What is CIELA?
Independent agents go to greater lengths to achieve the best price for their clients, because they are the most motivated of all agents to do so. These agents also comprise more than 80% of estate and lettings agency businesses in the UK, yet have no collective reprsentation. CIELA is an organisation founded to represent the long term interests of small, independent owner-managed estate agents, defend against advancing corporate takeover, and to promote independent agency to the public as the best option when selling or letting your home.
What’s the point of it?
The simple goal of CIELA is to increase the market share of properties being sold and let by taking it away from Corporate and Online-Advertising agents through the education of the public, and the confrontation of any corporate conduct which breaches regulations, but which action is out of the reach of individual agents.
What about the NAEA and ARLA?
These long-standing and highly respected organisations specialise in training and qualification of agents and we recommend them highly. However they do not discriminate against Corporate agents and as such do not represent any advantage specifically to independent agents. Feedback we have received from a number of former NAEA regional chairmen is that corporate members receive greater attention and have more influence, but small businesses’ voices are not heard. Therefore CIELA regards itself as a complimentary organisation with no overlapping considerations.
What about “The Guild”?
Several of the founder members of CIELA are also members of The Guild of Property Professionals, showing that there is no overlap in what CIELA plans to do. Our understanding is that The Guild supplies a number of value-added services to its members specifically on an exclusive basis, so that only one Guild member can exist in each location. This necessarily creates competitive scenarios between independent agents and for that reason The Guild cannot, in its current guise, purport to represent the interests of all independent agents. For that reason CIELA considers itself a different and complimentary organisation.
What will CIELA do?
That’s up to members. During the 6-month consultation period beginning in April 2017 and running until the end of September, pre-launch members will debate and ultimately vote on what activities CIELA will carry out on behalf of its members. Currently, the Founder Members have agreed on 7 factors that affect all independent agents without exception, which will form the basis of the discussion during the consultation period.
Only active owner-managers of independent estate or lettings agents who are listed as shareholders at companies house of the company which issues invoices to clients and is the registered employer of any staff may join as members or be included on the register. We will expressly avoid any corporate membership, so that CIELA is only ever the c0llective voice of independent agents.
What about online agents?
The term “online agents” covers a wide array of businesses, including many hybrid agencies who are in effect full service agencies without high street premises. No organisation can issue rules about how any business chooses to run itself, however, where CIELA determines that a business does not act as an agent, but merely an up-front-fee only advertising service, and does not offer any form of no-sale no fee (or no-let, no-fee) service, they will be excluded from membership.
Isn’t it just a money-making exercise?
It is absolutely a money-making exercise, but not just that. Tackling unfair corporate behaviour such as misleading advertisements, and educating the public into how to choose the best agent through national PR and media, and matching corporate spending in marketing terms will require substantial funding. However, if all independent agents unite with a small monthly contribution, CIELA will easily achieve the financial fire-power necessary to hire the very best team and engage the best in class professionals to achieve the goal, namely a larger market share for independents, as they take it back from corporates and online-only advertising outfits.
Any excess profits that members deem to be a surplus, will be returned to members via a planned profit-share scheme.
What will it cost?
Members will set the price by vote themselves, once they have determined what they expect CIELA to do and what budget will be needed. For the 6 month Pre-Launch period membership has been set at £35 per month plus vat to allow as many members as possible to participate in determining the direction of CIELA’s future. For now it is intended that there will be one single price for all members regardless of location, plus a free entry level membership which will require the uploading of property data to the CIELA database, not for publication, but for price and trend analysis, and if members choose, for monetisation and additional income to be shared with individual members.
Will there be a contract or tie-in?
There will be no mandatory long term contracts. During pre-launch membership, 30 days notice of termination will be required. After full launch, it is expected there will be a rolling 90-day notice period for any members wishing to leave.
Will there be a portal?
Certainly not to begin with, and in any event certainly not unless the majority of independent agents have joined CIELA, are uploading their properties and there is the momentum to enter the market as at least the number 2 portal, with targets set on becoming the number one. The number of well funded failed attempts to launch competitor portals should serve as a warning to anyone considering entering. Firstly, you must list all the property available, otherwise the consumer simply has no reason to ever leave Rightmove. Secondly, you must allow enquiries to reach agents more easily, and remove the friction in the existing process which leads to frustration for both consumers and agents. Thirdly, you must offer both visitors and agents a compelling innovation which adds real tangible value to the process. Finally, given today’s environment and high consumer expectations, you must have the fastest performing site and world-class data security. In the event there are sufficient members, sufficient listings and members vote to launch a portal, it is possible CIELA may consider it, but it is premature to discuss before the organisation has even launched.
Does CIELA plan to sell any products or services to its members?
CIELA will offer products and/or services to its members if:
- Members have voted in favour of CIELA supplying the product or service in question
- Any such offering does not create any form of competitive advantage between members.
CIELA relies on unity between independent agents and to that end will not engage in the delivery of anything which offers one member a competitive advantage over another. Generic products that are required by all businesses, such as business phone and broadband, email or website hosting, insurance, car leasing, mobile phone, etc are all examples of products that CIELA may be able to supply if required, without creating any competitive difference for members.
How will members get their voice heard?
From the outset, before full-launch, there will be a secure voting system in place which will be used as often as necessary to allow members to express their views on matters which have been raised.This means that on important matters where a decision is to be taken, every single member will have a vote that will count when determining the outcome or decision. It is expected that such votes including all members will happen on at least a quarterly basis once launched. How will matters for debate or decision be raised?
There are many differing points of view on numerous topics among independent agents, and it is impossible to address them all simultaneously. Also, there are a number of matters that concern situations between local independent agents themselves, and as such these will not be allowed for consideration.
Only matters affecting all independent agents, all members, without dispute, will be put forward for discussion. This necessarily includes the behaviour of corporations in the sector, not only corporate agents, but large corporate suppliers to the industry, for whom it is easy to manipulate and exploit small clients. Another matter likely to be addressed is how to combat the problem of agents who are not complying with legal requirements. Membership of CIELA will require confirmation of adherence with all required legislation, and assistance will be offered to agents who wish to fill in any gaps in their compliance.
Who owns CIELA?
CIELA is currently owned by its founder. However, it is intended that, with sufficient support and once approved by members an irrevocable scheme will be put in place to allow ownership of the organisation by members, and to prevent a sale of the organisation to any party not approved by members. This would mean that, assuming full launch in the autumn with sufficient members, the organisation can never be sold to anyone whom the members have not approved. It is also expected that a members’ right-to-buy scheme will exist, as well as a discounted participation on listing in the event of a flotation.
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