Tag: estate agency

How Virtual Assistants can Help Your Business

Virtual Assistants are extremely versatile

Virtual Assistants are experienced specialists who work remotely to provide a broad spectrum of administrative, operational, marketing and accounting support that helps to free up the core hours in a business owner’s working day. This allows owners to give their undivided attention to their most important priorities – focusing on the top tasks that bring the highest value to the company day-to-day.

Time is money

Since Covid, the emergence of Virtual Assistants has transformed the way business operates in the modern world. And the era of the VA has seen businesses grow and thrive.

  • Firstly, Virtual Assistants help owners to scale their businesses, enabling growth while containing overheads.
  • Secondly, in many instances, VAs help companies to level up in their use of technology, supporting greater efficiency and seamless client interaction.

VAs help companies to level up in their use of technology

Virtual Assistants are well-versed in leveraging the latest technologies and tools to streamline processes. From automating tasks, to analysing data and spearheading competitor research, they can integrate technology solutions that improve efficiency and help a company stay at the forefront of digital innovation.

  • Automating routine and time-consuming tasks allows human employees to focus on the more strategic and creative aspects of their roles.
  • For agents, VAs can automate and speed up essential tasks such lead qualification and follow-up communications.
  • When personalising a customer journey, marketing VAs can contribute by leveraging data analytics to understand customer preferences and behaviors.
  • If a VA is skilled in the utilisation of machine-learning algorithms, they can help your company analyse data to predict market shifts, identify industry trends and track customer behaviour.
  • Under the management of a knowledgeable VA, AI such as Chatbots are an excellent way to automate repetitive tasks such as responding to frequently asked questions or processing orders.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant can be a game-changer for businesses looking to scale their operations, reduce costs and boost overall efficiency. By taking on a Virtual Assistant, you are not just gaining an extra pair of hands – you will be gaining a dedicated team member who is committed to helping move your business toward success.

Are you self-employed or do you own a business?

Every year, thousands of businesses are started. Unfortunately, most of these businesses are sole proprietorships – or ones where people are actually self-employed. Being self-employed means that one’s job or “business” cannot survive without direct, daily time and input.

Change your mindset

The main hurdle that keeps entrepreneurs locked into being self-employed over consciously becoming a business owner is their mindset. The entrepreneurial mindset is one that is creative and highly motivated to succeed – yet it also requires being open to risk and failure.

Here are the main differences between being self-employed and a business owner.

The self-employed person:

  • focuses on making a consistent income,
  • mostly gets clients through referrals and direct sales,
  • spends as little as possible on expenses,
  • doesn’t necessarily establish brand, and
  • does most of the client work themselves.

An entrepreneur or business owner:

  • establishes a brand,
  • is clear on their business’s mission and value proposition,
  • attracts customers through both personal referrals and known marketing channels,
  • focuses on specific and targeted client types,
  • is comfortable with monthly revenue fluctuations,
  • takes on necessary skills to free up time and grow the business
  • sets time aside for creativity and innovation

How can you move from being self-employed to becoming a business owner?

To move into being a fully-fledged business owner requires being real and honest about what you are prepared to get yourself into and what it will take to be successful. Here are four important considerations before taking the conscious step to become a business owner:

  1. Before you quit your job and launch your business, you need to evaluate your personal and professional readiness. Ask yourself what skills and experience you have, what additional resources and support you need, and what risks and challenges you are willing to face.
  2. Every successful business begins with a plan. You will need to validate your business idea. This entails conducting market research, identifying your target markets, analysing your competitors, and finding your business’s unique value proposition.
  3. It means being willing to invest your income in setting up your business now for even more revenue down the line. Building a business is not necessarily the fastest way to the biggest paycheck, it’s about playing the long game. You need to set a realistic budget and cash flow projection for your business. You will also need to create a personal financial plan that covers your personal expenses.
  4. It entails being prepared to assemble a business team. Building a business requires the combination of both entrepreneurial and a variety of professional skills. This is where the need for a business team arises. It does not pay to do everything yourself. Having a competent team will free you up from routine tasks but you still need to successfully delegate vital tasks to them.

