Real Estate Virtual Assistant: What You Need to Know
- March 15, 2022
- 16 min read
- By Kirti Goyal
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed almost every industry. And the real estate market in the US was no exception. Data on real-estate platforms like Zillow and Realtor shows that page-per-property views were up by 50% year-over-year at most places. Forbes quoted George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, on this trend:
“Real estate markets have undergone noticeable shifts since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In the wake of the lockdowns in March, Americans discovered that existing homes were not adequate for the new work, teach, exercise, cook, and live at home reality. Based on our surveys of consumers, we learned that home shoppers are looking for more space, quieter neighborhoods, home offices, newer kitchens, and access to the outdoors.”
The need for warmer, safer, smaller, and stabler homes have led to a whole generation of Americans out on the hunt for real estate in the suburbs and smaller metro regions. Data on realtor.com makes it clear that five of America’s most lucrative real estate markets are in New England. These include Melrose, MA, Portland, ME, Hudson, NH, Worcester, and Rochester.
The great migration set off by the pandemic offers real estate agents an exciting opportunity to tap into this arena and earn handsome profits. But without virtual assistant services at your disposal, that may be a hard task. You specifically need a real estate virtual assistant to handle your back-office duties while you focus on scaling your business.
I take an in-depth view into the profile of a real estate virtual assistant to help you understand the duties they perform and why you should hire them. By the end of this post, you will have a firm grip on the following:
- What is a real estate virtual assistant
- Benefits of hiring a real estate virtual assistant
- Tasks you can outsource to a real estate virtual assistant
- Where to find the right real estate virtual assistant
- Best practices when hiring a real estate virtual assistant
- How to manage a real estate virtual assistant
You can leverage this knowledge to devise a solid strategy for your real estate business and make the most of the golden chance presented by the migration of Americans to smaller cities and second-home destinations.
What is a real estate virtual assistant
A real estate virtual assistant (VA) is a dedicated resource that handles standard business operations like cold calling, lead generation, finance tracking, website development, marketing, and database management. They work remotely and lend their expertise to help you focus on the core tasks as they run the show in the background.
There are four types of real estate virtual assistants. They are:
- Administrative real estate VAs
Administrative virtual assistants hold expertise over office management, scheduling, data entry, phone calls, and back-office duties like expensing and bookkeeping. Anything that falls under the ambit of management of an office- and that can be overseen remotely- lies within their sphere of responsibility.
- Sales real estate VAs
A sales virtual assistant is a contractor that helps you build a more efficient sales process through cold outreach via phone and email to find new consumers, nurture prospective leads, and close better deals.
- Customer support real estate VAs
Virtual assistants in the customer service niche handle calls and emails to offer your clients an overall pleasant experience. They respond to queries, guide customers through sales processes, process requests for refunds, manage CRM, and gather feedback to strengthen the current systems at your organization.
- Marketing real estate VAs
Marketing virtual assistants craft and execute your marketing strategy on all fronts like search, social, and email. They create tailored content for every channel and help you bring your A1 game to the table. They work hand-in-hand with virtual sales assistants to provide best results.
Depending on budget and requirements, you can onboard them as either contractual or full-time employees and get amazing benefits that come with outsourcing. Let’s zoom in on that in the next section.
Benefits of hiring a real estate virtual assistant
A recent research report by NanoGlobals on the growth of the virtual assistant industry during COVID-19 made three key discoveries:
- The laying off full-time US staff led to a 41% hike in the hiring of virtual assistants through offshore agencies in 2020
- US companies made up a large chunk of inbound inquiries that offshore virtual assistants received in 2020
- More than half of inbound leads for virtual assistants came from companies that worked with in-house staff before the pandemic
Economic restrictions were surely one reason for this YoY boom in the hiring of VAs. But it is only one-half of the picture. The truth is virtual assistant services entailed so many benefits for businesses that they continued the practice long after the economic effects of the lockdowns wore off.
