The simple answer is that you should hire your first assistant when you are ready to be a full-time salesperson and when you can afford to hire one.
The real estate industry has changed significantly over the last few decades, as have the economic conditions. The processes for listing and closing a transaction have become much more complex and the associated paperwork and administrative tasks have grown.
For example, there are complicated contracts, long inspections, massive amounts of disclosures, multi-faceted marketing programs, technological applications, etc. As a result, each client probably takes ten times the amount of work than it took years ago.
Regardless, the basic definition of a real estate agent is that you are a salesperson who helps people buy and sell real estate.
The definition does not say that you are great at paperwork, putting a brochure together on the computer, or editing photographs. These are tasks associated with performing the job of a real estate agent – these tasks are not a part of the definition of a salesperson. It is very important to keep this distinction in mind because there is a tendency to lose focus on the fact that you are first and foremost a salesperson.
Some agents avoid the role of a salesperson, and will escape by doing paperwork so they do not have to perform the actions that result in having more business such as prospecting and lead generating.
For example, agents do not always want to pick up the phone to look for new business and therefore they find the excuse to put this file together, call on this pending, or follow-up with a lender. While those are important and necessary tasks, it takes time away from finding another transaction, from finding more business.
There has been a general rule that when you are at 25 to 40 transactions a year you should have an assistant, assuming you work in a typical market.
You are likely at capacity at this point because of all the work it takes to close a transaction and to process a listing. You cannot do more than about three transactions a month on your own with everything else that you are doing to market, list and sell a property. You probably feel overwhelmed and overloaded at this point and you cannot add additional business because you cannot fully service the business that you have.
There are of course exceptions to this general rule. If you are working primarily in the luxury market, your transactions may be very complicated and you may need the support of an assistant when you are at 10 to 15 transactions.
It is worth noting that we have met a number of young agents who are just coming into the business right after college and they have a great conceptual understanding of the real estate sales process. In fact, we know one particular agent that hired an assistant on day one because he knew his job was to find business and his assistant’s job was to process the business.
It is likely that you will need to hire your first assistant when you have between 25 and 40 transactions a year. While that number may be lower, it is very clear to us based upon many years of experience working with agents that you will absolutely need to hire when you are at 40 transactions.
What are some options if I cannot afford an assistant but I need administrative support?
One great option that is available to many agents is to use the services of a transaction coordinator within your office or available through an outside transaction coordination service.
This kind of administrative support can free up many hours spent tracking and handling paperwork and monitoring timely completion of important events related to closing a sales transaction. This is a great way to begin obtaining additional help. It is an affordable option because you usually pay as you go with payment of the transaction coordination fee due at the end of the process. Also, if you don’t have a deal you don’t have to pay.
If you pursue this option, it is critical that you spend the time up-front with the transaction coordinator to establish clear expectations about what tasks will be performed, thus establishing good communication strategies.
This ensures that nothing falls through the cracks because of a misunderstanding about who was monitoring the timely completion of tasks and who was following up as needed. This reduces the likelihood that you will duplicate efforts.
Another option is to bring on a college intern.
Today, many college students seek out internships to gain some good experience to strengthen their resume so they are better positioned after graduation when they are seeking a job. In some cases, internships are required for students and many will accept internships that are unpaid. This can be a great affordable option (and perhaps free).
Interns usually have good tech skills, are enthusiastic and excited, and they typically do not have high demands in terms of their hours and pay. It has been our experience that if you are willing to be flexible with their schedule, they are willing to be flexible with your needs and time demands on them.
How you use an intern will depend upon your needs and the skills that the intern has
For example, you want to develop a marketing campaign with the related marketing materials. An intern working on a marketing degree would likely possess the basic skills to work on this. Or, you might want an intern to begin identifying and analyzing the steps involved with some of your processes so that you can ultimately streamline or at least have written step-by-step procedures that a future assistant could follow. In this case, you would likely look for an intern working on a business degree.
You can find interns by exploring local college and university websites and finding their resource center for jobs or internships. You can also call various departments and let them know of your interest.
Another strategy is to call anyone in your database affiliated with a college or university. It is best to use an intern who is a junior or senior, because they usually are more mature, have more skills, and if they are a good fit for your team, it may be easy to transition and train them for a full time paid role.
If you want more guidance on how to grow your luxury real estate practice, you can learn more about the Institute’s training options here.