Business owners and entrepreneurs frequently take on many responsibilities to reduce their overall costs. But, no matter what kind of business you own or the size of your business, the chances are you will need a team with varied skills who can support you as you develop and grow your company. Virtual Assistants can help you efficiently and cost-effectively grow your business – thanks to their wide range of skills. They are the most cost-effective option for business owners and who want to continue grow their company and need experienced and expert help.

Time is Your Most Precious Resource

You can’t make more time. This makes time the most important resource in business. Yet, too few business professionals appreciate that time is one of their most precious resources. Effective time management is an essential element of business success regardless of who you are or what you do as it is the wise investment of time that allows businesses to grow.

Ricardo’s Law of Competitive Advantage explains how focusing on tasks where we have a natural advantage can lead to greater success – in the same way that a country which excels in growing and selling a local product has an advantage. For business leaders, this means concentrating on what you do best and delegating other tasks. For example, think of a star striker focusing on scoring winning goals rather than trying to play every position on the football field.

Imagine an estate agent, Alex, who excels at building relationships, property viewings and closing deals. Alex’s strength lies in personal engagement with clients, understanding their needs and effectively matching them with the right properties. However, without administrative help, Alex spends a significant portion of the day on necessary backend tasks like scheduling viewings, sales progression, managing social media and updating listings.

Let’s break down the Opportunity Cost in Alex’s scenario:

1. Billable Tasks vs. Non-Billable Tasks:

  • Alex charges £250 per hour for services directly related to buying and selling properties.
  • Administrative tasks, though essential, do not directly generate income and take up roughly 3 hours of Alex’s day.

2. Opportunity Cost calculation:

  • In 3 hours, Alex could potentially earn £750 through client engagements and property negotiations.
  • Instead, these hours are spent on administrative tasks that don’t contribute directly to revenue.

3. Delegating to optimise efficiency:

  • By hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) for £12 per hour to handle administrative tasks, Alex can redirect those 3 hours to high-value, client-focused activities.
  • The cost of the VA for 3 hours is £36, far less than the £750 potential earning Alex could achieve in the same time.

4. Resulting benefits:

  • Alex can focus on areas where they have a competitive advantage – client interactions and sales.
  • The VA’s expertise in administrative tasks ensures efficiency and accuracy in those areas.
  • Alex’s business grows due to increased client engagement and successful deals.
  • The reduction in personal workload can lead to better work-life balance and job satisfaction for Alex.

Here are three practical ways to optimise the use of time in your business:

  1. Prioritising tasks is the key to success: The Most Important Tasks (MIT) methodology works well when it comes to the effective use of work time. This strategy involves creating a pared down list of just three tasks that it would be highly beneficial to complete that day. These tasks should be chosen for their importance and value. To decide on your three most important tasks, ask yourself goal-orientated questions, such as, “What three tasks will have the biggest impact on a desired outcome?” and “What can I get done today to further my progress towards my short-term goals?”
  2. Delegate tasks that are not on your top three list: Delegation is not a sign of weakness. It is one of the signs of a strong leader. In addition to being the best use of your team’s time in freeing up your valuable time, it will extend your company’s capacity and efficiency as well as empower your team, build trust and help toward their professional development.
  3. Delegate tasks you are not good at: Delegating effectively requires a lot of trust, communication and coordination. When delegating tasks it is important to choose the right person for the job. Part of being a good leader is understanding your employees’ strengths and preferences – and how their skills complement your own for the good of the business.

People are a flexible resource in that companies can expand as they need extra hands. This is especially true when taking on experienced and versatile Virtual Assistants. But time is finite. If the clock is ticking down toward a deadline, it is impossible to build in the leeway of more days, hours or minutes. Learning to best use valuable time and harness the core hours in the working day while making the most of Opportunity Cost through delegation is one of the skills that are sure to make good business leaders great and it is key to growing a business.

AI Trends in the Property Industry: Staying Ahead in 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines – or in other words the science of making machines that can be programmed to “think logically” like humans. When you think of artificial intelligence you may not consider AI as being particularly applicable in the property industry. Because at its heart, being an estate agent is about matching people with their ideal home. To do this requires excellent people skills, emotional intelligence and loads of gut instinct. These are human attributes which AI cannot simulate.

