Types of Personal Assistants
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There are three primary types of personal assistants: licensed, unlicensed, and virtual. To understand which type of assistant is the best for your business needs, it’s important to understand what each type of assistant is and how each one will be able to help you.
Just more than half, or 51 percent, of personal assistants hold a real estate license, according to the 2012 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Member Profile.
To a great degree, whether you hire a licensed assistant depends on what tasks you want your assistant to complete and what the license law requirements are in your state. The laws of the real estate licensing body in your state and the policies of your brokerage also may affect your decision.
If you want your assistant to be able to do many of the listing and selling activities that you currently do, the assistant must be licensed. Some of the duties that could only be performed by a licensed assistant include:
- Independently developing and placing advertising copy
- Showing properties
- Explaining a contract or other documents to a client
- Discussing the attributes of a property with a prospect
- Collecting or receiving money from a prospect
- Conducting an open house
From a legal perspective, any person who provides information to the public that could be considered influential in a real estate transaction must be licensed, says Phil Mauger, founder and president of Outstaffing Inc., a professional employer focused on the real estate industry.
In general, if your assistant will perform only clerical and administrative duties, such as making appointments, sending out materials you have prepared, placing ads you have prepared, updating contact databases and files, arranging for inspections, obtaining documents for closing, and having keys made for listings, the assistant probably doesn’t need to be licensed. Most states also permit unlicensed assistants to add or delete information on the MLS, access property lockboxes, place signs on properties, and act as a courier to deliver documents.
If you’re not sure about the specific duties your assistants can perform without a real estate license, see What Unlicensed Assistants Can Do in Your State.
Virtual assistants, or VAs, are usually home-based administrative support specialists who, in real estate, use the Internet to carry out many of the same tasks as in-person assistants. They work in remote locations and communicate with you primarily through e-mail or by phone.
Virtual assistants should not be confused with telecommuters — employees of a company who spend part, or all, of their time working from a remote location. Teleworkers often use the same tools as virtual assistants to stay in touch with their supervisors. However, they must adhere to fixed work hours and more strictly controlled supervision. In most cases, virtual assistants work on a project basis as independent contractors and decide which hours to work to complete the assignment.
The services of real estate specialists typically fall into two categories: listing coordination and transaction coordination. Listing coordination, which can include lead management and marketing support, normally is charged on a per-hour basis and sometimes on retainer, requiring a minimum number of hours per month. Tasks include:
- Creating a Web presence for listings
- Creating and sending just-listed postcards to consumers and practitioners
- Managing leads
Transaction coordination is generally charged on a per-transaction basis. Tasks include:
- Uploading contract information to an online platform
- Monitoring deadlines
- Maintaining and monitoring transaction files
What are the benefits of working with VAs over in-house personal assistants?
- Expanded hiring options.You might not be able to find an experienced Web designer in your market at a price you want to pay. But with virtual assistants, you can hire someone from nearly anywhere. If a desired skill set is in short supply among local applicants, you can go to your computer and find qualified candidates from around the country using an online service such as eLance.
- Reduced overhead costs.With no office space needed, you won’t have as many costs associated with a virtual assistant. And, unlike with many salaried positions, hiring a virtual assistant doesn't require you to pay Social Security benefits or handle tax withholding, provided your assistant works on a per-task basis and doesn't cross the IRS's line separating employees from independent contractors.
Helpful Web Sites for Finding a VA
For more information, visit one of these Web sites. You can learn more about what VAs do and search for an assistant that suits your needs.
- REVA Network. This is an online community of specialized real estate virtual assistants and real estate practitioners. Read about the benefits of working with a VA and access information about best work practices.
- International Virtual Assistants Association. A non-profit association dedicated to the education of virtual assistants in all types of administrative, creative, and technical fields. Visit the Members Directory for a list of VAs and their contact information.
- AssistU. This organization trains virtual assistants and helps you find a VA. You must submit an application form at the Registry Checkpoint page, and the company will send you a list of VAs who would be a good fit for your business needs.
- Team Double-Click. This virtual staffing agency assists with a variety of administrative tasks such as answering the telephone, making and confirming appointments, creating flyers, and sending thank you notes.