Proposed Legislation Would Do Away With Realtor Licenses in Israel

Reform would move oversight from the Justice Ministry to the Economy Ministry

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People taking a real estate license exam, Jerusalem, November 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod

A license would no longer be required to work as a real estate agent in Israel, under a draft amendment published by the Justice Ministry for public review.

The proposed reform would move oversight for the sector from the ministry to the Economy Ministry’s Consumer Protection Authority.

Officials see such a change as necessary given increased public access to real estate information in the internet age, which levels the playing field and makes government licensing for agents less crucial.

There is no longer justification for limiting freedom of employment in the profession through licensing, professional sources say.

The reform would not apply to agents who handle land sales involving financial assets.

The Economy Ministry may formulate new laws and regulations in order to carry out its new oversight job.

Israel has some 22,000 government-registered real estate agents, with about 3,000 people joining the list every year.

In keeping with a government decision to limit the regulatory burden and work conducted by the Justice Ministry last year, a decision was made that there is no longer any justification for licensing real estate agents.

“Since the law was legislated 23 years ago, we are in the midst of a digital revolution that makes real estate information very accessible on a variety of digital platforms, both government and private. These platforms offer services that may obviate or limit the need for agents,” the proposed amendment says.

Digital sources limit the information gap between agents and their clients, thus limiting an agent’s potential risk in any property transaction.

Information available online includes the legal and planning status of apartments, information on nearby transportation, the community’s socioeconomic status, educational institutions and environmental issues.

Social networks also provide an informal source of data about a home’s surroundings.

Israel’s National Bureau of Realtors have criticized the planned reform saying it would hurt the public.

“The real estate agents’ bureau has been working for years at the Sisyphean task of improving the image of this industry, in order to impose ethical standards,” it said.

The bureau asserted that in western world, real estate agents need to be regulated more rather than less, and pointed to Poland, where it said a reduction in regulation had led to an increase in fraud.

Bernard Raskin, founder and CEO of the ReMax real estate agency chain, countered that the change was welcome, and that permits mostly served to boost agents’ self image.