You can expect the following benefits on hiring a real estate VA:
- Domain expertise: A real estate virtual assistant is often niche and leverages that industry know-how to help you stand out in the market. Their experience from working with a diverse set of clients and ability to quickly adapt to changing priorities makes them a valuable resource.
- High productivity: Real estate VAs let you have a few extra hours on your hand to take up the tasks you sidelined previously. That helps boost productivity and allows you to focus on your clients’ needs and expectations.
- Increased efficiency: Efficiency comes close on the heels of productivity. You can delegate cumbersome tasks like ordering paperwork, updating property databases, and sending follow-up emails to virtual assistants and begin managing inventory issues, sales pipelines, and open houses.
- Scope for scalability: Virtual assistant services remove the need to invest in the hefty compensation package of a full-time hire due to an occasional increase in the workload. Real estate VAs function as an extra pair of hands that finish projects within a given time frame and do not burn a hole in your pocket. You save big on hiring and training costs as a result.Check out this cool Twitter thread which echoes the exact feeling!
Image Source: Twitter
- Flexibility: A real estate VA can offer round-the-clock business operations online, long after you have signed out for the day. You can outsource back-office tasks to offshore talent and provide 24-hour services without burning yourself out or exceeding overhead expenses on night differential.
Here are a few tasks a real estate virtual assistant can do for you.
Tasks you can outsource to a real estate virtual assistant
Cheryl Young, Senior Economist at Zillow, noted the surge in demand for housing in the US during the pandemic and commented that homes are “selling quickly for the prices above what we were seeing” before the pre-covid period. An equally interesting insight came from Andrew Rybczynski, Managing Consultant at CoStar.
He discerned the accelerating demographic trends during the pandemic for businesses seeking expansion in areas that were low-tax and pro-growth and believed they would continue to seek “low-cost alternatives to more expensive coastal markets” after the pandemic.
This spells good tidings for real estate professionals and emphasizes the need to hone in on the opportunity. You can hire a real estate VA to handle the following tasks and start prioritizing building your client base.
- Real estate research
A virtual assistant can free up resources by taking on research involving:
- Prospecting and finding property details like location, top features, and amenities
- Analyzing market trends and pricing points for different areas
- Examining competitors’ business strategies
- Upcoming global real estate conferences
- Appointment scheduling
It is easy to lose track of appointments when you are into real estate. A virtual assistant is well-versed with tools like Google Calendar and Calendly that helps them:
- Easily manage your monthly calendar and book meetings with prospects
- Prioritize appointments with buyers and sellers
- Add buffers to avoid meeting overlaps
- Back-office administration
A real estate VA can handle the tasks of a marketer, account manager, or project leader to oversee your office operations and cut down overhead costs for physical office space and work equipment.
You can outsource these services to a virtual administrative assistant:
- Bookkeeping and payroll duties like calculating hours, adding expenses, and updating salaries for in-house staff
- Cold calling and phone answering services such as handling incoming calls and leaving voicemails
- Building databases and managing entries related to sales, lead generation, contacts, and CRM activities
- Performing bank-related tasks like transferring funds and paying bills
- Sending out new property deals to customers via email
- Creating and presenting weekly reports on sales and deliverables
- Email management like responding to queries and cleaning the spam
- Organizing technical support tickets and taking part in customer support
- Sending out personalized greeting cards, invitations, and thank you notes to prospective clients as well as long-standing customers
- Launching and looking after cloud computing accounts on storage servers
- Converting, merging, and splitting document files
- Creating final documents from handwritten drafts, faxes, and dictations
- Making forms and surveys to collect customer responses and feedback
- Proofreading property files
- Generating graphs from spreadsheets
- Social media marketing
- Social media is a great channel for customer acquisition. If you don’t leverage it and rely only on email and search for leads, you leave money on the table. Social media is becoming popular with users of all ages and is set to have a whopping 4.41 billion users by 2025.
- You may feel tempted to get on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram right away and start putting out content. The truth is, it is no use if there is no underlying strategy governing the effort. Social media, like every other content distribution channel, needs proper research and thought.
