Damn good real estate advice from leaders around the nation.
One of the issues agents have these days is how to supplement their business with hired help. One of the first things an agent shouldn’t do is not hire a buyer’s agent, but an admin and that is through virtual assistants or VAs.
In this podcast episode, we are joined by Kelly Meng, founder of Top Virtual Standard and former Marketing Director of Spyglass Realty. Kelly was a very valuable asset to the company being in Spyglass Realty for four years and still part of the Spyglass family. There are companies like hers that can help agents, but we’ll be talking a bit about the do’s and don’ts and the procedures of how someone can do this themselves.
Should You Hire a Real Estate Virtual Assistant for Your Business?
I wrote an article on Inman a couple of years ago about how to start a team from the ground up. It was based on all the mistakes that I made, like hiring agents and then hiring a part-time admin and hiring a full-time admin. What people should do when I tell them is to start with a transaction coordinator, then hire a full-time assistant.
The full-time assistant takes the role of a transaction coordinator, and then you hire someone else to do transaction coordinator as your full-time assistant becomes busy, and then you add them. At that point, you can hire buyer’s agents.
Hiring a Real Estate Virtual Assistant
Hiring a virtual assistant is something that a lot of people think is a very simple job. It’s usually because it’s tied with a low price tag, so it feels like you have nothing to lose. But you don’t get into the headache of the actual hiring process. It’s still a very real person across the globe that you have to communicate with, you have to be able to tell them what it is that you want to do, how you want it to be done, and what the expectations are.
In order to start that successfully, you as the business owner, have to be really clear about what their responsibilities are, and what are they going to be taken care of day to day, you shouldn’t build a reliance on the VA from the get-go to ask you every day like, “hey, what am I responsible for the day?”, “what are my tasks today?” I think what people get into when they’re hiring a VA on their own is that they think that there’s going to put the job out and they’re going to know exactly what needs to be done.
There are companies that will do this for you, One of the problems when we really got into this was, that we were hiring companies that we were paying $6 – $7 an hour and they were paying the VA three to four an hour. When COVID hit, the first couple of months, we were freaked out, we basically let that service go and then went back to the VAs and hire them directly for us, and we treat them very well.
Where Can You Find Real Estate Virtual Assistants?
The biggest outsourcing website that Kelly likes to go to is a Filipino job website called onlinejobs.ph. A well-known online marketplace for finding and hiring Filipino virtual assistants and employees where the number of people you’d get there is the greatest, but the quality varies on a spectrum. It’s like the Indeed of Filipino virtual assistants.
Qualifying Virtual Assistants
The general process Kelly takes for hiring people is when their clients are ready to bring the hiring process, they flesh out the specifics of the job description and the specifics of the responsibilities. Kelly makes that very evident and clear from the get-go on the job description. During the hiring process, they provide their VA candidates with behavioral and technical assessments and make sure that they as a person align with the actual job.
If you’re looking for a transaction coordinator, you’d want someone that is very detail-oriented, someone who lives and breathes transaction coordination. You wouldn’t want the same characteristics that have a cold caller who might be more outgoing. Someone in sales is probably not going to be as good as someone in a more detail-oriented role.
Interviewing Virtual Assistants
In terms of the interview process, Kelly conducts the initial screening where they look through all of the resumes and what they typically do is go through the behavioral and technical assessment prior to doing an interview.
Unlike in the US, a behavioral interview is the first in the Philippines. You want them to be able to prove their worth through electronic communication first, and then get them on the phone and then assess their personality. You want to make sure that they have the technological capability and systems that they need to use because the internet in the Philippines gets spotty.
The hiring process is not the hard part. The real success of a virtual assistant comes from the onboarding, and the processes that you have to set up prior to them getting onboarded so that they know where they situate in your company, they have a place to call home. That’s where they really thrive and succeed.
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Onboarding Virtual Assistants
In Spyglass Realty, we spend dozens of hours a year on updating or onboarding. It is the most important thing ever. I think that that’s the reason why most people fail a VA is they don’t have the processes to onboard someone right and train them for what they do.
The successful onboarding of the VA starts when they accept the application. Accepting the role. That’s where Kelly and her clients would work together to actually build all the standard operating procedures, written documentation, video documentation, and task management platforms.
Training Virtual Assistants
The training was definitely more geared for us people, and it’s also more costly. Even if you wanted to make screen recordings and store them in this remote coding platform and then write up written Google Docs for that, that could also work. Kelly uses software to make screenshots plus descriptions of all of the steps that you would need to take to do that. They also have weekly or bi-weekly Zoom calls where they screen share and record the whole thing.
The clients essentially teach Kelly how to do it, not because she needs to know how to do it, but because she needs them to be able to communicate it clearly enough for her team to create SOPs with that material. You’d be surprised at how many errors can happen if you’re not clear.
Real Estate Virtual Assistant Skills
Transaction coordinators are a big one. A lot of appointment setting, some cold calling, some people just want general VAs to do general things. Some people are more geared toward marketing, so social media management, content management, SEO, SEM, general marketing things, etc.
While some people want their own Virtual Receptionist. Which makes sense. We need someone to basically just be an assistant due to answering phone calls, occasionally making the outbound voicemail, responding to emails, taking input intake forms, all that kind of good stuff.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Virtual Assistant?
The pay for virtual assistants varies but it goes anywhere from $4 to $9 on the higher end according to Kelly. There are also agencies that do this thing, and Top Virtual Standard is not an agency. For people who aren’t familiar, agencies are companies that have a bunch of VAs in the backend. Basically, they have a VA to work for your company, take a pay cut which ultimately ends up in up charging you for your services.
You build a reliance on it, and then you feel like you can’t get out. Of course, that’s probably better business practice, but from an ethical standpoint, Kelly feels like her value really sits in the standard operating procedures that training and onboarding and the ongoing support that the VA would have working with her and the client.
Work with Top Virtual Standard
There is a three-month commitment for both hiring the virtual assistant and creating all of the necessary steps for them to succeed in that role. For that three months, we would meet either one to two times a week, anywhere from 15 to 16 minutes per week, if you really “go get them” type of person, then we’ll probably meet two times a week and 60 minutes each and make all of the stuff but toward the latter half of our agreement.
As they’re getting more acclimated to the role, it would look more like a maybe twice a week, in a 15-minute check-in. Top Virtual Standard’s fees as of right now are you can either do one one-time payment upfront of $3,000, which includes the hiring of the virtual assistant that does not include the actual virtual assistant hourly pay, or we can do three monthly payments of $1195.
Connect with Kelly
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