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REAL ESTATE - NATIONAL GROUP SEEKS LICENSES, PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS FOR FLEDGLING INDUSTRY

Realtors maturing

AFTER THE FALL of communism, the first Slovak real estate agencies had to start from scratch and develop their techniques as they went along. Now, with the business still maturing, an organization that represents realtors wants to help the industry become more established as a profession.

Ľubomír Kardoš, president of NARKS.
photo: Courtesy of Ľubomír Kardoš

AFTER THE FALL of communism, the first Slovak real estate agencies had to start from scratch and develop their techniques as they went along. Now, with the business still maturing, an organization that represents realtors wants to help the industry become more established as a profession.

The National Association of Real Estate Agencies of Slovakia (NARKS) wants to introduce mandatory licenses for real estate agents. In order to achieve this, it is organizing courses for realtors and hopes that in the future it can become a professional examination body for the profession, said president Ľubomír Kardoš.

"Everywhere in the world, the work of a real estate specialist is valued and real estate trading is a respected activity," Kardoš told The Slovak Spectator. "NARKS is trying to contribute to establishing this profession in Slovakia."

NARKS is the only professional organization in Slovakia that brings together real estate specialists. Experts estimate that its 90 members cover most transactions carried out through real estate agencies in Slovakia.

NARKS developed a training system for its members in the area of real estate transactions and related specializations. Now the group is trying to establish itself as an authoritative body that will test candidates before they receive a real estate license.

Real estate licenses are already common in other countries. In the United States, only high school graduates 18 or older can become agents, and they have to pass a written test, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website. Licenses also have to be renewed periodically.

Bratislava developers cater to Europe's discerning high-flyers with above-standard services and surroundings.
photo: Archive

"Most states require candidates for the general sales license to complete between 30 and 90 hours of classroom instruction," the website says. "Those seeking a broker's license need between 60 and 90 hours of formal training and a specific amount of experience selling real estate, usually one to three years."

"In the West, realtors assist their clients at all stages in the process, from flat viewing to sale negotiation to mortgage services," US journalist Julie Garrison Frederick wrote in a story for The Slovak Spectator in 2005. "And because the work is commission based, the realtor is motivated to provide exceptional service."

"Realtors in Slovakia play a far more limited role than their Western counterparts," she continued. "My experience is that a Slovak realtor is often a keeper of keys - actually something less - since few Slovaks will entrust their keys to an estate agent."

Kardoš said he believes that with the support of state bodies, NARKS will manage to improve the quality of real estate services and enhance the prestige of this profession.

As Slovak agencies have experienced in a short period of time the kind of development that took several decades for foreign firms, Kardoš argues that many Slovak real estate agencies can already be compared with foreign ones.

Slovak realtors provide a comparable range and quality of services and use the latest technologies, he said. The area in which they lag behind is in the variety of marketing instruments that often emerge abroad during drops in the real estate market and serve in the fight for survival.

People who want to sell or buy a property in Slovakia can also turn to several foreign real estate agencies that operate on the Slovak market.

"Their access to information and contacts from the [international] network to which they belong can be an advantage for them," Kardoš said. But he added they could also have problems if they try to force their own way of doing things on the Slovak market.

Kardoš expects that the arrival of foreign real estate agencies will continue to bring changes.

"It is difficult now to foresee the reaction of domestic agencies," he said. "We have not yet registered any mergers, though we can expect it in future."

Some domestic firms have reacted by establishing their own networks in regions and developing contractual cooperation among agencies.

As the introduction of compulsory licensing for real estate agents could still be still a long way away, Kardoš advises unsatisfied clients to turn to NARKS. Organization members are trying to improve their services in other ways as well, he said.

"Some agencies introduced a questionnaire where clients could report their satisfaction," said Kardoš.

NARKS is drafting such a questionnaire as well. It will be available on the NARKS website, www.narks.sk, by the end of April, Kardoš said.

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