Otherwise, you waste money and risk hurting your business image. Outsource social media management to a qualified marketer and trust them to handle the following:
- Set up social media channels on platforms your target audience is on
- Sketch out detailed profiles in line with your brand and link them to the company website
- Create, edit, upload, and share property photos using channel-specific features of the platform
- Perform a social media audit to figure out what’s working and what it isn’t to adjust the strategy
- Research competitors to find the keywords they are betting on
- Optimize social media strategy for mobiles
- Discover trending real estate topics and viral hashtags to reach relevant users
- Engage with the audience by responding to their queries and feedback on DMs, comments, and mentions on stories
- Run paid campaigns and promotional activities to hook the customers
- Find exciting games and challenges for clients to take part in
- Partner with influencers to get the word out about your brand’s competitive advantage
- Website management
The purpose of a website is to drive business. If it does nothing to bring you quality leads and prospects, the chances are it is not built to compete in the fierce online real estate market. A mean website offers your customers the best UX with these four attributes:
- Quick loading time
- Easy usability
- Seamless navigation
- Optimized for search
It is impossible to achieve the above targets without the expertise of a real estate virtual assistant. Hire a dedicated expert to prep up your website for competition by:
- Planning, designing, and developing it
- Offering technical support through coding
- Installing, customizing, and updating plug-ins and themes
- Maintaining its functionality, security, and troubleshooting
- Embedding chat tools, payment gateways, social channels for easy sharing
- Optimizing user interface and cross-browser compatibility
- Adding alt tags and metadata to web pages
- Performing regular audits to identify any security threats
- Backing up information to prevent data loss
- Creating online forms for customer queries and feedback
- Starting affiliate marketing and launching research-backed campaigns
- Monitoring and managing affiliate links
Not sure whom to ask to take notes during meetings with clients? Or to send you that much-needed cup of coffee when running late? That is a personal real estate virtual assistant’s forte. They understand your hectic life and can run these errands:
- Jot down minutes of meetings and create detailed documents for future reference
- Transcribe voicemail, videos, and audio recordings
- Research data, fact check, and create PowerPoint presentations
- Buy office equipment online
- Book venues for meetings and parties with clients
- Hire a cleaning service for your office
- Gather documents for the tax season
- Set up an online project management system
- Brief team members on the progress of projects and deadlines
- Send thank you and gift cards to clients on special occasions
- Contact customer service for bank-related work and tech support
- Perform thorough background checks on prospective buyers
- Make customized welcome and goodbye packages for in-house staff members and clients
Where to find the right real estate virtual assistant
You can either find real estate VAs on freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork or outsource your back-office duties to a BPO company. Each has its pros and cons. While online talent marketplaces can be economical, you have to dig deep for the perfect fit and find the right MarTech tools to manage and track their productive hours.
A BPO company can seem super expensive but its benefits far outweigh the challenges. Some amazing perks they offer include:
- Compliance with industry-specific regulations
- Swift complaint tracking and resolution
- Guaranteed data security
- Qualified and vetted professionals
- Fast turnaround time
- First-rate services
- Seamless coordination across teams
- Leading infrastructural assets and techn
- Round-the-clock customer services
The choice between the two options is not always easy for businesses. It is especially true for those who are either bootstrapped or on a budget. But no matter whom you pick, a real estate VA will surely prove their worth in no time. They are an absolutely indispensable asset for real estate agents who are busy clinching deals.
The next section covers the best practices of hiring virtual assistant services to help you steer clear of the common pitfalls. Stick around!
Best practices when hiring a real estate virtual assistant
The roots of a strong business relationship rest on key factors like a clearly defined workflow, job role, and KPIs that must be determined after a careful analysis of core objectives and business goals. You need to sort them before hiring a real estate VA to avoid any mismatch in expectations later.
