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New EU Real Estate Agents Standards

Bulgarian real estate agents selling property in Bulgaria will soon have to contend with new EU standards. Over the coming six months or so, new standards regarding property professionals are going to be adopted in Bulgaria, Maya Staneva, the Executive Director of the Bulgarian Institute for Standardisation, said.

EU real estate standards have been in the pipeline for several years and naturally Bulgaria will need to comply with EU requirements. Currently Bulgarian estate agents selling Bulgarian property are not regulated and people working in this sector need no qualifications to do so.

The new standards which are to be introduced should be viewed as covering good practices, rather than outright legislation. It is highly unlikely that they will take precedence over national Bulgarian legislation. However, if the standards are actually referred to in legislation then they will become binding. Agents who announce they will comply with the standards are also bound by them.

The current state of play in the property and real estate sector in the EU is that every country's property market is different, each being subject to different legislation and regulation. In country's such as France, regulation and legislation is extremely strict but in Bulgaria, it is non-existent. About half the EU member states have no regulations regarding this matter or have recently deregulated the real estate professions

It is therefore a bureaucratic nightmare for the EU to harmonise legislation in the real estate market across the whole of the EU. However, the CEPI (Conseil europeen des Professions Immobilieres) which is based in Brussels has been leading the way for the last couple of years. It is the main institution in Europe concerned with EU policies covering the real estate sector. The main thrust of the CEPI is high educational qualifications and ethical conduct by real estate professionals.

It is the work undertaken by the CEPI which is the basis of the new standards but they are concerned that only about half to two thirds of the some 200,000 professionals in the EU countries are members of its associations. The remainder not being bound by the CEPI's high standards. CEPI would like all property professionals in all EU countries to come under their high standards, which will be the first step in potential harmonisation of legislation across the EU.

Apart from the agents themselves, there is the arena of other services, such as financial products, building and maintenance and management. Clients across the EU are demanding a higher quality of service, transparency and consumer protection.

The CEPI believe that legislation and regulations should be kept to a minimum, preferring rather to encourage agents to operate within a very tight code of conduct and standards. Without strong legislation and also because only half of the EU member states actually regulate via law their real estate professionals, self-regulating projects may help the sector better - to establish the "rules of the game". CEPI consistently keeps in touch with a vast network of institutions and associations across the EU and monitors the implementation of standards, legislation and regulations closely. To this end, they have proposed a minimum level of harmonisation on standards (code of ethics and education) for real estate professionals.

It remains to be seen how Bulgaria implements the new standards - and in particular whether they will include these in legislation relating to the real estate industry in the country.

It is to be hoped that these new standards will see the end to some of the bad practices by agents in the Bulgarian marketplace and elsewhere in the emerging EU property markets.

Note : If you would like to read more about the importance of the EU for property professionals, or are a professional in real estate and property in Bulgaria, then this document on the CEPI website, will be of value