However, there are a growing number of AI tools that can boost lead generation and conversion, enhance customer service and support estate agency marketing. They allow for personalisation so estate agents can tailor a personal connection with each one of their prospects and customers. AI is also able to sift through massive amounts of data at lightening speed and so streamline research tasks such as spotting market trends and generating target market insights.

Here are four areas in which estate agencies can use AI to stay ahead in 2024

1. Speed to lead

Leveraging AI tools can significantly enhance potential customers’ first experience with an estate agency.

Today, most people shop for houses through a combination of online research, then working with estate agents and visiting open houses – starting with online research. So, when a potential client finally takes the initiative to make contact through live chat or completing a lead generation form, it is very likely you will be talking to them after they have completed comprehensive online research. They will have already encountered your estate agency online, looked at your website and sifted through the properties you have on the market. They are at the point where they are ready to talk to someone immediately and move forward. AI-powered chatbots ensure round-the-clock customer interaction, providing immediate, personalised responses to customer inquiries. This increases crucial lead to response time or speed to lead.

2. Customer service

During the sales process, AI can support the ongoing real-time communication between real estate agents and clients. Chatbots are available 24/7 to answer common questions and provide information. Chatbots can help customers schedule appointments more efficiently. By integrating an AI platform with CRM software, estate agencies can automate completing forms and the provision of useful public records such as transportation options, area crime rate statistics and school district ratings, to offer a clearer picture of an area to the potential buyer. Chatbots can also provide personalised recommendations to clients based on their preferences and past interactions, pointing them to relevant properties that are newly on the estate agency’s books. AI technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) enable immersive virtual property tours. Real estate agents can provide clients with realistic virtual walkthroughs of properties, allowing them to explore and evaluate properties remotely.

3. Industry insights

Estate agencies are using predictive analytics to gather and analyse data about their clients and properties to identify patterns and make informed predictions about property prices, market trends, and customer behaviour. AI algorithms use historical data and market trends to predict future Real Estate market conditions so that estate agents can leverage these insights in servicing their clients, anticipating changes and developing effective marketing strategies. After the conclusion of the sales process, AI can also help estate agents to collect and analyse client feedback allowing them to measure their satisfaction, maintain the relationship, ask for referrals and identify areas for improvement.

4. Marketing

AI tools can simplify and streamline marketing management for estate agencies. Here are just 3 of the many ways AI supports effective marketing strategies:

  • Scale and efficiency that maintains personalisation: Generative AI, like ChatGPT, can take your client data, property information and campaign goals to create a range of personalised emails while enabling the delivery of these segmented emails to a large number of recipients.
  • Targeted content scheduling: Property professionals can use AI to create highly targeted marketing campaigns that reach potential buyers and tenants with a higher likelihood of interest. AI can determine the optimal times for posting when your audience is most active on social media. It can inform scheduling your posts accordingly to maximise visibility and so helps to fine-tune social media strategy.
  • Sentiment analysis: With AI tools, you can keep an eye on your social media mentions and comments and monitor people’s reactions to your content. By monitoring sentiment analysis, estate agents can gauge the public perception of their brand as well as particular properties and neighbourhoods.

Artificial Intelligence is transforming the property industry, reshaping the way properties are bought, sold and marketed. Estate agents who embrace AI-powered tools have a competitive advantage by leveraging AI to increase efficiency, provide tailored experiences, make data-driven decisions and enhance customer engagement. And as AI continues to advance, its role in Real Estate marketing is likely to expand offering new opportunities and possibilities for agents and their clients.

Maximising Productivity: How VAs Can Help You Achieve Your Goals in 2024

Don’t limit your business growth by attempting to do everything yourself.

New business owners wear all the hats. But it makes sense over time, as a business flourishes and gets busier, that one person cannot do all the work. It takes more hours than there are in a working week to generate leads, successfully handle all customer inquiries, build client relationships, manage e-mail traffic, market the business, manage social media and handle all administration and bookkeeping.

A constant lack of time and people resources can result in a lack of efficiency and decreased productivity that will put your business on the back foot. And it can place you behind your competitors who are better resourced than you are.

Expand your resources through taking on Virtual Assistants.