As the image below illustrates, an efficient delegation of business operations mainly depends on:
- Tasks and goals for the real estate VA: Build a detailed job description for the worker to understand the scope of work. Give them a clear idea of the nature of the job and the duties it would involve.
- Work standards to follow: The real estate virtual assistant must have a blueprint for reference and a handy resource they can check whenever in doubt about a task at hand.
- Deadlines to hit: They must be reasonable and not taxing. A great way to find the perfect balance is by prioritizing and finishing off tasks that are at the top of your to-do list.
- Schedule for updates: Coordinate with your virtual assistant to find a schedule that works for both of you. Which online platform to use, what would be the frequency of the updates, and how detailed are a few questions for you to consider and act upon.
- Feedback opportunities: You should send out regular feedback to help the virtual assistant understand the areas they are acing as well as lagging in. Likewise, you must be available to take up their doubts and any troubles they might be facing with the existing workflow.
You have better chances of finding a real estate virtual assistant who shares the same values and is aligned on the core business priorities once these are clear. As you look around for that rockstar assistant, ensure they are behaviorally competent and have incredible time management skills.
A few other best practices to keep in mind as you hire and onboard your remote employee are:
- Do not rely on one real estate VA. Always have a backup ready
- Introduce them to your preferred mode of doing things before handing out duties
- Increase the workload of your virtual assistant steadily
- Assign tasks as per priority on your to-do list
- Be lucid with your work instructions for the real estate VA
- Create a separate email address for collaborating with them
- Be polite and always share constructive feedback
- Keep dedicated cloud storage to share and track files
- Use the latest productivity tools for maximum efficiency
It is one task to onboard a real estate virtual assistant, managing them for smooth business functioning totally another. It is natural to have doubts about remote staff when so much is at stake. Questions like how to communicate with them and monitor their productivity are bound to crop up.
The next section looks at the latest tech stack you can use to put these doubts to rest.
How to manage a real estate virtual assistant
Top-notch virtual assistant providers have well-defined systems and processes in place that guarantee flawless work, with quality assurance at every step. They have dedicated team leaders and project managers that supervise the remote staff and monitor their productivity and performance on the determined KPIs.
But real estate agents who cannot afford to outsource their functions to these power magnates at the moment can rely on freelance help and manage them using the latest communication and productivity tools. They cater to different needs and require you to analyze their features before using them.
There are tools for:
- General collaboration
- Task and project management
- Scheduling and hosting virtual meetings
- Asset management
- Announcements and internal documentation
1. Tools for general collaboration
Image Source: Google Workspace
Google Suite or G Suite is the perfect option for agents who don’t want to spend a fortune. It is a budget-friendly platform that allows you to collaborate with your virtual assistant on Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Slides, among a tribe of Google Drive tools. You can use G Suite for a team calendar and also create work emails.
Microsoft Office Teams
Image Source: Microsoft
Unlike G Suite, Microsoft Office Teams is not an entirely online platform. You can download apps like Excel, Powerpoint, Word to your devices and use them to edit, store, share, and manage documents in team folders. Besides these apps, it is a great channel to communicate with your virtual assistant via video calls.
2. Tools for task and project management
It is easy to get lost when there is no system in place to track progress on tasks. Who is working on what, chasing which deadlines, and spending how much time on individual projects are daunting questions for anyone who has not worked with a remote employee. Enter Trello.
You can either fly solo or invite your virtual assistant to collaborate and update their progress.
Image Source: Trello
Trello allows you to set up a dashboard that focuses on large projects and their related tasks. Each small task is a “card” that you can assign a color tag and text and move around the board as it reaches different cycles of a project cycle.
For example, if your real estate VA is tackling a priority task related to database management, you can create a red card labeled ‘urgent’ under a ‘to-do’ category in the dashboard, assign it a deadline, and follow its progress in the Activity area.
Image Source: Podio
Podio is a two-in-one combo. It is part project tracker and part Facebook for business owners. You can use it to get a bird’s eye view of tasks you need to finish and chat with your virtual assistant while they are in progress.
