Florida Real Estate Unlicensed Assistant
Are you looking into hiring a real estate unlicensed assistant in Florida? Or, perhaps you are trying to decide if ou should hire an unlicensed assistant or a licensed assistant?
Then you’re in luck: we wrote this article to answer the typical questions that come up when determining whether an unlicensed assistant is right for you. We’ll start by talking about how Florida is an escrow state that performs “mail away” closings before we get into the meat of the article: what Florida unlicensed assistants can and can’t do.
From there, we’ll cover what assistants and transaction coordinators have in common, and then talk about the fact that transaction coordinators are less expensive to employ while still saving you time. Finally, we’ll close by talking about where to find the best transaction coordinators!
Is Florida an Escrow State or Not?
Before you can determine what kinds of tasks a Florida unlicensed assistant would do, it helps to know whether Florida is an escrow state or an attorney state. In attorney states, an attorney facilitates the closing process, and unlicensed assistants are actually assisting the attorney. In these attorney states, an attorney can represent the buyer, the seller, or act as a neutral third party in the transaction.
In escrow states, however, the escrow company always acts as a neutral third party, with the buyer’s agents and seller’s agents acting in the best interest of their clients. Florida is an escrow state, which means that the people who would consider hiring an unlicensed assistant would be real estate agents.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a Florida real estate agent, so you already know!
A Note About Florida Closings
There are different types of closings. Some escrow states conduct “table closings,” where all parties sit together at a table and the loan is closed in front of the loan officer or closer. In other states, the closing process is considered a practice of law, and that’s why attornies need to take care of real estate purchases in certain states.
When parties in escrow states aren’t geographically close enough to sit together at a table, the closings occur without a meeting. These are known as “mail away” closings in Florida and are a form of escrow closing because conveyance and money are delivered by a neutral third party.
What Can Unlicensed Assistants Do in Florida?
Before we go over what unlicensed assistants can do, let’s briefly cover what an unlicensed assistant in Florida can’t do. Like unlicensed transaction coordinators, an unlicensed assistant can’t fill out a contract.
Here are some other tasks they can’t do:
- Auction property for compensation. An unlicensed assistant can’t work in the same role as a real estate agent would, so they aren’t permitted to auction property.
- Advertise property for compensation. Unlicensed assistants aren’t allowed to advertise property for their own compensation. Likewise, they shouldn’t solicit potential customers over the phone, whether it’s to find out what types of homes they’re interested in or to sell a home that’s currently on the market.
- Try to list or sell timeshare periods on behalf of another party for compensation. This is still considered a real estate transaction, so assistants need to avoid selling timeshare periods for other parties.
- Negotiate or agree to commission splits/referral fees. Even if the licensee is in agreement about a commission split or referral fee, this is an illegal practice and should be avoided (especially by the agent, who jeopardizes their license by conducting themselves this way).
Now that we know what unlicensed assistants can’t do, we’ll move on to what they can do.
- Answering phones and forwarding calls. As it is in many other states, unlicensed assistants aren’t permitted to answer questions about homes if that information isn’t found in some kind of written document that’s available to the public. In those cases, the call should be forwarded to a licensed real estate agent. Unlicensed assistants may only make objective comments about these kinds of inquiries, not subjective ones.
- Adding listings and changes to any MLS (multiple listing service). Though unlicensed assistants aren’t permitted to solicit customers, they are allowed to update online information on the agent’s behalf.
- Following up on loan commitments and getting status updates. As we said earlier, unlicensed assistants can’t write contracts, but they can take care of communication once a contract has been signed, and follow up with parties (like lenders) to ensure that the loan process is going smoothly and everything is set to finish on time.
- Assembling documents for closing. The unlicensed assistant can gather the contract and any necessary documents to ensure that no part of the transaction is overlooked.
- Obtaining public information from courthouses, utility companies, etc. As long as the information is available publicly, an unlicensed assistant can gather the documents.
- Getting keys made for commercial properties. Residential listings are handled differently than commercial listings are, but assistants can create keys for commercial properties.
- Creating advertisements and placing them. Assistants can do so only with the approval of the licensee and supervision broker. Advertisements can be placed in the form of newspaper ads, flyers, promotional information, and more.
- Receiving/recording/depositing earnest money, etc. In Florida, assistants are permitted to do this, but they aren’t allowed to collect or hold earnest money. (By the way, if you’re curious about when earnest money is due, whether it’s refundable, or how to get it back in Florida, check out our articles!)
- Typing contract forms for approval by the agent and broker. As long as the assistant creates a draft for approval, they can play some part in the contract creation process. However, it must be done under the supervision of the licensed agent and the broker.
- Monitoring licenses and personnel files. In an office setting, unlicensed assistants take a more administrative role, keeping on top of agents’ licenses and ensuring that they don’t lapse. They help maintain compliance and protect the agents they work with.
- Computing commission checks. Administrative tasks are perfectly acceptable to be completed by unlicensed assistants, as long as they’re not advising licensees.
- Putting signs on properties. Thankfully, planting signs in a yard doesn’t require a license (if so, agents would be unnecessarily busy)!
- Requesting repairs. An assistant can request repairs as long as the licensed agent has directed them to do so.
- Delivering documents. In-person unlicensed assistants can act as a courier and deliver documents to transaction parties.
