Professional real estate brokerage services are desired by all but the licensing of individual brokers presents a host of difficulties.
A few years ago, when the real estate market was in good shape, many people became involved in property trading, even those with little or no training in the field. Some actually became real estate brokers, hooking up buyers with sellers or renters with owners. "The owner of a small apartment for rent near my shop asked me to tell people about it," said Ms Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, who has a shop on Hanoi's Cau Giay Street. "If I introduced someone I received a commission. And I've done likewise for many other owners." Ms Hoa may be unable to continue with this line of work, however, if a draft law comes into being.
Members of the National Assembly's Standing Committee last month called for the tightening of real estate brokerage services as part of the draft Law on Real Estate Trading, with licensed brokers being required to have graduated from university. This particular article of the law has sparked a great deal of debate.
Qualifications vs. experience
Speaking at discussions on the draft law, Minister of Construction Trinh Dinh Dung said that the licensing of real estate brokers was very much necessary. Other countries impose tight management over real estate brokers because their actions directly affect the benefits of both the buyer and seller or the renter and the owner. For example, in Australia, real estate brokers must be legal professionals with past experience and licences to perform the role.
Mr Phan Trung Ly, Chairman of the National Assembly's Legal Committee, agreed with Mr Dung. There are too many real estate brokers, he said, working "underground" and the draft law must therefore increase the requirements for becoming a real estate broker and the method of measuring their credibility. He suggested the Vietnam Real Estate Association be given the responsibility for testing and issuing licences to brokers. Others, though, say the task should go to the Ministry of Construction, which can work nationwide and can ensure the system is coordinated.
Many experts believe the new regulation is reasonable and allows individuals and businesses to better access professional brokerage services. Ms Nguyen Dieu Hong, Director of Business Development at Savills Hanoi, said that except for some experienced domestic and foreign real estate companies, most brokers in Vietnam lack the requisite skills. Licensing of real estate brokers, she added, has been applied in other countries for a long time already. In Singapore, brokers are required to participate in a professional training programme and pass an examination before being licensed. "The proposal, in general, will be a positive for the property market, contributing to restructuring Vietnam's brokerage market, which has never been under systematic regulation," she said.
While many approve of the draft law, brokers such as Ms Hoa and many real estate companies remain opposed. VET asked a number of people who have been working as brokers for their thoughts. Mr Nguyen Thac Khai, the owner of a coffee shop in Lang Street, doesn't care for the licensing requirement in the draft law. "Nobody can stop us from introducing a house or apartment for sale or lease to our customers," he said. Because it's simply a matter of introducing people to each other, many believe acting as real estate broker is a job that anyone could do. Ms Pham Thu Ha, the owner of a shop on Tran Duy Hung Street, said she was a real estate broker a few years ago. "It's not really a job, so licensing is unnecessary," she said.
If it came into being, the draft law would be good news for professional real estate companies but many still feel ill at ease. Mr Tran Hien Phuong, Director of the Seareal Real Estate Company, said the draft law would clean up the shortcomings in property broking services and ensure the benefits of customers. But if the aspects of the law regarding real estate brokers are passed he would need to employ a specialised brokerage team. "Thirty per cent of our staff have never graduated from university but they have the experience and skills to be brokers," he said. "If the law was introduced, they would not be able to work in the field."
According to Mr Nguyen Van Dung, Director of the Hoang Nam Land Company, the issue of university graduation is not important. The key matter is awareness and responsibility among brokers. "The government needs to strengthen the inspection and supervision of brokerage activities if it wants specialised teams of brokers," he said.
Experience is a key issue. Mr Vu Cuong Quyet from the Dat Xanh Mien Bac Company said that if the draft law requires all real estate brokers have a university degree it would deprive career opportunities to many people who have wide-ranging experience but don't possess a degree. Conversely, Mr Nguyen Vu Cao from the Hoang Gia Real Estate Company believes the quality of real estate trading in Vietnam is poor and lacks clarity. Many go-betweens provide incorrect information to serve their own interests and show no concern for the benefits of customers. The draft law, he believes, is very much needed.
In order to have a stable, healthy real estate market, many experts agree that brokers should be licensed. The debate is mostly over what is needed to be licensed, whether it be university qualifications or experience. Deputy Minister of Construction Nguyen Tran Nam said that the government needs to improve the quality of real estate brokerage services by supervising the content of associated training programmes. Ms Hong from Savills also spoke of the importance of regular examinations to test the knowledge as well as the skills of real estate brokers.