We all have the same amount of time in a day, but it seems like some people manage to fit so much more into theirs. While some agents are making big money working four days a week, you’re working seven and are so busy with paperwork, phone calls, starting a real estate blog, and creating Facebook Ads that you hardly have time to find new leads and convert sales. You’re stuck in a cycle of trying to manage your business all on your own and wondering how other agents manage to get it all done. Well…they get help.
Some agents put together teams of individuals who do everything from marketing to real estate lead generation to showings. But you don’t need a whole team to clear room in your schedule. An assistant can handle many of the day-to-day tasks that are weighing you down. But hiring an assistant is confusing. What do you need to do? Where do you start? Can you afford to hire someone? If you’ve ever wondered if an assistant is right for you, what kind of help you need, or how to find and hire the right person, we’ve got you covered.
1. Figure Out if You Need an Assistant
What can an assistant do?
Things your assistant can do for you include:
- Answering phone calls
- Completing expense reports
- Creating documents, presentations, and spreadsheets
- Creating and managing social posts
- Entering listings into the MLS
- Finding FSBO listings
- Handling incoming and outgoing mail
- Ordering inspections
- Photocopying important sales documents
- Photographing listings
- Placing/tracking advertisements
- Preparing property flyers, CMAs, postcards, and other marketing materials
- Processing new listings
- Putting up listing/open house signs
- Scheduling listing presentations, closings, and appointments
- Scheduling property tours
- Sending mailings to past clients and prospects
- Sending progress reports to seller
- Taking messages
If you hire a licensed real estate assistant, they can also help:
- Clients understand documents
- Manage closing paperwork
- Prepare escrow files
- Prepare listing and sales contracts
- Reach out to new real estate leads via phone
Can You Afford an Assistant?
There are a lot of pros and cons to consider, but before you start weighing your options, you need to be sure you can afford to pay someone. Positions pay differently across the country, so check similar job postings in your area to determine an appropriate rate.
Plan for emergencies: It’s a good idea to have at least six months’ pay set aside for your assistant before you hire. That way, if your business drops unexpectedly, you can still pay your assistant’s wages.
Affordability: If you can’t afford your own assistant, consider teaming up with other agents to hire a shared assistant. NAR’s 2017 Member Profile found that 14% of agents share their assistants with others. If you’d rather not share your assistant, another option is to ask your broker if they would pay all or part of your assistant’s wages. 41% of assistants in 2017 were paid by the company and 18% were paid by the both the agent and the company.
Full time vs. part time: You don’t have to hire a full-time assistant if you just need a little help on the weekends. Decide what work you want your assistant to handle and determine how much time it would take you to do those things. Although your assistant may work at a different pace than you, this will give you a rough idea of how much help you need.
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2. Determine What Kind of Assistant You Need
Licensed or Unlicensed?
Not everyone who earns a real estate license makes it as an agent. There are plenty of licensed professionals looking for other ways to leverage their skillset. According to the NAR 2017 Member Profile, 53% of assistants were unlicensed while 47% were licensed.
Since a licensed assistant can do things and unlicensed assistant can’t, you typically pay a licensed assistant more than an unlicensed assistant.. For example, only a licensed assistant can interpret contracts, perform negotiations, and (in some states) initiate contact with prospects like expired listings or FSBOs.
Employee vs. Independent Contractor
When you hire an assistant, you have to choose whether to hire them as an employee or as an independent contractor. Each designation has pros and cons, so figuring out which option is better can be tricky. Also, fair warning: if you hire an assistant as an independent contractor but they perform the functions of an employee, you may be held liable for employment taxes for that person. Check irs.gov or consult a lawyer to make sure you’ve correctly classified your assistant.
Deductions: If they’re an employee, you’re responsible for deducting taxes from their pay. This includes things like federal/state income tax, social security, federal/state unemployment compensation, and Medicaid. You’ll also need to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. In most states, independent contractors are responsible for setting aside their own taxes.
Independence: When you hire an assistant as an employee, you control what your assistant does and how they do it. An independent contractor has more control. Most real estate agents will need an employee; however, if you have specific, well-defined tasks you want completed, an independent contractor may be for you.
Compensation: Employees are usually paid hourly or based on an agreed-upon salary on a consistent schedule. An independent contractor could be paid by the job or an agreed-upon hourly, daily, or weekly amount. A contractor would submit an invoice for services rendered.
In-Office Assistant vs. Virtual Assistant
While hiring an assistant is the first step to building a real estate team, your assistant doesn’t necessarily have to be there in person. These days, you can hire help from anywhere in the world with a virtual assistant. Carefully weigh the benefits of hiring someone in-office vs. remotely located.
