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?
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org