When it comes to building teams, since Covid the role of Virtual Assistants has emerged as a powerful business accelerator. VAs provide way more than just administrative support. They are a strategic resource when business leaders wish to streamline operations, revamp systems, focus on strategic initiatives and ultimately drive scalable growth.

  • In the UK property industry, VAs can take over administrative duties, data capturing, financial administration and bookkeeping.
  • A virtual Personal Assistant can manage your diary and inbox and ensure seamless communication with clients – or undertake any task that smooths your day.
  • A virtual Property Manager can effectively liaise between owners and tenants to schedule inspections and manage repair and maintenance issues.
  • Virtual Social Media Managers can help create and manage content for social media platforms, and other communication channels. They can assist with writing blog posts, creating graphics, scheduling posts and engaging with the audience online.

The benefits of taking on Virtual Assistants to expand your team:

Taking on a Virtual Assistant comes with many potential benefits. They can help you save time and energy, which you can invest in aspects of your business that need your personal attention.

  • VAs are cost-efficient, saving time and money. In addition to reducing recruitment costs, wages and employee benefits, Virtual Assistants save on overheads.
  • Gain access to a broader range of skills and expertise. VAs have a wide range of skills, and are well qualified and experienced in their particular discipline. They are generally tech-savvy and up to date with the latest software in their field.
  • Increase your productivity and focus. When you take on VA to relieve you from day-to-day operations the company becomes more efficient. Your time is freed up to focus on higher value activities and the strategic aspects of your business. This can lead to greater productivity, enhanced customer service and business growth.
  • Scale your business more efficiently. By taking over routine tasks, a VA can free up your time to scale up your business. Scaling can involve entering new markets or reaching out to a broader customer base. This could include expanding geographically or targeting new customer segments.
  • Improve your work-life balance. Taking on a VA can help to improve your work-life balance by relieving you from tasks that will keep you working after hours. This allows you more quality time to spend with your family and friends or to pursue personal interests.

From saving money to increasing efficiency, taking on a Virtual Assistant or two will revolutionise your company’s routine administrative activities and provide access to specialised skills. In this way Virtual Assistants have the potential to transform the way you manage your daily business operations. And as the UK property industry landscape continues to evolve in 2024, Virtual Assistants can help you stay ahead of the curve, adapt to changing circumstances and sustain a competitive edge.

Reviewing Past Performance: Key Learnings for 2024

Look back before you move forward

Taking note of the challenges and triumphs, as well as what worked for your business and what you could have done better in 2023 can provide a helpful foundation as you set about intentionally designing the year you want to create for your business in 2024.

Armed with valuable insights you will be better equipped to set meaningful goals and create an action plan to attain what you want to achieve in the year to come.

First reflect

Before you update your annual mission statement and set SMART goals, look back at your diary and calendar and note all the projects, activities and unforeseen events that took place. Here are 12 ideas for meaningful occurrences you may want to reflect on:

  • Start by reviewing last year’s goals and noting which goals you reached or where you fell short.
  • Reflect on your business’s unforeseen challenges.
  • Consider what did and didn’t go as planned.
  • What could you have done differently?
  • Review all the projects you successfully completed for clients, noting down each one.
  • Note every time a client or customer sent you a compliment.
  • Plot when you reached or exceed your monthly income goal.
  • Reflect on the people you engaged – either as service providers or part-time or full-time help to assist you operationally or in marketing your business.
  • What improvements did you make to your systems and processes?
  • How did recent technology streamline your business?
  • In addition to reflecting on your business’s growth, reflect on your personal growth.
  • How did you achieve work-life balance?

Celebrate your successes

Once you have plotted the significant events of the past year, it is important to celebrate your successes and recognise the hard work that went into them. It’s also important to show gratitude for those people who helped you reach your goals. Take the time to remember and list the particularly beneficial things people did for you – or when someone went the extra mile – then send each person a thank you note.

Learn from your mistakes – then move on

No business is perfect. Making mistakes or falling short in reaching a goal is inevitable but can also provide valuable personal and business growth experiences. Learning from your mistakes and viewing each of them as a positive experience can help to boost your confidence and release you from being held back by a fear of failure.

