Hiring a Remote or Virtual Appraisal Assistant: Can It Really Increase Your Earnings?

remote virtual assistantFor appraisers, time is money. If you can complete more reports per year, you can increase your earnings substantially. As an appraiser, you are paid for your local market analysis and expertise, not your typing and data entry skills. An appraisal assistant can help increase your efficiency by taking care of the tasks that don’t require your judgment or knowledge.

 

How much time can an appraisal assistant actually save?

Tasks that take only 10 or 15 minutes can add up to a surprisingly large amount of time. Conservatively, it is estimated that an assistant can save you around 208 hours per year. If you are spending 5 hours on each report, this adds up to an extra 41.6 reports per year. At $355 per report, you could increase your earnings by $13,936 per year. Alternatively, streamlining your workflow with an assistant could mean you simply work fewer hours and spend more time with your family or enjoying your personal life.

What kind of work can an appraisal assistant do?

The kind of work an appraisal assistant can do goes beyond typing and data entry. There are likely many other tasks in your workday that don’t require any decision-making or specialized knowledge. With your oversight and direction, an assistant can assume responsibility for a variety of duties. For example, you can pre-authorize your assistant to quote fees and turn times for properties that fit certain standards (e.g., houses under 2,000 square feet in a certain subdivision may have a standard rate). Here’s a list of tasks that could be delegated to an assistant:

  • Email and phone management
  • Quoting fee and turn times
  • Preliminary research and file creation
  • Compiling search and market study data per appraiser’s parameters
  • Scheduling appointments
  • “Cleaning” the report (spell-checking, QC checking, and overall organization)
  • Delivery of the report

Types of appraisal assistants and where to find them

Local professionals. Hiring a local professional is the most customizable option for appraisers. Ideal candidates include appraiser apprentices/trainees or former agents. These individuals can be trained in person to meet your exact specifications and needs. Advertise your openings locally online or in print publications.

Online appraisal data-entry companies. Online data-entry companies often employ people living in countries outside of the U.S. who will likely work overnight, meaning your work will be completed while you sleep and available in the morning. This service is only somewhat customizable. Typically, these assistants are trained with a focus on data entry, meaning they are limited to form-related or exhibit-related work, such as filling appraisal forms or creating maps from county roads. The cost for this service is normally between $10 and $15 per file.

If you are concerned about the security of your information, take a close look at each company’s privacy policy. Check to make sure that the company doesn’t sell or share your information with third parties beyond what is needed to fulfill services. Some companies, like AppraisalChief, limit the access of your data to the employees working on your account. Most companies use industry-standard technology like firewalls and encryption to secure your data. Still, if you are uncomfortable sharing any information, simply omit it.

Some sources for online appraisal data-entry companies include:

  • Appraiser Aide
  • ieIMPACT
  • AppraisalChief
  • Mind Spring Technology
  • Insasvision
  • Sources for Finding Virtual Assistants
  • Data Source Companies

Remote or virtual appraisal assistant. Similar to hiring a local professional, hiring a virtual or remote assistant is another highly customizable option. The only difference is that a virtual assistant completes tasks remotely and usually overnight. The appraiser trains the virtual assistant personally to suit the needs of his or her workflow, meaning the service they offer can go beyond form completion and data entry. Email monitoring, research, data collection, and delivery of the report are just a sampling of the duties virtual assistants can take care of remotely. Pay is typically negotiable and work can be pooled with other appraisers, meaning this type of assistant is best suited for individuals or small businesses.

Sources for finding virtual assistants include:

Data source companies. Data source companies don’t provide assistants, but they can help you boost production with software that auto-populates appraisal forms.

Sources for finding data source companies include:

  • Data Masters
  • NDC Data
  • Online appraisal data-entry companies

Finding the right person for the job

Hiring remotely. It can be difficult to know what to look for in a candidate when hiring remotely. Many of the online platforms for assistants offer thousands of resumes and profiles to sort through. Use the following tips to narrow down your choices.

  •  Does the candidate have job experience similar to what you require? While the experience doesn’t need to match perfectly, there should be some overlay in the tasks you need completed and his or her work history.
  •  Does this candidate communicate clearly in written correspondence? Use the messaging systems within the platform in order to keep your email private, and look for articulate and clear writing skills.
  •  Does the candidate communicate clearly during an interview? Use Skype or another video messaging platform to get a sense of the candidate’s verbal communication skills.
  •  Has the candidate followed the instructions you’ve provided while applying for this position? Not following directions during the application process is an indication that they likely won’t follow future instructions if given the job.
  •  Overall, does the candidate seem intelligent? This is something that can’t be learned from experience but isn’t usually difficult to discern after a few interactions.

Hiring outside the U.S. The main hurdle when hiring an assistant outside of the U.S. is communication. Many people outside of the U.S. are proficient English speakers, but some may have difficulty communicating clearly and understanding your directions. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to forego this person in favor of someone you feel confident communicating with. Despite this hurdle, many appraisers have had positive experiences working with foreign assistants and have found they can save substantial amounts of time and money this way. It is your choice if you’d like to disclose to your clients where your assistant is located. Many appraisers choose to keep that information private.

One final note: It’s important to remember that some of your assistant’s tasks can only be done with your close direction. Any duty that requires the assistant to use his or her own subjectivity and decision-making skills should remain the realm of the appraiser.

Have you hired a virtual appraisal assistant? What other tips and insights can you share with our appraisal community? Post them in the comments below.

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