The secret to longevity and success in real estate? To John Cunningham it's about morals, ethics and high standards. And with 41 years in the industry, you can say that he definitely knows what he's talking about.
But while those values are what paved the success for Cunningham, he also feels that the same are missing from the real estate industry in its current form. Not one to rest on his laurels, he is now on a mission to change the real estate game with Pathway to Professional (P2P). Talking to grow, he shares with us his legacy work with P2P and what the future looks like for the real estate agent.
Providing a pathway for professionals
“The industry has changed a lot since I started out in the ’70s and ’80s, which I think is down to the institutes. Back then they were really strong and had a code of ethics they were able to enforce,” he explains. “It started to break down with the growth of the franchise groups, who back then had a tendency to act like they were a law unto themselves.”
Cunningham believes that this had the biggest effect on the consumer experience and meant that standards started to drop across the board.
“Industry standards are now either very high or very low, which has left a lot of people confused and untrusting of real estate agents. Plus, when you speak to a consumer at length you discover that the expectation they have around training and education for our industry is much higher than the reality. The work of P2P is to change that. We want to match the consumer’s expectation of our industry’s skills and training, and then exceed them.”
High standards for real estate
To achieve this goal, Cunningham worked alongside the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, as well as the Real Estate Institute of Australia on planning how to standardise industry training and education.
Through creating a formal nationally recognised professional standard scheme, as approved by the PSCA (Professional Standards Councils of Australia) the goal is to improve four critical standards: ethics, education, experience and examination, along with an approved entity to run the scheme, which will define the elements necessary to qualify as a professional estate agent.
The future of real estate agents
“The package we put through to the New South Wales Parliament last year came after five years of lobbying the Government to raise the standards of education for our industry,” he explains. “What will come into place, hopefully this year, is that there will be a transition to real estate licence with a Cert IV qualification that has to happen within four years of receiving a Certificate of Registration.”
Cunningham adds that it will also mean that if someone wants to run a real estate business, they must be educated to a diploma level. “This will help with the introduction of a bridging course to the diploma level for the Professional Standards Scheme requirements, which will come with a mandatory ethics course. Our aim is to start to separate the wheat from the chaff. We want to encourage people to see real estate as a professional career rather than simply a job.”
Cunningham believes that the work of a real estate agent is no walk in the park, and as such is a profession that must be set to higher standards. “What we do, very few people can do. It’s not easy. Our industry deals with low-frequency, high-value transactions and anyone usually involved in careers of this type is generally known as being in a profession,” says Cunningham.
He shares a recent experience to demonstrate the importance of professional standards in getting customers to recognise the value of real estate agents. “I’ve recently sold a property for the CEO of one of Australia’s banks. As we were getting ready to put his house on the market, we were working together on a fee system. He would end up choosing the highest performance fee we offer, because he was so impressed by the delivery of what we set out to achieve," says Cunningham.
"He was happy, we were happy and we did our job very well beyond the expectations. And when you look at it with that kind of simplicity, you start to understand that being a part of a professionally standardised and recognised industry is a win/win situation for everyone.”
To find out more about Pathway to Professional, visit reia.asn.au/p2p
Read about this story and more in the latest issue of Grow Magazine.