IN southern Spain’s real-estate market, the hot topic of conversation among property professionals is whether, and how best, to regulate the business of being an estate agent, to benefit clients and businesses alike.

Of late, a number of professional real-estate bodies – especially AEGI, the Andalusian Property Management Business Association – as well as colleagues who are involved in every aspect of the property business on the Costa del Sol have been debating the merits of regulation in the regional real-estate marketplace.

According to CEPI, the European Council of Real-Estate Professions, 15 of the 26 member states in the EU, including neighbours like France and Portugal have some form of regulation but, with the notable exception of Catalunya, Spain is not on the list. AEGI were instrumental in passing a new law in 2010 that regulates the industry in Catalunya, via an official register, and is now hoping to introduce similar legislation in Andalusia.

AEGI’s recommendations include: deposits guaranteed by professional insurance, registration and identification of officially approved agents, and formal training or minimum academic requirements. The goal is to create stable jobs, contribute to economic growth, professionalise the sector, and curb uncontrolled and even illegal activity. The regional government, the Junta de Andalucía, would be responsible for overseeing rules are followed.

It is clear regulation would benefit not only for clients, but also legitimate real-estate businesses by combatting fly-by-night ‘agents’, armed with little more than a telephone, a website of copied-and-pasted listings, and a desire to make a quick buck. Although many of the shadier characters in the sector were killed off by the crisis, as prices and interest begin to pick back up, they seem to be coming back to the market.

There is also the larger problem of policing the internet. A client recently asked why we were listing a house at a higher price than another agent found online. I had never heard of them and could only find a mobile number on their website. A subsequent call to the owner revealed the ‘agent’ had never been instructed and the owner was furious his property was advertised as a distressed sale.

The only way, of course, regulations are ever effective is by putting money and resources behind them, something still to be seen if the Junta is willing and flush enough to do. A recent report by the Which Consumer Association on property industry regulation in the UK is particularly illuminating: “The Estate Agents Act obviously isn’t working and most agents we looked at weren’t even following the basic provisions of the law.”

In the absence of regulations, for now, I’d suggest clients simply use common sense. Start by asking friends to recommend agents and other advisers with whom they have had a good experience and use the internet to carry out background checks. Good judgement, although essential, is something some people sadly seem to leave at home when they come to Spain, which s why some form of regulatory control is essential.

A final word of advice to anyone getting off the ‘plane in Malaga this summer, looking for a place in the sun: everyone you meet is a potential estate agent. Lawyers, financial advisers, restaurant owners, receptionists, gardeners, bankers and even dentists… They all know someone who needs to sell in a hurry, are offering a once-in-a-lifetime bargain, most likely with stunning sea views thrown in. They’re all on the take. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take it from me; I’m an estate agent.

Subscribe to the Olive Press


  1. This article states “The regional government, the Junta de Andalucía, would be responsible for overseeing rules are followed.” The Junta de Andalucia couldn’t organise a **** up in a brewery let alone oversee these proposed new regulations, they are not capable of running anything. If anyone needs regulating it’s them – they are responsible for all the so called illegal building and failed to police their regional for over 10 years. As an estate agent Adam, you are paying the price for their incompetence big time.

  2. Speaking on behalf of Future Homes Estate Agents in Estepona, we would absolutely have to agree with Adam, in fact we collaborate with Terra Meridiana on a regular basis. It is extremely frustrating as agents to come accross our direct exclusive properties being listed by “agents” that not only we have never heard of, but of course haven’t been given the instruction by the owners. Sometimes we can even see ourselves or our cars in the photos! Most of the times even our descriptions are taken. After having worked in the business for over 14 years we strongly believe that the recent increase in sales has had a knock-on effect and we are seeing these “ghost agents” appear again, all we can say is that clients should always ask around, make sure that the agents are qualified, well connected and most of all honest. The entire sales process should be explained to you in detail and you should not be made to sign any document prior. Best of luck to all of the legitimate agents out there who we enjoy working with on a regular basis, it’s a shame that a few bad agents can give us all a bad name. We work very hard and this always pays off at the end of the day!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.