G.M. Filisko is a Chicago area freelance and former editor for REALTOR® Magazine.
Send It Overseas?
Brokers have been slow to join the trend of offshore outsourcing, but times are changing.
October 1, 2011
Outsourcing work to countries like India and Pakistan is a common practice in the corporate world, though not talked about widely in real estate circles.
For some real estate brokers, sending Web development projects and administrative work overseas is a realistic solution to cutting their operating costs at a time when such cuts are needed most.
Others say the financial benefits aren’t worth potentially receiving lower-quality work and the fact that your business spending is exiting the community. “You may save a few dollars, but it’s best to stay local,” says Patrick Parker, broker-owner at Patrick Parker Realty in Bradley Beach, N.J.
Is overseas outsourcing right for you? Based on input from real estate trainers and brokers, it’s as much a personal decision as it is a financial one.
Money Talks, to an Extent
Joe Adkins, broker with The Realty Factor in Altamonte Springs, Fla., is among the proponents. Adkins first hired an overseas worker in October 2008 when he was looking to create a sophisticated company Web site that would allow his sales associates to review training materials, download forms, and enter data about their transactions for commission calculations. “In America, that would have cost up to $30,000,” he says. Instead, he paid a company in India to do it for $1,100.
Since then, Adkins has outsourced administrative tasks to Indian workers for $3 to $4 per hour. He outsources some other Web site work to companies in the Ukraine for $10 to $15 per hour. When he has a project to assign, he looks to online resources such as Elance, Upwork, and Freelancer.com.
Keeping the ‘Core’
“If I could go overseas and get something better than I could get here, I’d buy it,” says Joe Manausa, broker at Century 21 First Realty in Tallahassee, Fla. “But it’s the death of the brokerage when you outsource a core competency.”
He considers marketing to be one of those core tasks. “Lead generation is all on the Internet today, and brokers lose money because they keep trying to pass that work off to someone else,” he says.
Carla Cross of Carla Cross Seminars Inc. in Issaquah, Wash., agrees there are limits to outsourcing. “You wouldn’t want to farm out anything that had to do with your company’s culture or that required significant judgment,” she says.
With today’s gloomy job market, Parker says he’s glad when he can give work to local vendors. Local business partnerships not only keep jobs at home, they can benefit your business in the form of referrals, he says.
Budget-focused Adkins isn’t swayed by such arguments. “I’m not willing to spend that much money to get referrals,” he says. “I could use that money on a Google AdWords campaign and get way more referrals.”
Adkins says many brokers are probably staying away because political commentators have portrayed outsourcing as bad for the country. “But when brokers say they’re keeping work in America, they don’t realize that some people they hire are probably outsourcing to India anyway,” he says.
Cross believes there’s a more important business issue at play: It’s about learning to delegate. Some brokers simply aren’t ready to assign tasks to someone else, whether it’s a foreign worker or someone down the street.
“You have to be very clear with instructions,” Adkins acknowledges. “Otherwise, you could pay for something you don’t want done.” Adkins’ solution is to record a video explaining the specific job details.
Cross says the most important thing for brokers to ask themselves is: Am I not delegating because I’d rather do it myself or because I don’t yet have systems in place to assign the work I want done? “It’s a marvelous time for brokers to start thinking about that because there are a lot of options open to them,” she says. “I’m always asking, ‘Who else can you get to do that for you?’”