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In any profession, impeccable skills, ethics and training are expected. From a regulatory perspective, these requirements are mandatory in protecting the rights of consumers and in setting professional standards. Real estate professionals are no different, and are therefore expected to have a high level of competency.
In Arab culture, real estate is considered ''the good son'', which means it is a lifetime security. Buying or selling real estate is, therefore, viewed as a significant life decision by many Arabs. It could even be the most important decision individuals or families might make in their lifetime, although such an attitude is also common in many other societies.
In a society like Dubai, real estate professionals can often become the source of a foreigner's first impression on the emirate. First impressions are based on a wide range of characteristics, including the time allowed to process the image. Language, physical appearance, voice and the number of people present (the more people, the longer it takes to process your first impression) matter in first impressions.
So what has this to do with real estate agents? Answer: First impressions can make you or break you. It means that a real estate broker only has a ''New York minute'' to win the trust of a potential customer.
As a window to Dubai's real estate landscape, real estate agents must be knowledgeable about the emirate, who they represent, the local laws, local language, culture and even the maths involved.
In Dubai, a 20-hour course and a test are required to obtain a real estate licence. In January 2007, the Dubai Land Department started to certify real estate agents. Only real estate brokers and real estate firms with certification are allowed to transact in Dubai's property market. The first phase of the system registered real estate firms, with the second phase involving real estate agents.
The certification and subsequent registration give agents and brokers legal entity to represent buyers, tenants, landlords and sellers.
The government has also established the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) as the industry's regulator. Without a Rera licence, a broker cannot legally operate in Dubai. It is as important as having one's trade licence and residency visa.
As the market matured, more regulations were introduced to curtail excessive speculative activity in the off-plan market and minimize investment risk.
The initial training that real estate agents undergo ensures that they are qualified to complete real estate deals and adhere to ethical standards. Any breach of the law could lead to a cancellation of the licence and fines.
The initial course covers a variety of topics, including basic real estate law, registering or transferring property, Rera-published contracts, code of ethics, home owners' associations and basic skills training. The objectives of the course includes increasing the practitioners' knowledge and efficiency and creating real estate awareness and knowledge.
Registered brokers also have the opportunity to further advance their skills through courses offered by Rera.
Know your maths
Maths skills are also essential in the profession. The basic skills taught in the 20-hour Rera course can be enhanced with courses such as Introduction to Real Estate Financing, Financial Management and Real Estate Economics.
Having a good grasp of real estate maths is useful, particularly to new real estate brokers. It is, therefore, recommended to undertake courses that go deeper into the foundational maths skills in real estate through various courses and even online resources. Maths is a universal language and can be used to bridge language or cultural barriers between a real estate broker and a client.
Furthermore, it is also important to be competent in other areas, such as the UAE's history and the art of communication. If you don't know anything about the history of the UAE, then you shouldn't be a potential investor's first impression of Dubai.
Lastly, English is the business language of the UAE and real estate brokers need to read and write English well. Brokers should not memorise real estate terms; they should know what the terms mean by heart.
If they take education seriously and seek continuing learning, especially in the fields mentioned, any real estate agent will be a superb first impression of Dubai.
Source: Haytham Al Habashi, Special to Property Weekly
The author is Managing Director of Mountaingate Realty, a real estate firm established in the UAE in 2002