Its most remarkable feature allows you to create “workspaces” for different aspects of a project. They are somewhat like Facebook pages where your remote worker can comment or share useful information.
3. Tools for scheduling and hosting virtual meetings
Image Source: Zoom
Thanks to the pandemic, the market is rife with virtual meeting tools. The likes of Microsoft Office Teams offer the option to e-meet your colleague as an additional nice-to-have feature. But if you want a more dedicated platform, you must check out Zoom.
It is an easy-to-use app and desktop platform for scheduling, launching, and recording virtual meetings. Your virtual assistant will have plenty of options to attend these meetings from a smartphone, computer, or a dial-in phone.
But not everyone is into video meetings. While it is a good idea to add a dash of personality to your communication every now and then, video chats are not always feasible for obvious reasons. You can instead use tools like Slack and WhatsApp for quick chats.
4. Tools for asset management
Image Source: Google Drive
Like all G Suite tools, Google Drive is free. It stores and organizes your data on the go, making file sharing and collaborating with your virtual assistant super easy.
You cannot share large files via email but can over Dropbox. It is a wonderful tool for sorting freelance work. Ask your real estate VA to upload their files into monthly folders and ping you once they do.
5. Tools for announcement and internal documentation
An Atlassian product, you can use Confluence to create an internal blog and wiki for your remote employee. It is a team manager that organizes all your documents, notes, and plans in one easily searchable place.
Image Source: Loom
Remember what I said about adding a bit of personality to your meetings? What if there was a platform you could use for just that and without the awkwardness of a live video meeting? That’s Loom.
It allows you to record a presentation or just your voice to announce an update to your remote worker. You can generate a link to share this recording and send it to others on your team via email or instant messengers.
Let us take a few FAQs about real estate VAs before wrapping up this post.
Frequently asked questions
What skills should I look for in a real estate virtual assistant?
It goes without saying real estate VAs must have a strong educational backing and solid skillset. That’s the number one prerequisite for a successful long-term collaboration.
These gems however can be hard to come by as some virtual assistants only have a diploma or partial degree from an accredited university. But that’s okay too under certain conditions. A good assistant-client match at the end of the day ultimately depends on the nature of the job and the complexity of tasks at hand.
Besides expertise and knowledge, Shelby Larson, author of Moonlighting on the Internet, believes soft skills such as integrity, reliability, and accuracy in real estate virtual assistants hold equal value, if not more, for a healthy business partnership.
Kiara Nicole, a Florida-based VA, believes that as well and turned a critical eye to her profession in this awesome on what makes a great virtual assistant. Give it a read!
Image Source: Twitter
A real estate virtual assistant should also be proactive and a go-getter above all else. They must be hands-on with the latest tech tools and show an impressive comfort level with communicating and coordinating via mainstream digital channels, along with any popular office-specific software.
2. How much does it cost to hire a real estate virtual assistant?
It varies widely. Apart from market conditions, factors like experience, location, expertise, nature of job, frequency, and technical knowledge heavily influence virtual real estate assistant pricing. Whether the remote worker joins you as an independent contractor or part of a BPO company and on a part-time or full-time basis are equally important determiners.
The right fit ultimately depends on the specifics of your project and what you need. A skilled real estate virtual assistant may be on the higher end, but they also work faster, go niche, and turn in quality work. Though a pocket-friendly option, an independent contractor still in the middle of building a client base leaves much to be desired.
3. What do real estate VAs do?
A real estate virtual assistant can perform a variety of tasks. From boring daily activities like cold calling and email follow-ups to handling complex databases and paperwork, they can be an absolute powerhouse and delight to work with. You first need to figure out your requirements, and real estate VAs can take over from there.
The countless benefits of virtual assistant services make them a must-try to hit long-term revenue goals. Real estate professionals can take a leaf from the books of early adopters of the practice and outsource their back-office operations to make the most of the pandemic-induced migration in the US. If you are convinced by now, the time is just right to hire a virtual assistant and reap benefits!