Property managers are facing a staffing crisis but PMVA’s Tiffany Bowtell, a leader in the use and development of offshore virtual assistants for the real estate industry, says beware of the hidden costs of DIY outsourcing.
The real estate world is not alone in facing a staffing crisis.
High demand for reliable staff flows through all industries, but property managers are doing it especially tough.
Even before the pandemic, the Australian Bureau Statistics showed a high job mobility rate of almost 12 per cent in the rental and real estate industry, or more than one in 10 leaving their employer in 2019.
Reports since then indicate that the stressful nature of property management work – exacerbated by the pandemic, rising rents and a shortage of experienced staff – means the average length of time in a property management role is less than 12 months.
It is no wonder that Australian businesses are looking for innovative solutions to solve this kind of attrition.
Our company, Property Management Virtual Assistant, specialises in providing Australian businesses with trained virtual assistants based in our office in the Philippines, and there has been a spike in demand for this kind of help since the beginning of 2023.
The feedback from clients switching to work with a virtual assistant is, “We have no other choice left”.
They can’t find enough people in Australia to handle those tasks.
Working with an outsourced virtual assistant is a more than viable solution, but for principals or heads of department considering it for the first time, there are some things to keep a keen eye on.
Some outsourcing providers don’t provide the level of training required to equip a virtual assistant with the skills needed to provide a high standard of work.
Some suppliers don’t train their virtual assistants at all, meaning property managers have to record ‘how-to’ videos and train the outsourced virtual assistant themselves, equating to risks, and costs, that your agency and property managers didn’t anticipate.
Essentially this DIY outsourcing model means the Australian real estate office is left with the same recruitment responsibilities they would have if they did the job locally.
They still need to interview candidates and train them, forcing already overloaded property managers to spend hours onboarding the virtual assistant.
Using workers through this model can seem cheap because you can hire a DIY virtual assistant for about $12 an hour.
However, the deal is not so attractive when you factor in all the expenses, time spent training and the added issues that come with aligning workers in two different countries, time zones and cultures.
Every Australian principal considering outsourcing should be aware of the hidden costs. If what you are paying seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Training can be expensive whether your worker is in an office in Australia or overseas
Certificate courses for those considering a property management career can take up to a year to complete in some states, which doesn’t answer your need for staff right now.
My experience in training shows that even if a principal hires someone fresh out of school, it takes 1000 hours, or about six months, to train them as a property manager.
The same applies to a virtual assistant new to the industry.
If one of your property managers in Australia is doing the training, that is a further $35 an hour, which makes the cost of training about $45-$50 an hour.
While that staff member is doing the training, another staff member needs to handle their job too.
Multiply that by 1000 in the training period and the cost is $50,000.
That is without any guarantee the virtual assistant will stay, leaving you to start the process all over again.
Be aware of the difference between low costs versus results
Property managers need to ensure their outsourcing provider supplies average benchmarked performance times for the tasks they are expected to complete.
The average benchmark for processing a rental application should be about 12-15 minutes, so a virtual assistant should be able to process five per hour.
These benchmarks mean you can be assured the virtual assistant is producing the results that you are paying for.
Here is an example of what can go wrong if you don’t have those benchmarks:
A client came to us after using a DIY outsourcing provider. We looked at the tasks the virtual assistant had performed and our capacity report told us she was only doing about 25 per cent of the work she should have achieved in that timeframe.
That tells me the client was paying four times what they should have for the results achieved.
The real cost was about $45-$50 an hour, and nothing like the $12 per hour they thought they were paying when compared to the actual results.
A ‘cheap’ deal isn’t cheap if you are continually training new staff
On the surface, hiring a virtual assistant may appear cheap, but if your outsourcing provider doesn’t have their virtual assistants locked into a contract with a minimum employment timeframe, costs can quickly escalate if the virtual assistant leaves.
It means you need to spend more time and money training another virtual assistant to replace the old one.
Another potential issue is supervision and where the outsourced virtual assistant works from.
Are they working in an office? At home? Or somewhere else?
Many outsourcing providers don’t tell you where their virtual assistant’s work from and that means you can’t guarantee your data is safe.
Without the right security this can leave you open to data leaks.
This is why PMVA established our own office in the Philippines where we handle recruitment and supervise our virtual assistants.
There is a penalty if our virtual assistant’s leave before completing a minimum two years of employment, which provides stability for the real estate offices we work for.
We provide a best practice blueprint for our client showing the processes we will handle on our side of the agreement and we fully integrate the virtual assistant with their office back in Australia according to their state’s legislation and with the software they use.
It is our responsibility to ensure there is always a trained virtual assistant in the chair for the real estate office in Australia.
Our clients don’t spend 1000 hours training the virtual assistant, we do.
Our clients don’t have to work out their processes beforehand, or record a single ‘how-to’ video, we do all of that too.
Productivity is assured because performance is benchmarked.
That is the level of service you need to seek from an outsourcing provider to guarantee reliability and security.