Take the time to set goals and create a game plan

Based on your reflections on successes and challenges, what goals do you want to set for your business for 2024? Consider short-term (quarterly), annual and long-term goals, and make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-prescribed).

  • Choose your focus for the year.
  • Determine what you want to change.
  • Select your revenue streams and set revenue goals.
  • Prioritise and narrow down new projects and ideas.
  • Create a step-by-step implementation plan.
  • Establish the people-power you will need onboard to reach your goals.

Communicate your goals with your team

It is important to brief your team on your goals and strategy for the new year. It is powerful to inspire and engage your whole team in reaching business goals so that each team member knows and understands the important part they will play in the company’s success in 2024. It is equally powerful to encourage collaboration between team members, emphasising the connection between teamwork and reaching company goals.

Don’t Set New Year Resolutions – Set Goals

According to research, the failure rate for people keeping up their New Year’s resolutions is around 80%, with most individuals losing their resolve within 6 weeks. It is estimated that only 8% (1 in 12 people) stick with their resolutions over the entire year.

Why do New Year resolutions fail?

One of the key reasons New Year resolutions fail is that they are not specific enough. For example, “I want to create more work-life balance in 2024” is a great mission to have but it has no accompanying road map showing your desired result or how to get there.

The same could be said of New Year resolutions for your business. While resolutions focus on the idea of achieving, goals focus on the effort needed to achieve them. They are more action oriented, which makes it easier to create and follow an action plan. And New Year’s resolutions are often focused on short-term goals, which may not be aligned with the long-term goals of a business.

How to turn your company’s New Year resolutions into goals

Transform your New Year resolutions into S.M.A.R.T goals by making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time prescribed.

Create goals for different areas of your life
The best approach to the goal setting process is to first define your priorities. You may be most concerned about getting your personal or business finances in order, but how about the other areas in your life? If you set one or two goals in each area, you will very likely see a ripple effect across every area. Consider these areas of your life:

  • Personal life
  • Relationships
  • Business plans
  • Career development
  • Financial security
  • Health and fitness

Write your goals down

Writing down your goals is the start of the SMART goal setting process. When goals are written down you will be more likely to intellectually engage with them and emotionally connect with the results you want to achieve. It helps to provide clarity – taking your goals from being envisioned to being more concrete and real.

When drafting your goals, try to answer five “W” questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who is involved?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • When is the goal deadline?

Ensure your goals are attainable

Your goals need to be realistic and attainable to be successful. While they can be stretch goals, which exercise and grow your capabilities, it is important they remain possible. When you set an achievable goal, you may find yourself identifying previously overlooked opportunities or needing to find new, additional resources that enable success.

  • Ask yourself “Why?” The first step to making your goals attainable is to link each one to a “why?” When you take the time to understand why you want to reach a goal, the resulting drive helps to avoid distractions and provides focus and determination.
  • Break your goal down into action steps. Select the goal you’d like to achieve then identify the steps you must take to reach that goal, moving in chronological order. Break down the first step into daily tasks you can accomplish. Each of the subsequent steps can also be broken down into daily plans.
  • Identify the resources you need to reach your goals. In a business context there are several kinds of resources that will support achieving your goals:
    • Time is a valuable resource, and effective time management is essential to reach goals.
    • When it comes to time saving and efficiency, specific IT equipment and software might be necessary.
    • Taking on experienced, high performing people can make all the difference in reaching business goals instead of being overwhelmed or stagnating.

Track your goals in a visible place

Reviewing your written goals and action plan to measure progress on a regular basis helps you stay motivated and on track.  Visual measurement comes in many forms from habit trackers to journals, weekly planners or even using a whiteboard. Whichever method you choose, keeping your goals visible will make sure you don’t forget about them – starting with having a list of your goals up on your wall.

Here are 3 ideas for tracking business goals:

  • Use a project management tool. This makes it easy to create customised “goal project” folders and assign task due dates to ensure you stay on top of your goal progress.
  • Make goal tracking collaborative. Bring your team members into the goal tracking process.
  • Keep a journal. Even though it may be seen as better for tracking personal goals, keeping a journal can be a powerful way to track your business goals, too. By writing down your goals, reflecting on your progress, and noting any challenges, you create a record of your journey.

