Last November, the National Association of Real Estate Agencies of Slovakia (NARKS), was established as a successor to two professional organizations, the Association of Real Estate Offices of Slovakia and the Association of Real Estate Agencies of the Slovak Republic, which had been competing against each other since 1992. The creation of a single professional association of real estate agencies in Slovakia had a single driving idea behind it - improving the professional performance of companies active in the field.
Slovakia's current real estate business is in a muddle, since according to Slovak legislation, anyone with a business license and a clean criminal record can launch a real estate agency. This enables hundreds of businesses to have their own "real estate agency", lowering professional standards within the field.
By gathering 70 real estate agencies together, NARKS aims to provide them with legal counsel, to guarantee professional standards to their clients and to lobby for the idea of issuing licenses to agencies.
NARKS also hopes to eliminate unprofessional agencies by strict membership requirements. In order to join NARKS, an agency must be currently active in the real estate field, must have been in the business for an extensive period of time, and must provide references from previous clients. If all these preconditions are met, membership can be obtained for an entrance fee of 10,000 Sk, and an annual fee of 12,000 Sk.
Because of the stricter standards required for membership, NARK's president Martin Holec believes that companies will have greater confidence in the reliability and professionalism of the agencies belonging to the association. "NARKS membership gives an agency higher credibility," he said.
If NARKS receives a complaint about a real estate agency or its activities, it may exclude the agency from the association. "So far, it is only an ethical sanction," Holec said, "but once agencies are required to have licenses, we can withdraw their license based on their illegal activity."
NARKS is advocating that the following pre-requisites be met before a license is issued: 1) a real estate agent must have completed university education in law or construction; 2) agents must have experience in the field; 3) applicants must take a special real estate test. Holec refused to say how many of the currently active agents would pass the test, but said that a majority of them would not.
Most solid market players agree that NARKS will eventually boost the professionalism of real estate business in Slovakia. "We do support the idea of issuing licenses to real estate agencies, because there are too many unprofessional agencies on the market," said Adriana Litomerická, director of 1. Národná aukčná spoločnosť. "NARKS is here to protect agencies and clients as well. The association will establish the same standards for everyone, and unite all professionals in this business."