The Agency has joined forces with Australian Family Lawyers (AFL) to train agents in managing property sales during a divorce.
The program has the dual aim of helping agents feel more comfortable coping with tricky relationship breakdown issues and also to ease the pain points former couples face when dividing or selling what is usually their biggest asset.
The Agency Chief Operating Officer Andrew Jensen said rising divorce rates, discussion in the property market and family friends going through a tricky divorce prompted him to roll the program out to agents nationwide.
“I have a couple of family friends, and they said the experience of selling their home was horrendous,” Mr Jensen said.
“This is an area where we want our clients to feel comfortable that our agents are across it and know how to approach it.
“It will help us to deliver better service and a better experience.”
Australian Family Lawyers Executive Chairman Grant Dearlove said 50 per cent of legal relationships in Australia failed.
“That’s quite a sad societal issue,” he said.
“That includes marriages as well as de facto breakdowns, and de facto includes heterosexual and same-sex marriages.
“Leaving aside the dissolution of the relationship, if you throw in a property matter, there are more incidences out there than people really understand.
“Normally in a relationship, the biggest asset is the home or property and the people that divest that asset for the vendors is the agents.”
Mr Dearlove and Mr Jensen emphasised that agents would not be providing legal advice but that having training in the field would help them manage tricky situations with more empathy, knowledge of where vendors were at and to be able to point them in the right direction for legal help.
Mr Dearlove said the training would cover understanding the dynamic of the vendors’ relationship and where it is at in the dissolution process, understanding timeframes, legal obligations and court orders, as well as what solicitors do and what the law is.
“It will also help agents understand the psychology of the client and the empathy that needs to be applied to their circumstances,” he said.
“A classic case study might be that a vendor says, ‘My husband and I are separating, and we want you to sell our home’.
“The agent can then conjure up a whole lot of legal considerations such as how the house is held, whether it is held as joint tenancy or tenancy in common and what the process is heading towards dissolution of the relationship and how the property sits within that.
“What is the value of the property within the asset pool, and what are the mechanics of dividing that?
“So if an agent understands those fundamentals and how they are wrapped up in the law, they can’t give legal advice, but at least they can guide the vendors to their decisions and help them in that process. They can empathise with the client and what’s involved.”
Mr Jensen said the training program would be completed through a mixture of online, Zoom and, where possible, face-to-face sessions.
All current agents will do the training, and it will also form a part of The Agency’s onboarding program for new agents, principals and business owners.
The training will be regularly updated, and Mr Jensen said agents would also have access to a helpline they can call if they need advice on how to handle a particular situation.
The union between The Agency and Australian Family Lawyers will also act as a reciprocal referral partnership, and Mr Jensen says agents having done the training may also be an important factor vendors consider when selecting who sells their property.
He said the training could also assist team members at The Agency going through their own divorce or give them the knowledge needed to refer family and friends to seek legal advice.