Employees contribute to a company reaching it goals

Being properly staffed and taking on the right people is vital for the success and growth of any business. With the right team members in place, goal setting provides direction and focus, which helps the team reach company objectives. And goal setting is a tool that can be used to create purpose and engage team members, increasing their job satisfaction and fulfillment. By being clear on the contribution each person makes to reaching company goals, leaders provide purpose, motivation and are able to empower each individual to hold themselves accountable, to keep track of their progress with support and encouragement along the way.

Do you have the right people in place to reach your goals in 2024?

You do not have to be so bogged down under the weight of everyday tasks that you do not have the time to formulate and achieve exciting new goals for your business – to see it thrive and grow in the year ahead. Cost saving and efficiency are two key drivers to success in today’s challenging marketplace. And taking on experienced Virtual Assistants with the right skills and experience deliver on both. They are the key to freeing up a business leaders’ time so you can focus on important work and oversee reaching the goals that will ensure business success in 2024.

Cost-Effective Staffing: How Virtual Assistants Are Reshaping UK Estate Agencies

Improving efficiencies and reducing costs are the key drivers for UK estate agents’ success in 2024.

In terms of efficiency, it will be the agents who are best equipped with outstanding staff – and who invest in up-to-date technology that streamlines lead generation, CRM, marketing, and property management-who will fare best in next year’s challenging property market.

Yet, hiring can be time-consuming and expensive for estate agents. Taking on extra staff seemingly flies in the face of reducing costs. What are some of the time and money factors that must be considered when taking on an additional staff member?

1. Calculating the true cost to company

Employing a new staff member costs way more than just their salary. According to the British Business Bank*, the true cost-to-company for the first year of a new member of staff’s employment is approximately £62,890-with their calculation based on the average annual UK salary of £27,600. Business owners need to factor in recruitment costs and various additional, ongoing expenses such as national insurance, pension contributions and benefits to calculate the true cost of taking on a new employee in the UK. Plus, if the employee is working in the office part- or full-time there is the cost of setting up a workstation. Other factors like sick pay, various types of leave and paying overtime must also be factored in.

2. National Living Wage and London Living Wage increases in 2024

To make the decision to take on additional employees even more financially challenging, the National Living Wage is set to increase by approximately 9.8% in April 2024 – up from £10,42 to £11.44. When looked at as a compounded increase over two years, this constitutes a 20.4% increment as compared to the National Living Wage in 2022. Meanwhile, the discretionary London Living Wage (covering all the boroughs in Greater London) will rise from £11.95 to £13.15 in 2024. This is £1.71 more per hour than the National Living Wage and is designed to reflect the higher costs employees face if they work in London.

3. Evaluating the time cost of recruitment

The hiring process, when recruitment is done thoroughly and well, typically takes four to six weeks from sourcing candidates to identifying the best person for the job. Quality candidates are likely to be currently employed. In this case the successful candidate will have to give four weeks or a calendar months’ notice before taking up their new position. From start to finish, this means a company will have spent about 3 months from the time at which they identified a need to onboarding a new employee. The worst possible outcome is when the new employee does not work out and the process must start all over again.

Virtual Assistants are more than just administrators.

The good news is that taking on a Virtual Assistant provides all the benefits that having exceptional employees brings – without having to bear added costs beyond their monthly salary.

Virtual Assistants should not be pigeon-holed as outsourced administrators. They are highly experienced, technologically advanced professionals with a variety of skills to suit any estate agents’ needs – from operations and property management to social media management, marketing and bookkeeping. They are also great at administration. For around the same hourly rate as the 2024 National Living Wage, a Virtual Assistant with several years of appropriate experience (and a positive, can-do attitude) will take on very important, yet time-consuming tasks. They improve efficiency and free up estate agents’ time so they can focus on critical tasks. And because they work remotely, there is no need to purchase furniture and office equipment, or to worry about higher utility bills or renting a larger office space.

* https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/tips-on-hiring-new-employees/ (Sourced from the office of national statistics ons.gov.uk, www.marketing-bersin.com, www.msci.com)

Virtual Assistants: The answer to saving time and money

During the property boom that followed Covid, estate agents had an easy job of managing multiple offers to purchase for their sellers and closing the deal on the best option. Today, the property market is far more challenging. Yet there will be plenty of opportunities to be had in 2024 for proactive estate agents who have a growth mindset – who actively generate and nurture leads; take the time to ask their clients probing questions to learn more about their wants and needs and who make sure to level up their service offering, day by day.

