.govt.nz website in helping consumers to safely navigate the real estate environment.

“We know that when consumers feel informed, they are more confident to participate in real estate transactions. It is reassuring to know that in the 2020/21 financial year over one million New Zealanders visited settled.govt.nz as part of their due diligence before putting their house on the market or making an offer on a property.”

Providing a service to New Zealand consumers and the New Zealand real estate sector is at the heart of the work we do, she said.

The 2021 Annual Report is available here.

ENDS