- Making reminder calls to renters. Assistants can make routine calls about late rent payments on behalf of the agent if need be.
- Gathering information for a CMA or appraisal. Although they’re not permitted to create a CMA or appraisal, an assistant can compile the required documents for agents.
- Pass out objective, written info on properties. If there are any inquiries regarding those listings or rentals, however, the broker should handle them.
As you can see, there is plenty for unlicensed assistants to do in Florida, despite the fact that they don’t hold a real estate license.
Florida Unlicensed Assistants are Like TCs
Transaction coordinators (TCs) perform many of the same jobs that an unlicensed assistant would, with a few exceptions. For example, a virtual assistant isn’t able to do tasks that an in-person assistant can (tasks like acting as a courier, planting signs, etc).
Since a transaction coordinator specializes in the transaction process, they don’t typically handle listings, although some transaction coordinators take on listing coordinator tasks. Transaction coordinators also don’t typically handle the marketing side of the business.
Generally speaking, most agents don’t mind the marketing and branding tasks required of them.
If you’re an agent, you likely enjoy building your brand. You probably thrive on finding new ways to market yourself, hunting down more leads, and making leads into clients. Marketing and brand-building would fall into the “fun” category for you.
The decidedly less fun part is handling the transactions. You likely find it dull and tedious to go over every aspect of a contract, and the sheer amount of parties whose action steps you need to follow up on to see the contract to completion is mind-numbing. You don’t want to waste time trying to email clients back about what the terms of the contract mean – you want to get out there and start working on the next deal!
Transaction Coordinators Save Time on Transactions
A transaction coordinator is a lifesaver for Florida real estate agents. They save agents a lot of time that would otherwise be spent working on their transactions (somewhere between 15 and 20 hours of work for each one).
What will you do with all that extra time? It’s up to you, but here are the most popular responses we got when we asked agents:
- Execute more contracts. 34% of top-performing agents would like to execute even more contracts using the time savings they’d get from a transaction coordinator.
- Save time from contract to close. A transaction coordinator who’s focused on your contracts is going to get the work done faster than you would with the many other tasks you need to worry about: 29.3% of agents agree.
- Spend more time with clients. As we said earlier, many agents love client-facing work. If you’re like 27.1% of agents surveyed, you have a magnetic personality and you love interacting with your clients.
- Spend more time with family. Some agents are so high-performing that all they want is some quality time with their families. If you’re like the 9.6% of agents who responded with this answer, you already have great systems in place and a thriving referral network.
A TC Costs Less to Hire
Although the thought of hiring an unlicensed assistant may be appealing, keep in mind that they tend to be more expensive to employ.
In-person assistants can cost $52,488 to employ, and virtual assistants have an average annual salary of $67,115. You may think that freelancers would be less expensive, but think again. The average hourly rate for assistants on Upwork is $15. This means that a virtual assistant working 6 hours a day costs around $1,800 a month to hire.
(If you plan to use a freelancer, exercise caution and vet them carefully. There’s no guarantee that they have the experience they’re claiming on their resume. We know of an agent who learned this lesson the hard way.)
If you wanted to cut costs and reduce risk, you could go through a transaction coordinator service. Since TC services care of the hiring and vetting process for you, they also offer a time-saving approach to the hiring process.
That said, there are a couple of things that most TC services do that undermine the quality of work that their transaction coordinators put out:
- They don’t provide benefits. Transaction coordinators for most TC services are hired as 1099 employees. They’re considered “independent contractors” and aren’t offered any benefits as part of their employee package. If you ask us, they’re hardly even considered employees. Without basic health, dental, and vision benefits, employees aren’t able to take time off or have peace of mind about the future.
- They pay per contract. They say that you can have it fast, cheap, or good, but you can’t have all three. At most TC services, coordinators are paid per contract. Though this may seem like a great way to go about it, the pay structure is undermining the quality of work. Think about it: if your livelihood depends on doing things as quickly as possible, are you going to go the extra mile and put the care in to ensure it’s done right?
- They don’t pay well. The average salary for a transaction coordinator is $44,076 a year. That number is 13% higher than the average salary of one of our competitors ($38,734 a year). We think $44,076 a year is already a low salary. You can’t expect quality when you’re paying your employees below their worth.
In fact, we’ve got proof that this setup is not conducive to having the thorough and detailed transaction coordinators that you need as a high-performing real estate agent. We’ve spotted several negative reviews from agents who were dissatisfied with the quality of work that their TCs were putting out.
So what do you do if you can’t spend the money on a full-time REA or a virtual assistant, and freelancers and most transaction coordinator services aren’t a great choice either? Who do you go to for help with your transactions?
Where to Find the Best Florida TCs
Here at Close Concierge, we take pride in our transaction coordinators. We hire only the best to work on our team. We work to attract and retain the top talent in our industry by providing competitive salaries to our full-time employees. We also offer a plethora of benefits, including leading medical coverage, paid time off, and a say in all hiring decisions.
Due to this setup, our coordinators are willing to do what most coordinators won’t: work after normal business hours and on weekends. We know that real estate doesn’t just happen during the 9-5 workday, so our coordinators work when you work.
If you’re looking for a listing coordinator, we can help with that, too: we can post to the MLS for an added amount if you need us to perform listing coordinator tasks.
Would you like to give Close Concierge a try? Contact us today for a free demo!