Do I need a real estate assistant? Licensed or otherwise?

Written by Suze, August 12th, 2013

Dear Zuess,assistant

I’ve been in real estate for four years now and I have built a great business.  I’m doing about 25-30 ends a year.  I’m feeling stressed and tired from all the running around.  I want to hire an assistant and don’t know if they should be licensed or not.  What do you think?



Dear Lou,

Congratulations! It sounds like you’ve built a nice consistent business over the past four years.  You don’t mention the dollar volume so it’s hard for me to know if you are ready for an assistant or not but I’ll give you my take on the whole assistant thing.

We would all love to have someone who could do some of our work for us.  It would free up time so that we could do more prospecting, work with more clients and spend more time with our friends and family.  It’s a fantastic vision but making it a reality is more challenging than most real estate agents imagine.

The pitfalls are numerous:

  • Finding a great assistant is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.  You’ll have to steal one or train one.  If you steal one, you’ll spend all your time looking over your shoulder because you’ll know that you have a loyalty issue.
  • Real estate agents and other solo-preneurs are notoriously bad at hiring, training, and managing staff.  This is a new skill set that you will have to learn.  My experience is that it takes several tries before you get it right.  This is expensive and time consuming.
  • Once you get the right assistant hired and trained, they will immediately feel that they can do what you do and make a ton of money.  We make it look easy because we are good at it.  Most will start whining about money, recognition, and independence pretty early on.  This can be irritating.
  • A good assistant will cost you $2,000.00 to $4,000.00 every month, whether you make money or not.

Still interested?  Let’s look at the positives:

  • A good assistant can free up valuable time.  If you use this time wisely, it can certainly help you build a bigger, better business.
  • A good assistant can do a better job at some of the tasks that you are weak at.  He/she can bring a higher level of customer/client service to your business and increase the number of referrals you get.
  • A good assistant can help eliminate the frenetic nature of a busy real estate business.  This will allow you to operate at a more creative level.  See this great blog post about operating frenetically or at peak performance.


Lou, you specifically wanted to know whether your assistant should be licensed or not.  Let’s look at the options.  You could hire:

  1. An assistant who holds a real estate license and can therefore do many of the sales activities to help run your business.   While this option is very convenient for showings, open houses, and sales calls, you must consider that if they are any good at sales, they won’t want to be your assistant for long.  Or, you may end up paying a poor salesperson to not sell homes.  If you get someone who is good at sales, they’ll either leave or they’ll want a bigger piece of the pie.  This begins to look more like building a team.  (Watch for a future blog post on building a team.)
  2. An assistant who is good at administration and other non-sales activities.  There are people who excel at administrative activities and are passionate about the things that we don’t like to do.  Good ones are hard to find.
  3. A virtual assistant is a person or service that you call on demand.  They are surprisingly excellent at what they do and can be an affordable way to fill the labour gap during the busy season or for a labour-intense administrative or marketing project.  It is contrary to our vision of an assistant and can feel a little counter intuitive in the beginning.

In conclusion:

I don’t recommend a full time administrative assistant unless you are grossing at least $200,000 per year ($300,000 is better) consistently.  My experience is that the stress of trying to make pay role can reduce your productivity.

If you choose a licensed assistant, understand that your model will likely end up looking more like a team.  There are exceptions, but not many.

A great assistant can give you the freedom to create a fantastic real estate business, but it’s harder than it looks.  You need to like managing people and most solo-preneurs don’t.

Using a virtual assistant is a great first step.



Columnist, The Nature of Real Estate


Dear Zuess is a column dedicated to offering tips for real estate agents that ask themselves, “Do I need a real estate assistant?” and, of course, other great questions too. Do you have any real estate binds you’ve been in lately? Drop Zuess a line at


6 Responses to “Do I need a real estate assistant? Licensed or otherwise?”

  1. Betsy says:

    Too true, your article is smart and so spot on.

    I was hired by a well-liked real estate agent this past fall. I did great work, got her caught up, etc, etc. She is a lovely person, but her managerial skills are basically nonexistent and is scattered as heck! Now, after marginal, spotty training, very little direction and no clear focus about what she specifically wanted (her office was a disaster and I made it awesome), it’s the new year and she lets me go because she has no listings and apparently, no money coming in, so she can’t afford me. This would be a legitimate reason to let someone go, right/obviously? It still hurts and it’s almost impossible not to take it personally as you can imagine.
    Any idea how *common* this is in the industry i.e. real estate agents hiring assistants, mismanaging them and then leaving them jobless due to apparent lack of listings/money?

    Thank you in advance for your response!

    • Suze says:

      Hello Anonymous. Too True. I am sorry to hear that you have been let go. Real Estate agents often hire an assistant before they have the consistent revenue to do so safely and the assistant usually loses out. There are some who are responsible employers but you would want to check their revenue stream for the past five years and be sure that they are productive enough to feed two mouths. You sound good – email me if you want to continue the conversation.

  2. April says:

    In terms of labor law, are these “assistants” paid as employees or independent contractors? Since they are under the control of the agent, they should be paid on payroll with the proper with holdings. Thoughts?

    • Suze says:

      Hello April and thanks for chiming in. You would know best and I imagine in changes in different situations. If the assistant works for more than one agent, I imagine that they would legitimately be an independent contractor. I am curious to know your thoughts though. What if the assistant is more or less full time but works virtually? I look forward to your response and sharing it with my readers, Suze

  3. Anonymous says:

    If a licensed real estate agent becomes the brokers assistant, should they still be able to have their own listings & show other properties?

    • Suze says:

      it totally depends on the agreement you have with your employer – the broker who you are assistant to. In most cases you will combine your business with theirs and split the commission as per your agreement. In a more casual arrangement you may be able to service your own clients but know that this will take away from your time available to assist the broker/agent. Have a good clear agreement outlining all of the important points and put it in writing. Good luck!

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