Lots of agents get into real estate because they want to work smarter, not harder—and one of the best ways to do that is to hire a virtual assistant to help with some of the tedious tasks that are necessary to sustaining and growing your business, but that don’t require a real estate license or a lot of specialized knowledge to execute.
That said, it’s not always easy to tell when you’re ready to take the step to hire a virtual assistant. A newer agent won’t have enough business to keep an assistant busy and engaged, and it wouldn’t be worth the money you’re spending on that assistant to engage them. On the other hand, if you wait too long to hire an assistant, then you’ll definitely be spending time on tasks that you should truly be outsourcing, which is also a waste of your money!
For the purposes of this piece, we’re considering virtual assistants exclusively, not inside sales agents (ISAs), who are licensed real estate professionals; virtual assistants aren’t as specialized, and they can’t prepare contracts or work closely and directly on transactions, but they’re easier to hire and more affordable—therefore more accessible for most agents.
Step 1: Track Your Time Spent on These 15 Tasks
To decide when it’s time to hire a virtual assistant, spend a week or two (or a month, if you can) tracking the amount of time you spend on these different activities. Use a time-tracking app that works across your desktop and mobile devices (RescueTime, Toggle, and Clockify are three popular options.)
1. Managing your calendar
A real estate agent’s calendar is, well, busy! Virtual assistants can help find good times for agents to meet with clients for listing presentations or buyer’s introductions, and they can ensure that any final walkthroughs or closings are on an agent’s calendar and they’re not double-booked.
2. Helping with scheduling
Isn’t this the same thing as managing your calendar? No, not exactly. An agent’s overall schedule also includes events and tasks that they aren’t going to be personally present for because there’s no need.
For a listing agent, this might include scheduling home showings for interested buyers, ensuring that everyone has ample time to walk through, there’s no overlap, and the sellers also have the ability and bandwidth to vacate the property while the buyers are looking.
Agents who help their clients with different services, such as inspections or repair work, might also want some assistance scheduling those events, especially if it turns out they’re spending an hour or more every week handling details around scheduling.
3. Responding to (some) email
A virtual assistant won’t be able to answer all your email (there are some transaction-related communications that they aren’t qualified to touch), but if you set up your email inbox with appropriate filters, then an assistant can clear out a lot more than you’d imagine!
4. Updating your website
One thing is consistently true about every entrepreneur who hosts a website: No one updates theirs frequently enough! Whether it’s market data and information, new listings, timely blog posts, or other website enhancements that you’ve got your eye on, for many agents, keeping up with their website can feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
In an ideal world, how much time would you spend updating your website on a weekly or monthly basis? While you’re tracking your time, do your best to live up to that ideal vision; it will help you better determine whether a virtual assistant would be a worthwhile investment.
5. Handling your bookkeeping
Agents have to touch a lot of different accounts in order to do their job, and even if you’ve got automatic payments set up and ready to go, it still might be useful to have someone overseeing your accounts as if you’re, well, a business!
Using a virtual assistant to help with your bookkeeping can help prevent you from continuing to pay for subscriptions or services that you never use because they simply slipped your mind, as well as avoid any late fees for forgetting to pay on time. Heck, you can even ask them to help track expenses and mileage for tax purposes if you want!
6. Handle social media posting
Love it or loathe it, social media has become an increasingly important part of a real estate agent’s day. While some agents can pop onto Facebook and Instagram and create that perfect listing post that gets a ton of organic engagement, seemingly without even trying, others struggle to make the time spent on social media work for them.
If you’re leaning more toward the latter camp, then having a virtual assistant manage your social media could be extremely lucrative for you, especially if they have some kind of specialized experience (many do).
7. Listing marketing
From making the appointment for the cleaner or the stager to polish up the listing, to booking the photographer for the photos, to writing the listing descriptions, to getting everything ready for uploading to the MLS, your website, and social media—those are all critical business activities that can probably be done, and done better, by someone else.
For this activity, try to document at least one listing during your time tracking, and give it your full attention. If you don’t do that for every single listing you touch while you’re trying to assess your time spent, at least you can ballpark a total based on the one that you did show a lot of love.
8. Research market trends
What’s the average days on market in the neighborhood where you work with the most buyers and sellers? How about the median? What have prices been doing?
No doubt you know all of these numbers more or less off the top of your head, but they’re questions that agents have to answer consistently and accurately, and you can make sure that the best and most recent answers are always at your fingertips by having your virtual assistant keep track of when the new data will be available from your favorite source, then make sure that you have it.
9. Solicit reviews and feedback from clients
After a successful home sale transaction conclusion, most agents would love a positive review from their clients—and most agents are working hard on ensuring the next transaction closes, so the last thing they have time to do is try to track down their last client, who in turn is moving on with their life as a new or former homeowner.
But do you know who has all the time you need to ask happy clients to submit testimonials? A virtual assistant!
Make a list of every transaction you’ve closed in the past month, then assess who’s provided a testimonial or review for you, and who hasn’t. Did you get any kudos via an email or text message? Reply and ask if they’d be willing to submit it as a review, or if you can use it as a testimonial on your website. If you didn’t hear anything, reach out to ask nicely if they’d mind giving you feedback either officially or unofficially.
Decide how many times overall you’d like your assistant to reach out to former clients (more than three is probably overkill), and then you should have a fair idea of the number of hours you could allot to this task.
10. Create email campaigns
Once your CRM is cleaned up and de-duplicated, you can use it for some of those nurturing activities that are so hard to find the time to do, but so useful when it comes to long-term lead generation. General email campaigns for your contacts who are current homeowners versus renters aspiring to buy are a good starting point, and as you refine your segmentation, you can hopefully start to identify the people who might be most likely in buying or selling sooner rather than later and targeting them with more specific email campaigns.
