Are You the Cheapest Hire in Your Business?

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For close to the first 20 years of being a real estate agent, I never had an administrative assistant, or admin.

Was I just a control freak?

Was I afraid that no one could do the job as good as me?

It wasn’t until I became a super busy RE/MAX agent, who was doing property management at the same time, when I decided to share an admin to assist with the property management piece. And to be quite honest, I made a lot more money, and I was able to focus more on what I do best, selling real estate.

Usually, we get the cheapest person to do the job…ourselves. As Seth Godin said in an interview with Darren Hardy,” Entrepreneurs will always hire the cheapest freelancer in the room”…themselves. They always end up working in the business and not on it. So, how do you have more time to work on it?

Hiring an Admin

I have a real good buddy, who runs a small real estate investing business outside of Philadelphia, and he’s a very successful, one-man band.

But, do you know what he does? He outsources a lot of tasks to freelancers in the Philippines through the online platform, Odesk.

Related: VA’s Aren’t Just for Spreadsheets (Here’s How I Use Them To Bring Me Leads)

He has them do a whole litany of tasks that used to bog him down, everything from searching for comps and searching online records like courthouses, to doing all his marketing, and even tracking his accounting in QuickBooks. They even   answer his phone and schedule his appointments.

He says that when you find the right assistant, it’s really up to you how well you train them. Another strategy he employs is that once he gets the right one, he gives them a big raise (for example, a dollar an hour). This isn’t much money in his world, but it’s huge in theirs, and it keeps them dedicated.

He said there’s nothing like getting your admin a list of to-dos at 4:30 PM and having all the work done by the time you come in the next morning.

As you can see, hiring the right assistant(s) can certainly help you build out a system for operations, enabling the business to run with or without you (See recent article, “Working ‘On’ Your Real Estate Business vs. ‘In’ Your Real Estate Business”).

So, When is it Time to Hire an Admin?

A couple years ago, I remember calling my HVAC guy, who was in a 200° attic, and he started yelling at me for bothering him, but I was actually calling him about a new job.

Related: How and When to Start Hiring Employees for Your Real Estate Business

When I caught up with him later on, I asked him, why are you answering the phone to begin with?

When the daily administrative duties become difficult to keep up with and your efforts are really needed on other projects, it may be a good time to hire an admin.

I decided to ask my lead Asset Manager at PPR, who uses an admin, how he knew it was time to hire one. Keep in mind that only two out of our seven asset managers uses an admin, and the typical asset manager is working 200-300 delinquent loans.

He proceeded to tell me that he’s working approximately 400 loans and that without his admin (who only works part-time, three days a week) he doesn’t know how he would be able to do it.

He quickly realized that the business involves many detail oriented tasks, and you have to be very organized. He went on to say that these were things he wasn’t particularly good at or were things he didn’t like to do.

He was talented at work outs, building rapport with borrowers, and negotiating a fair solution to the homeowner’s situations. His admin, on the other hand, had a lot of legal experience (as a paralegal at a law firm), which was a great asset when dealing with bankruptcy and foreclosure attorneys.

She’s very organized, and not only does she constantly review his portfolio, but she’s detail oriented and used to following-up.

He went on to say that he’s so happy with his admin that he has no problem sharing some of his bonuses with her when he’s able to hit his goals and targets. He quickly realized that by having the right admin, he was able to dramatically increase revenue. And, it has actually made his life easier and a lot less stressful in the process.

The first admin I hired came about because I knew I couldn’t grow my business without some more help. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Today, I have three assistants, two of which act as gatekeepers, or receptionists, who assist with students, note buyers, and investors. The other one is an editor. And, all of them can outsource tasks to Odesk as well.

So, when’s it going to be time for you to hire an administrative assistant?

Be sure to leave your comments below!

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About Author

Dave Van Horn is President at PPR The Note Co. - an operating entity that manages several funds that buy/sell/hold residential mortgages, both performing and delinquent. Dave has been in the Real Estate business for 25 years, starting out as a Realtor and contractor and moving onto everything from fix and flips to Raising Private Money.

6 Comments

  1. Robert Watkins on

    A soon as you possibly can. They will untie your hands and allow you to grow a business much quicker and become more profitable, because you are doing what you do best and leaving all the time sucking items to someone who does those best.

  2. Jeff Brown

    Hiring help at the right time and too late is what’s helped/hurt me the most. The best advice on the topic I ever got was to hire them before I thought it was doable.

  3. Thank you for the acknowledgement of the value of the concept, but be aware of the differences in virtual assistants.

    At SPM, we provide FREE (or commissioned to you, depending on what you need), American (US citizens, born and educated) real estate-experienced virtual assistants, who screen (about 30,000 prospects a months) and schedule appointments for agents. We “near-shore” – in the same time zone as the States (EST) so agents get results the SAME day, with no time lag on either side.

    Our idea is to let agents “Show & Close” (as if they want to do anything else) while we market properties online, qualify applicants, handle application paperwork, do property management (from maintenance – including 24-hour emergency repair – to legal/evictions) and the like. We also commission you for bringing us properties to manage, in addition to the traditional yearly rental-based commission.

    YOU become your investor’s “go-to” source for buy/flip or buy/hold properties at 10% to 25% below FMV. YOU are commissioned on BOTH ends of the deal. Never lose an investor again.

    We have been doing this for three decades and have economies of scale, proprietary software, and, frankly, stuff we’d rather not let our competitors know about, that make at least learning more about our service worth a call.

    It’s all about “Our resources, and YOUR branding.” FIND, and, more importantly KEEP investors. We are the biggest buyer on the court house steps, and have teams evaluating and appraising properties throughout a region; a construction company that will offer alternative renovation plans to your investor (or they may use their own of course, up to them), and the freedom of an “á la carte” menu of free (or commissioned to you) services.

    If you’d like to find out more, my telephone number is 818-483-0954; email, [email protected]. Thanks for the chance to tell you about our Partners-in-Profit Agent Advantage program; I have learned a lot from Bigger Pockets, and appreciate the sounding board. Happy showings to all! ~Ed Young, SPM

  4. One of the ironies of hiring out is you have to be organized enough to be able to tell them what they need to do. :)

    I’d like to have a real assistant of some ilk at this point, but hard to really justify that. I have individually outsourced/contracted some things that a real professional was needed.
    My goal is to give up some control on smaller things and dip my toe into the VA world for some mundane stuff at first then try to up the ante as I get more comfortable with the process.
    (as well as have the time to systematize more things so they CAN be outsourced)

  5. Really trying to outsource what I can since I discovered VAs. Had one do my QuickBooks set up. Seems like every time there is turnover in a rental, there are always issues with the utilities making mistakes with billing. When I have a VA call, they can’t get anywhere without knowing answers to security questions, and I don’t need people overseas knowing answers to my security questions. Also need security questions answered for insurance billing issues. Wish there was a way around that. But this time when I list my next rental, I am having a VA put it on the non-MLS websites and do the email responses, and have a real estate calling service field the calls. That should save a ton of time!

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