How To Treat Your VA

At my appraisal company, Appraisal Precision, we pride ourselves on completing our assignments timely and well.  There has been a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and not a few sleepless nights to arrive at, and then enjoy, this reputation.  That timeliness, that precision, as it were, is what our clients now expect of us.  These have become our norm.  Yet to achieve this norm was not the results of just one appraiser, or one employee, or just one manager.  At Appraisal Precision, we are a team.  Our reputation we enjoy is the result of each member of that team knowing what his or her job is, and then doing it well, with a minimum of supervision, the first time.

Now, when I say team, I mean it in a broader sense than what that word has traditionally meant.  We tend to think of a team as a group of people who are physically close, who share a common goal, who separately work to accomplish one task.  All of these are the hallmarks of a team, true.  But now, since computers and active reliable computer networks link essentially the entire world, the concept of team members being physically close is one we have to change to being electronically close, too.

We real estate appraisers all know how easy it is to work remotely.  It is literally possible for us to phone in our appraisal reports.  So, when I’m on vacation, I can be skiing somewhere, get an email from the office, go over a report one last time, then send it to the client before I even get to the top of the mountain.  But, while the capacity to work remotely is wonderful, as well as a real time-saver, somebody still has to put fingers to keyboard and type out that appraisal report.  And that’s what this blog is about today.

As part of being efficient, at Appraisal Precision we use virtual assistants (VAs) extensively.  Some of them are local to Idaho, where I live, some live within the continental US, and some of them live in other countries in which our daylight hours are their night time hours.  Jiezl, the VA who does a lot of my work, for example, lives in the Philippines.  I’ll admit this physical removal has caused us some problems.  It is common for appraisers who use VAs to send an assignment out at the end of the business day, then get it back from the VA at the end of the next business day – in other words, a 24-hour turnaround time.  But, to be succinct, at my office, with our reputation for timeliness and precision, a 24-hour turnaround time is too slow.

Long story short, Jiezl and I have worked out this problem.  Despite the fact she is literally a half a world away, with a little bit of planning and preparation on my part, and burning some midnight oil on her part, we have cut that 24-hours way down.  This has required some accommodations on her part, as well as on mine.

I’m a big believer in rewarding team members properly.  One of the reasons my VA is in the Philippines is that she is willing to do top-quality work there at an hourly rate that is less than top-quality work here would cost me.  Now, before you start shouting at me for exploiting her is some way, hear me out.  In the Philippines, the going wage for the work she does is roughly $3 an hour.  I pay her $5 an hour, so I’m paying her a 66% premium over what she could earn locally.  That premium is compensation of the timeliness I must have in my business, as well as the weird hours I sometimes ask her to keep to accommodate the weird hours I sometimes keep.  

Jiezl has a family she is proud of.  Her willingness to work hard to provide for her family is a source of pride to her.  I’ve never met her personally.  Oh, sure, we speak on the phone regularly and by text and email constantly.  But recently, when we gave her a surprise birthday party via Skype, her pride in her family, and theirs in her, came through loud and clear – even with the language differences.  

So the point I want to make here is that your VA is not merely a hired hand.  Your VA is a member of the team.  Someone who helps you to feed your kids, pay your mortgage, helps you succeed in business, too.  So your VAs are people, too, worthy of the same respect and honor you’d give to an employee you’d otherwise see everyday in the office.  Train the VA well, set a high bar for the VA to hurdle, and then reward them amply and regularly for their hard work and contribution to your success.  After all, VAs are people, too, with all of the same aspirations you have.  Show them empathy and they will reward you with loyalty.  

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode:

11 Comments on “How To Treat Your VA”

  1. Pingback: How To Treat Your VA - Appraisal Buzz

  2. Dustin I had a lot of respect for before reading this article. Paying anyone anywhere in the world $5 an hour is a discrace and not something I would brag about.

  3. You are no longer someone whom I admire. Can’t pay someone in the US? sorry – I am blocking you going forward.

  4. I really think you need to explain what this “VA” is doing within the appraisal report. When I write a report, almost all of the analysis happens during the writing. I don’t see what an assistant can do without me spending more time reviewing the work the assistant did than it takes for me to do it myself.

    If you look at your Appraisers Certification that you attest to every time you sign a URAR report, almost all of the 25 certifications begins with “I HAVE…”. It doesn’t begin with “Someone in the Philippines has”.

    When writing an appraisal report my overriding thought is how an opposing attorney could discredit my work if I were defending it in court. I really think any attorney could shred you to pieces for violating your certification. I say this not to be mean, but because that is what I have experienced in real life.

    I suggest that you consult an attorney to see if what you are doing is defendable in court.

    1. Don, Dustin churns out 4 to 9 appraisals A DAY while spending as little as 30 minutes doing a review and being in person at the office 1 time a week (all in less than 40 hours and at one point with no trainees). Keep in mind he has several side hustles (author, all-star leader, mentor, VHS tape salesmen, community organizer, etc.) to run. HE is most likely not defining the neighborhood, sorting through 80 sales, determining market adjustments, etc., but rather does a 30 minute “review” before someone signs his name and uploads to the AMC.

      Seek the truth.

  5. The comments above reflect ignorance. It is NOT a disgrace to overpay anyone regardless of where they live. On the USPAP comment you obviously have no understanding of what it means, having someone do merely data entry is NOT in violation. Dustin,I think you know what you are doing and do it well.

  6. I have two VAs in my office. One focuses on invoicing and prepping files and the other does graphic art and other odd jobs. I could not afford someone to do these jobs here in the US when I first hired them. The extra work would simply be left to me or my other staff here in the US. These VAs have helped my company grow, I have helped provide them with a good life for them and their family in their country, and they have in turn allowed me to hire more staff in the US. I now employ ten people in the US and it is in large part a result of the two VAs making life easier for my local staff and helping us focus on money making parts of our job.

  7. Oh Bubba, I feel your pain you are receiving for the hornet’s nest you just poked. Learned a long time ago to put my thoughts down, then wait, think about it, think about it again, go over any ramifications from the touchy-feely portion of people, and THEN put it out there. Compared to the minimum wage in this country, then it can be construed by some you are taking advantage of the VA at $5.00/hour. BUT, considering the economy in the Philippines, no. As long as the VA is not doing something other than typing, maps, labeling pictures, etc., etc. that would require her being noted in the appraisal as contributing to the value defined, you’re golden (IMHO). Take it as a lesson learned and go on down the road.

    1. Ron, Dustin is on record as saying he puts out 4 to 9 appraisals A DAY while covering a FEW STATES all while spending as little as 30 minutes doing a ‘review” (wink, wink). Considering his state of Idaho has a minimum wage of $7.25, he has no problem outsourcing the process to save a few bucks. Profits over principles might be a way to sell a few VHS tapes, but in these troubling times at home (USA / Covid / out of work), I hope Dustin has removed all mirrors in his life as I know I wouldn’t want to look at myself.

      Seek the truth.

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