When it comes to making ongoing improvements, two important key drivers for estate agent success in 2024 will be streamlining efficiencies while reducing costs.

In terms of levelling up efficiency, it will be the agents who are best equipped with outstanding employees-and who invest in up-to-date technology that streamlines lead generation, CRM, marketing and property management-who will fare best in next year’s challenging property market. But, hiring can be time-consuming and expensive for estate agents. Taking on extra employees seems at odds with reducing costs.

Here are some of the time and money factors that must be considered when taking on an additional employee:

1. Calculating the true cost to company

Employing a new staff member costs way more than just their salary. According to the British Business Bank*, the true cost-to-company of a new member of staff’s employment over the first year is approximately £62,890. Their calculation is based on the average annual UK salary of £27,600. Estate agents need to factor in recruitment costs and various additional, ongoing expenses such as national insurance, pension contributions and benefits to calculate the true cost of taking on a new employee in the UK. Plus, if an employee is working in the office part- or full-time there is the cost of setting up a workstation and office equipment. Other factors like sick pay, various types of leave must also be factored in.

2. National Living Wage and London Living Wage increases in 2024

To make the decision to take on additional employees even more financially challenging, the National Living Wage is set to increase by approximately 9.8% in April 2024 – up from £10,42 to £11.44. When calculated as a compounded increase over two years, this constitutes a 20.4% increase from the National Living Wage in 2022. And the discretionary London Living Wage (covering all the boroughs in Greater London) will rise from £11.95 to £13.15 in 2024. This is £1.71 more per hour than the National Living Wage and is designed to reflect the higher costs employees face if they work in London.

3. Evaluating the time cost of recruitment

The hiring process, when recruitment is done thoroughly and well, generally takes four to six weeks from sourcing candidates to identifying the best person for the job. Quality candidates are

likely to be currently employed. So the successful candidate will probably have to give four weeks or a calendar months’ notice before taking up their new position. From start to finish, this means a company will have spent about 3 months from the time at which they identified a need to onboarding a new employee. The worst possible outcome is when the new employee does not work out and the process must start all over again.

Taking on a Virtual Assistant cuts your lead time and cost to company.

The good news is that taking on a Virtual Assistant provides all the benefits that having exceptional employees brings – without having to bear added costs beyond their monthly salary. For around the same hourly rate as the 2024 National Living Wage, a Virtual Assistant with several years of appropriate experience (and a positive, can-do attitude) will take on very important, yet time-consuming tasks. They improve efficiency and free up estate agents’ time so they can focus on critical tasks. And because they work remotely, there is no need to purchase furniture and equipment. Or to worry about higher utility bills or renting a larger office space.

Virtual Assistants are far more than administrators.

Virtual Assistants should not be pigeon-holed as outsourced administrators. They have evolved to become strategic strategic assets, offering specialised skills that address diverse business needs. In other words, they are highly experienced, technologically advanced professionals with a variety of skills to suit any estate agents’ needs – from operations and property management to social media management, digital marketing and bookkeeping. They are also great at administration.

* https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/tips-on-hiring-new-employees/ (Sourced from the office of national statistics ons.gov.uk, www.marketing-bersin.com, www.msci.com)

Winterproofing your rental property – prevention is better than cure

When it comes to rental properties there are five common problems that are more prevalent in winter due to cold and wet weather: boiler breakdowns, burst pipes, leaking roofs, clogged gutters and mould growth. In all these instances there is preventative action that can be taken to lower the chance of more expensive issues developing.

ISSUES RELATED TO HEATING

Landlord responsibilities for heating

One important facet of a landlord’s obligations is to provide some means of heating in every occupied room. This can be achieved by providing a fixed electric or gas heater, central heating via a traditional central heating system, or other acceptable more eco-friendly heating systems. The property must be able to maintain a temperature of at least 18°C in sleeping rooms and 21°C in living rooms when the temperature outside is minus 1°C. Usually, a loss of heating, hot water or gas supply should be fixed within one working day.