In-office assistant: If you assistant works out of your office (or at least locally), they can put up and take down signs for open houses and listings, sit in on meetings with your clients, visit your listings, run errands, and handle your incoming mail. They’re also more likely to be familiar with local practices, events, and customs. This could help in their interactions with clients and in social media efforts.
Virtual assistant: A virtual assistant can do almost everything an in-office assistant can, except the location-specific tasks. You can video conference with them, forward your calls to them, and find all manner of ways to communicate efficiently. So, while you miss out on the face-to-face interaction, you don’t have to provide office space and can sometimes get a more experienced/skilled assistant at a lower rate.
3. Find the Right Person
Your Job Post
They say “good help is hard to find,” but you’ll never find it unless you look. Determine what role you want your assistant to play and what skills they need to have. Then, create a job post and share it online. Some things you may want to include in this post are the job title, responsibilities, requirements, nice-to-have skills, and instructions on how to apply.
Job title: Will you hire an administrative assistant, personal assistant, or marketing assistant? Choose or create a job title based on the role you want your assistant to play. Also, mention whether you want full-time or part-time help and whether the hours are flexible or set.
Duties: Share a little about who you are and where they would be working, then outline the most important tasks your assistant will be responsible for.
Requirements: Do they have to be able to work certain days/times? What skills must your assistant have? Depending on what you assistant’s job will entail, things like computer literacy, marketing experience, or reliable transportation may be on this list.
Nice-to-have skills: Also, list skills that would be nice to have but aren’t necessary. These could include photography, interior decorating/staging, or a real estate background.
Application instructions: If you don’t want people showing up at your office or calling you all day, leave specific instructions for how and when to apply for the job. Should they drop their resume in your mailbox or should they email it to you? Should they come to your office between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Thursday or is Friday preferable?
Consider each applicant’s experience, availability, and other qualifications, then schedule interviews with four to six promising candidates. If you don’t find your assistant in your first batch of interviews, go back through your applications and set up more.
Interview protocol: Your job candidates will want to impress you. You need to impress them too. When they arrive, offer them a handshake, an introduction, and something to drink. During the interview, jotting down quick notes is a good idea, but try to keep your attention on your candidate. You can fill in more details and thoughts after they leave. Never write on your candidate’s resume, and don’t forget to shake their hand again after the interview. Thank each candidate for coming in and let them know when you’re planning to make your final decision.
Choose your questions: Go into your interview with a list of questions to ask every candidate and a few extra to ask the more promising candidates. Choose a variety of questions to suss out work habits, problem solving skills, whether they’re a self starter, and what they are looking for in their role. The right candidate will do more than meet your basic job requirements. Look for someone who you’ll get along with and whose skills will complement your own.
Check their facts: Start with easy questions like what their last job was, where they got their degree, and other things you can check on their resume. Since you don’t typically run a background check until you’re ready to offer employment, this helps weed out anyone who may have invented information to make themselves look better.
Consider your options: After your interviews, you should be able to narrow your candidates down to a few favorites. Read through the job post you created and weigh the pros and cons of your top picks based on what you actually need them to do. The most charismatic candidate isn’t necessarily the best option if your assistant will primarily be doing data entry.
Extend a job offer: Once you decide who to hire, give them a call! Discuss how much the job will pay, what hours you expect them to work, when you want them to start, and whether or not their employment is contingent on them passing a drug test and/or background check.
Onboarding Your Assistant
Background check: You can order a background check online for about twenty dollars. It will show you your candidate’s education and employment history, civil records, and whether your candidate has any arrests or convictions. If you plan to do a background check, your candidate must fill out a written consent form. After you have this form, you can use the background check to make sure they are who they said they are.
Paperwork: There’s a lot of paperwork involved in hiring someone. Check irs.gov or consult a legal professional for more information on new-hire paperwork. In the meantime, here are some of the things you’ll need to do before you hire anyone:
- Obtain an employer identification number so you can send your assistant a W-2 at the end of the year.
- Register with your state’s labor department.
- Get workers’ compensation insurance.
- Set up a payroll system to deduct your assistant’s withheld income tax and deposit it with the IRS.
- Prove your assistant is eligible to work in the United States.
- Have your assistant fill out Form W-4 Withholding Allowance Certificate so you know how much of their pay to take out for taxes.
- Report your new hire with the Administration for Children & Families in case they owe child support.
- File additional annual paperwork for various tax purposes.
Posters: The Department of Labor and OSHA require employers to display a variety of posters on employee safety, rights, and other important issues. Your office may already have them up. If not, you’ll need to post them.
A lot of work goes into hiring a new assistant, but once you have someone helping you through the mountain of tasks that pop up in real estate each day, you’ll find you finally have time to go out and make money. However, if you need help and hiring an assistant feels like a bit much, there are plenty of other options. One of the biggest time-savers is Homes.com’s Social Fuel program. Let our team of social media experts save you time by managing and creating Facebook ads and content for you!