The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), one of the most important internationally acknowledged professional standards for real estate, which has recently started to become important for Romania too, will have a local organization.
It currently has 70 members, and needs a further 30 to become a full RICS branch in Romania. “We have had a dozen new members join in the last couple of months in Romania. Local people with experience and the proper qualifications may be eligible for RICS membership,” Jonathan Youens, the chairman of RICS in Romania, tells Business Review. Youens, a RICS Fellow and managing director of Creativ Global Property, first came up with the idea of establishing a proper RICS organization in Romania earlier this year. The organization has been actively interviewing people in the last three months.
“We have had people registered with ANEVAR – the local surveyor association – who have become RICS members,” says Youens. His task is to put the project together, and while in a couple of years the organization will be run by locals, for the time being it is being run by foreigners, the chairman says.The foreign-to-local ratio of RICS members in Romania shows that the qualification is more in demand by foreigners, but that Romanians are catching up as well. So far, only one third of the RICS members in Romania are locals, and the rest expats. “But many others have expressed their intention to become members, including some valuers,” says Youens.
Apart from experience and qualifications, anyone who wants to become a RICS member in Romania will be subject to further examination, but the interviews will be held locally, which should make the process simpler. For Romania, the membership fees will be half those paid in the UK, according to Youens.
Eight more professionals received RICS memberships in July this year, including Ioana Momiceanu and Denis Donoiu of Atisreal, David Lawrence of AIG/Lincoln, Levis Vlad of JLL, Doinita Costache, Florin Sorea and Cristina Dumitrache of Cushman & Wakefield.
“I think it is an extremely good idea on a market which is still searching for its professional standards. There are countries in which the RICS label is a business card which makes an enormous difference. It would be great for this to happen in Romania as well,” said Muler Onofrei, country manager with Goodman in Romania.
“The local RICS presence will increase awareness and help in dealing with local clients. RICS's presence in Romania will help local players understand that a higher level of professionalism actually means a higher level of transparency and trust. That will happen if the Romanian members of RICS meet the real standards of this organization, for which professional ethics are of the essence,” said Onofrei, who is now in the Assessment of Professional Competence stage of his RICS membership procedure.
RICS was not entirely new to the Romanian market, as several local professionals had become members with RICS (MRICS), while several RICS-qualified expats are also working in the country. “I think the establishment of a RICS branch in Romania will assist in creating a higher profile and recognition of RICS and its members' real estate services in the Romanian market. That process has been well tried and tested by the RICS in other countries so that the high standards of RICS are maintained, so I would expect a similar rigorous but worthwhile and open process to be applied in Romania,” said Ciaran Chesser, a Fellow with RICS and general manager of Bruce Shaw Partnership in Romania.
So far, joining RICS has not been easy, as there was little information in Romania about the standards. There are still no accredited RICS courses provided by the universities or higher education institutions in Romania at present which means the most realistic way to qualify is through the distance learning programs offered by universities. It is a long and demanding study program, say those who have attended it.
Many of the expats working in Romania in property investment and consultancy are chartered surveyors in various areas of the field, having received their RICS certification in the UK. While in other countries in the region, like Poland and Hungary, local universities are partnering RICS in offering training courses which are part of the certification program, the Romanian market lacks such an initiative. The only solution that local candidates have is to attend online courses or through foreign universities.
A search in the RICS database of member firms yields 26 companies active on the local market which have become members of RICS. Several of them are local firms, such as Aleph Properties, CMF Consulting, Myo Management, Darian Valuation and Creativ Global Property.
In spring this year, there were 13 company members of RICS doing business in Romania. Players on the local property market say such certification is required in order to bring rules to a market which needs regulation, and that in the next few years, this certification will become important, as the market starts to cool off and people look at such additional details.
Apart from gaining knowledge in the field, RICS members must obey a code of conduct, which increases trust from foreign players. “It is quite common practice for an agent to take fees from both parties in a transaction whether leasing/renting or buying/selling. The RICS forbids this practice. You can only have one client and it is the client that pays,” says Jonathan Youens,
Youens first qualified with RICS in 1974, under the general practice surveillance section. In his view, the qualification is a recognized standard that is held in the same esteem as that of a lawyer or a chartered accountant. “It is also recognized by the courts when a surveyor is required to be an expert witness,” says Youens.
The fees for trainees and RICS members in Central and Eastern Europe are almost three times lower than those for RICS membership in Western Europe. For Romania, when there was no local RICS presence, a trainee had to pay a EUR 350 enrollment fee. The yearly trainee fee is EUR 63. Once a trainee has passed their final assessment, the yearly membership fee is about EUR 120 for those who have been members for less than six years, about EUR 200 for members of more than six years' standing and EUR 250 for fellows, according to data from RICS.
By Corina Saceanu