Real estate industry executives say that today's job seekers may never have had it so good, with conditions in the market being the best they have been for at least 10 years. Considering the fact that property sector professionals - and the estate agency branch in particular - have generally raised standards over the past decade, now could be the best time to get a foot on the first rung of the property career ladder. Greater regulation and ethical standards have become more prevalent since the setting up of the Estate Agents' Authority in 1997. According to Kitty Ip Kit-yee, managing director (corporate) of Midland Holdings, it is easier to get into the estate agents' profession now than it was 10 years ago. 'Due to the booming property market since the last quarter of 2007, lots of job opportunities are opening up for job seekers,' she says. 'I anticipate that the demand for estate salespeople will remain big for the rest of this year. Sales trainees and property sales people are in especially high demand.' This would seem to be the case across the board from mid-to-mass market companies such as Midland to the higher echelons of international property. Joel Donnelly, a director of Judd Farris, one of the world's largest privately owned specialist property recruitment consultancies, says there is strong demand for real estate professionals - from asset managers, analysts, leasing staff, and project managers to retail specialists, development managers and acquisitions staff - as the market booms. Yet shaping a successful career in the property game will mean more than simply passing the entrance exams and going through the motions. In his experience, Mr Donnelly has found that recruits to the profession in Hong Kong have not only been educated overseas, but have been exposed to a period of hands-on work outside of the city. This gives them the edge when it comes to closing crucial deals. 'Candidates who have been educated overseas but also remained [abroad] and had a commercial experience for a period are more polished and have a stronger commercial acumen than those who have simply studied abroad,' he says. 'I don't think there is anything wrong with the education system in Hong Kong, as technically, local candidates are very strong,' says Mr Donnelly. 'But the commercial acumen and the ability to think outside the box is where locally educated and trained candidates seem to be behind their compatriots who have spent time working overseas.' Mr Donnelly and Ms Ip agree that the twin attributes of passion and commitment are vital for anyone who wants to succeed in the estate agency business - and a competitive mindset helps too. 'A good estate agent is someone who is a proactive, highly motivated individual who dislikes losing. They must be a strong communicator and, most importantly, an excellent relationship manager. A little bit of cunning doesn't go astray either,' says Mr Donnelly. For Ms Ip, selling property is a wholly different skill from selling anything else. 'Passion and commitment are important attributes to have as you have to serve as a good mediator between property owners and buyers. Unlike selling consumer products, the sales cycle for properties is long. Property salespeople have to take time to build up relationships with potential customers,' she says. It is widely agreed that the setting up of the Estate Agents' Authority in 1997 has done much to enhance the image and professionalism of the industry. The authority's job is to regulate the estate agency trade and enhance its standards of service by operating a licensing system, handling complaints lodged against estate agents, carrying out compliance inspections and sanctioning agents who breach regulations. A spokesman for the authority says: 'The past 10 years have seen ups and downs in the property market, but there has been a significant evolution in the estate agency trade. 'We constantly reposition our regulatory efforts to ensure practitioners observe the law and property transactions are carried out in an open and fair manner. Over the years the regulatory regime has been firmly put in place and the standard of estate agency practice has improved substantially.' Ms Ip says the authority has had a positive effect on the industry. 'I believe the training offered under their auspices has two main benefits: it enhances staff knowledge and development and in turn improves their professionalism and levels of service to customers.' She adds that last year Midland hired about 1,000 new frontline staff, just over a third of which were sales trainees, and a training programme was run to give them the knowledge to pass the authority licensing examination. And with a pass rate of about 56 per cent, the bar certainly seems to have been raised.