This is all pretty time-consuming, and a virtual assistant who’s got experience creating and running email campaigns can at least get the foundation started for you and handle the basics while you iterate and improve. That could involve creating the segments using criteria you give them, writing the emails, putting the campaigns in the software, ensuring everything is sent without a snag, and even following up with basic questions, handing clients over to you when it’s time.
11. Prepare marketing materials
From listing fliers to direct mailing materials to social media infographics and posts, a virtual assistant who has some background in design or writing (or both) can actually create your marketing materials for you.
Finding one with these specialized skills isn’t always easy, but if this is something that you don’t enjoy and struggle to do quickly, then outsourcing can be a huge time-saver, and your materials will always look fantastic!
12. Make your travel plans
This one might seem like a tease, but if you were practicing in real estate before the pandemic put everything on hold, then you probably remember doing things like attending conferences to learn more about the business and research new tools. Booking your plane tickets and hotel rooms is another task that a virtual assistant can easily handle for you.
13. Arranging closing and seasonal gifts
Do you give your buyers and sellers closing gifts? How about Thanksgiving pies or Valentine’s Day candy? A virtual assistant can be invaluable for arranging those gifts; in this day and age, a virtual assistant can do literally all of it for you—including finding people to drop off the gifts for you, unless that’s something you want to do yourself to get the face time in with your clients.
14. Data entry and cleanup
Quick—is your CRM as spick-and-span as you know it should be? (That was a trick question!)
The communication that a virtual assistant can (and should) have with your clients is fairly limited, as they aren’t licensed agents themselves, but when it comes to basic tasks like removing duplicates from your database; segmenting your clients into buyers, sellers, homeowners, or other categories; or ensuring contact information is up-to-date, a virtual assistant can help you keep your CRM cleaner than you’d be able to on your own, even if it’s never quite perfect. (Nobody’s is!)
15. Some limited transaction management
Be careful here, as you don’t want to give your virtual assistant any tasks that would be suited for an ISA; they aren’t qualified or licensed to answer certain client questions, for example. But a virtual assistant can help keep track of transaction timelines and alert you if anything is approaching a delay, for example. They can’t create a sales contract for you, but they can help file your paperwork and ensure that any outstanding documents are found or requirements are met
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Step 2: Evaluate Automated Solutions
Now that you’ve collected some information about how long you spend on these different tasks, it’s time to ask yourself whether a virtual assistant is the best answer to your time management problem—or whether something else might actually be a better fit for your situation.
Here’s the thing about hiring a virtual assistant: It’s time-consuming, it’s stressful, there is the risk of turnover (meaning you’ll have to do it all again), and you might be able to find a better outsourcing solution. So start by considering what alternatives to a human (or at least, to you finding and managing a human) might be on the table for you.
To do this, take a look at the different items on your list, and ask yourself whether vendors you’re currently using can help support you with your needs, or whether there’s truly a need to find another person to outsource those tasks.
For example, your website provider may have options for updating your website, including blog posts and listing management. They might also have chatbox widget upgrades, scheduling integrations, design outsourcing, or other ways you can layer efficiencies into something that’s already a built-in part of your business plan.
Run through each item on your list to see whether an automated solution exists for it. Research what that solution is, precisely, and how much it costs.
You already know what kind of time commitment you’re making (or would be making, in an ideal world), so if the upsell will save you time and is ultimately more affordable than hiring an assistant, test it out for a month or two, then decide whether it’s performing as promised and whether you want to keep it.
Step 3: Discern Your Total Time Opportunity Cost
At this stage, you should have a good sense of what you spend time on that’s possible to outsource to a virtual assistant, as well as what actually makes sense to outsource from a business perspective.
Take another look at the hours you could potentially give to a virtual assistant, and then eliminate anything that you’ve handled already. There are likely at least a handful of things left over that you’d prefer a human handle or that you weren’t able to find a satisfactory solution for, automation-wise—and that’s to be expected!
Your next task is to evaluate those leftover items and how much it would cost a virtual assistant to handle them for you. Some will be more specialized than others; arranging gifts is a task that requires fewer targeted skills than creating marketing materials using design software, for example. For each task left on your list, research the going virtual assistant rate for that task, both on the high and low ends, so that when the time comes to finally make some budgeting decisions, you’re ready.
Step 4: Imagine Your Budget
What are those budgeting decisions, exactly?
Now that you have a ballpark estimate of how much time a virtual assistant can save you, and how much money it will cost you to employ one, you’ll have to do one final calculation to determine whether to hire one (and how much to spend on one): How many additional transactions could you conceivably close every month with the time that this virtual assistant is saving?
Be realistic here; if anything, it’s best to underestimate. Consider the tasks that you could be working on every day to grow your business, or to increase your referrals, or anything else that can generate income for you. What kind of business impact would those have for you, both short-term and long-term?
Although you shouldn’t overestimate your potential productivity, don’t forget to factor in the time that your virtual assistant is saving you per transaction. And if after looking at all of these numbers and variables, you decide that actually, the time saved with a virtual assistant will be worth it simply because it’s more time you can add back to the life part of your work-life balance, then that’s all the answer you need!
If you’re asking yourself whether it’s time to hire a virtual assistant, then the answer is probably “it’s past time.” Even if the only efficiencies you’re adding to your business are the ones offered by the software and tools you’re already using, that time you’re saving can be invested back into your business, spent with people who don’t see nearly enough of you, or a little bit of both.