Why you might need an assistant (now!) and how to recruit one

Whether you’re a business owner or an agency employee, real estate sales is a notoriously ‘run-your-own-race’ profession.

When you’re good at what you do, the sales roll in, which can make the prospect of relinquishing control a difficult one.

But when the bus drives too quickly, the wheels can start to fall off – and no matter how many passengers you have along for the ride, they’ll soon be looking elsewhere if things get bumpy.

Which is why the time in your career when you least want to relinquish control, might be the best time to do so.

“I would consider an assistant at the point before an agent’s delivery of service is stretched,” says Amber Werchon Property’s Mark McGill, previous winner of the REIQ Residential Sales Person of the Year award.

“If you find that the wheels are wobbling and you aren’t able to return emails and calls in time, or get a property up on the market quickly enough, or you can’t physically cover enough appointments, then it might be time to consider an assistant.”

There are two types of assistant – administrative and leverage.

Administration based assistants do more behind the scenes tasks like paperwork, marketing and compliance, while a leverage agent can be either showing buyers, prospecting for new leads or helping sell properties.

Your needs will vary depending on your business structure.

“Put simply, they should be doing an agent’s ‘not to do’ list, in order to free up their time to do what they do best – generate business, list property and facilitate the sale,” says McGill.

“I personally have more of a leverage agent as our office can handle the majority of the administration, and due to the volume of properties I might carry, I need an additional person to be able to show buyers, do open homes and negotiate sales.

“Sometimes my leverage agents will bring in and manage an entire listing with just my supervision.”

For Tracey Caruana, Principal of McGrath Estate Agents, Springfield, someone to handle the non-sales tasks was more effective.

“My assistant’s role is to help me do everything that is non-income producing for me – such as administration and marketing,” says Caruana.

“He also works with a lot of the buyers including doing things like follow ups, as well as supporting administration and helping me with property preparation which includes some styling.”

Whichever type of assistant you choose, McGill says a good one will protect you from interference, enabling you to get the job done.

“They shield you from distractions such as non-effective enquiries, and assist you with operational day to day listing and selling.

“Many hands make light work, and with a good assistant you can have the ability to have more time away from work allowing you to remain fresh and sustain the energy required for listing and selling.

“It’s virtually impossible to have a holiday or even a weekend off without a reliable back up.”

McGill says fear of relinquishing control is a common deterrent to hiring an assistant, as is the perceived loss of income caused by having to pay them.

“Nobody can do things as good as them, or the fear things go wrong if they leave it to someone else.”

Caruana agrees finding the right person can be challenging, but once you find someone with the right skills, particularly those that compliment your own, you’ll see an increase in both your free time and your income.

“In my opinion a really good assistant needs to be able to pick up some skills sets that you personally aren’t the best at,” she says.

“We are able to balance work and life better and by performing better we therefore rank higher in our results which then has us called into listings more,” she says.

According to McGill, a good assistant must be teachable, willing to learn, able to take direction and have some drive and self-ambition.

So, how do you find a good one?

“I have had excellent results recruiting through the REIQ careers days where new graduates have a meet and greet with the employers,” says McGill.

“In my experience they are better trained in compliance and have a more thorough understanding of what is involved than some of the fast track courses.

“My most recent leverage agent worked with me for 4.5 years and was a finalist in the REIQ rookie of the year, he was recruited from a careers day.

“His predecessor was the winner of the REIQ rookie of the year and was also recruited from a careers day.

“Basically I ask myself, If I have just met this person, do I like them enough to trust them with the key to my home?  If the answer is yes, they are on the shortlist.”

His biggest tip? “Hire an assistant before you get too busy and reach breaking point, otherwise you are too busy to train them.”