Here are four preventative measures for landlords to take:

1. Give the radiators some attention

Bleeding a radiator is a simple but effective way to keep your property warm this winter. A good way to check if your heating system needs bleeding is to see if your radiators have cold patches at the top but are warm at the bottom. If so, you need to bleed them to let the trapped air escape so the hot water can circulate freely. Simply release any excess air with a radiator bleeding key and an old towel.

2. Seal any draughty areas

If your tenants are feeling the chill from draughts around the edges of window frames, gaps under doors, and around the letterbox, sealing them is a quick, simple way to keep the property warm and save on heating bills. Draught excluders, which will block draughts from underneath doors, are a simple fix. Louvre blade windows are particularly wasteful in terms of heat loss as well as being an added security risk.

3. Regularly check the boiler pressure

Boilers can fail when the condensate pipe that typically runs outside the property to expel moisture created in the system freezes. Wrap these in extra pipe insulation for an added layer of protection. Another issue is low water pressure in your boiler. Generally, boiler pressure should be between one and two bars. If the pressure drops too low, it can lead to several issues including:

  • Poor hot water supply
  • Inadequate central heating
  • Noisy operation
  • Increased energy bills
  • Damage to the heating system

4. Monitor internal pipework

Frozen pipes can cause massive damage to rental properties in winter. Not only can they affect the heating and hot water supply, they can also burst because water expands when it freezes, causing leaks, or even flooding. Prevent frozen pipes in your rental property by:

  • Ensuring pipework in cold areas, such as the loft or garage, is properly insulated with foam
  • Checking pipework for signs of damage
  • Keeping the heating on low when the property is empty
  • Turning off the stopcock to cut the water supply if your property will be empty for a long time

If you do find your rental property’s pipes have frozen, or your tenant reports the issue, it’s important to thaw them out correctly. Show your tenant where the stopcock is so that if a pipe bursts or tap breaks, they can switch the mains water off until a plumber arrives. Their quick action will reduce the damage.

The problem of mould

Kylie Wilford, one of VA Central’s Virtual Assistants, who works as a UK-based Property Manager says, I’m finding that with the price of heating increasing dramatically, tenants are not ventilating the property properly. They don’t want to open curtains and windows. They want to keep in the heat. This causes condensation that leads to mould.”

The internal condensation that develops from a of ventilation is the most common cause of recurring mould. Landlords can educate their tenants on the steps they should take to prevent mould from forming. These are:

  • open windows regularly
  • cover pans when cooking
  • dry clothes outdoors or in a dryer
  • close internal doors when you cook or shower
  • leave a gap between furniture and external walls
  • wipe condensation from windowsills each morning

VA Central’s Virtual Property Manager, Michelle Erasmus recommends this to her UK landlords, “Installing an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom can help enormously – so can a simple internal louvre window in the bathroom to let out steam. Prevention is better than having to pay a contractor repeatedly to get rid of mould.”

ISSUES RELATED TO WATER

1. Clogged gutters

The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 states that in regard to the repair obligations in short leases, it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep in good repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes). Before winter weather sets in, clear the

gutters so that water runs off efficiently. If the gutters are clogged with dead leaves, water will flow down the sides of the exterior walls, causing penetrating damp.

2. Leaking roofs

There are a whole host of issues that can arise due to a damaged roof, some of which can lead to severe problems. One of the most common roofing problems involves broken, damaged or missing roof tiles. Although the tenant has the responsibility to report any issues to their landlord it is not their duty to fix the problem, this is the landlord’s responsibility. Landlords should be informed as soon as possible and should be given a reasonable amount of time to make the necessary repairs.

Winter weather can cause damage. Proactively preparing your investment property for winter is vital for the wellbeing of your tenants and your property’s maintenance – and it can save you money in the long run. For busy UK Estate Agents who can have between 200 – 400 rental properties on their books, taking on a Virtual Assistant to focus on handling their Property Management portfolio makes sense in terms of being efficient on landlord’s and tenant’s behalf. They have the knowledge and contractor contacts to be able to deal quickly and efficiently with building issues. They can also advise their landlords on proactive action that will save money.