A widely-ridiculed attempt by the German Federation of Estate Agents (BVFI) to start a nationwide strike on 7 November has failed to gain enough support following a vote of its members.
The ballot was called in protest at a new property law to start in 2015 that will cap rents and prevent the association’s 11,000 members from earning commissions on rental property.
“The trend is towards a strike”, said Helge Norbert Ziegler, president of the BVFI, halfway through the voting procedure last week, but the full results published yesterday showed that of the 3,707 members who voted, 30% voted for strike action and 6% voted against. However, the idea was killed off by the 64% abstentions, most of them agents not in the rental business and hence unlikely to lose out from the new law.
Zeigler had said that agents were angry at “being held responsible for everything that goes wrong in the housing market.” However, given that anti-agent feeling, it was perhaps unsurprising that the ballot led to estate agents becoming even more the butt of German jokes, along the lines of ‘why can’t they go on strike permanently?’ with the hashtag #maklerstreik (estate agent strike) trending on Twitter, and not predominantly in support. Also distancing themselves from the strike call were the rival Real Estate Association (IVD), whose chairman said: “The call to strike is a nonsense… this harms the reputable brokers.” Another said: ”It’s a stupid idea. I’m sure politicians are trembling in their boots over the economy collapsing because of an estate agent strike.”
In Germany nearly 850,000 rental properties are re-let each year with the help of a broker, around 40% of lease renewals, and around double that, 80%, in tight markets such as Berlin, according to tagesspiegel. The new tenant then pays the agent a commission of 2% plus VAT. From next year the tenant will pay the landlord, who will either pay the broker or may take on the whole process themselves. “The industry is changing profoundly and permanently,” said the Chief Analyst at Immobilienscout24, Germany’s largest property portal.