In February 2015, the auditor-general released his report into the regulation of the state’s real estate agents and settlement agents and found the state has sound oversight in place, and the risk of direct financial loss for people buying or selling homes remained low.
In August 2014, some 4,589 real estate and business agents held a licence in Western Australia. Over 9,300 sales representatives also held a valid registration. At the same date, 807 settlement agents and business settlement agents held a licence in Western Australia. Lawyers are also able to settle property and business sales but do not require a settlement agent’s licence to do so. The Department of Commerce is responsible for the regulation of the real estate and settlement agent industry.
Murphy found that new measures to reduce the risk of fraudulent property sales are strong enough to prevent a repeat of high-profile scams in 2010 and 2011 which saw two properties fraudulently sold without the consent of the owners. Subsequently, four further frauds were thwarted. In response to these scams, Landgate and other government agencies introduced strong identity checks for anyone wanting to sell their home. Overseas sellers must now present themselves to an Australian consular officer.
Murphy warned that, while the new measures for preventing fraud are important, the care and diligence of agents in verifying the identity of those selling property remains critical.