Published by Kartik Subramaniam
Generally speaking, it's common knowledge that real estate agents are required to be licensed in the state in which they practice. This is more than just a simple formality, of course. Taking the real estate classes and becoming a licensed agent proves that you've gone through the training and education necessary to do the job. It's also an example of your commitment to follow the industry ethics and standards of your specific state when it comes to marketing, sales, negotiations and the completion of transactions.
But more than that, a real estate license is also proof of your dedication to all of these ideas in the eyes of your potential clients - thus allowing them to move into a deeper and longer-lasting relationship with you with as much peace-of-mind as possible.
As you progress in your career you may have to hire an assistant one day who might not be licensed to help you manage some of the day-to-day aspects of your operation. Because of this, questions often arise as to exactly what these assistants can or cannot do. Are they a real estate agent in everything but the name? Are their duties limited in some other type of way, especially in the eyes of the law?
Luckily, the California Department of Real Estate has issued a set of guidelines specifically for these unlicensed assistants who work in the real estate industry, shedding insight into exactly what is expected of them and, more importantly, what isn't. It's an invaluable resource for anyone involved in a real estate transaction and understanding it requires you to keep a few key things in mind.
In the state of California, unlicensed assistants are definitely allowed to assist in the performance of cold contacting potential prospects. Indeed, this is a large part of the reason why real estate agents may seek out their help in the first place.
This includes not only making telephone calls, but also using electronic communication like emails or social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to try to generate as much interest in the services of the real estate agent as possible. The unlicensed agent can answer questions about what types of services that the agent can provide, and they can even schedule an appointment so that all parties can meet.
It's important to note, however, that this type of canvassing can ONLY be used to develop general information about the person being called. An unlicensed agent can call to determine whether or not someone would be interested in the services of the real estate agent, for example. They can NOT try to induce the person to use the agent's services in any way.
Another way that unlicensed agents often prove invaluable ultimately comes down to the role they play in open houses. Unlicensed assistants are absolutely allowed to place signs in public areas throughout the neighborhood, for example, and can provide factual information about the house in question either verbally or through pre-printed materials. They can greet the general public when they walk through the door and can even schedule times for further appointments. All of this can again save the agent an incredible amount of time, thus allowing them to devote more of their attention on those tasks that truly need them. They have to do all of this with the express consent of the owner however - they can't just decide to do it on their own.
Unlicensed assistants are also allowed to help their agent in other ways, too, particularly when it comes to a lot of those "back office" duties that are important but that also require a tremendous amount of time.
In the state of California, an unlicensed assistant can:
Make, conduct and even prepare a comparative market analysis for a particular property. It's just that only the licensed real estate agent can actually use it when conducting business, and they have to approve everything contained within the document first.
Unlicensed assistants can let a prospective buyer into a property to inspect some or all of it, so long as this activity is necessary for the preparing of a report regarding future repairs that will be made. So an unlicensed agent can give a home inspector access to a property prior to a sale, for example. It's just that they cannot provide them with any supplementary information to actually complete that report - that will need to come from the agent directly.
Unlicensed assistants are not only allowed to prepare advertising relating to a transaction for their employer - they can actually have input on the design elements of those materials, too. Once again, the agent with the license will need to approve everything before it is published and made available to the general public.
Unlicensed assistants are also allowed to both prepare and complete documents before and during a transaction, so long as they do so under the supervision (and at the direction) of the licensee.
Unlicensed assistants can also mail, deliver and pick up documents relating to a transaction - including obtaining signatures. While they are doing this, however, they are not allowed to discuss the content or relevance of those documents. An unlicensed agent can bring something to a client's house to have them sign it, but the conversation isn't allowed to get any more detailed than that.
On the subject of documents, it should be noted that the guidelines state that unlicensed assistants are also able to thoroughly review the types of materials commonly coming into and going out of a real estate brokerage - so long as their employer has specifically directed them to do so. Overall, they can review documents for completeness or compliance, for example.
Finally, unlicensed real estate agents are allowed to not only accept but also account for and provide a receipt for any trust funds received from a client or other party to a transaction. Of course, this means they can also communicate with those same individuals in connection with the transaction about topics like when reports or other information will be delivered.
In the end, it's important to think of an unlicensed real estate assistant in the state of California as exactly what they are: an assistant in nearly every sense of the term. Under Section 10131 of the California Business and Professions Code, the state government has made it very clear which activities actually require a real estate broker license to execute. Nothing in these guidelines supersedes them in any way, shape or form.
But that's okay, because an unlicensed assistant isn't supposed to replace the need for a real estate agent at all. Instead, it's supposed to support and empower them - helping to relieve as many of the administrative tasks from their plate as possible so that they can focus their attention on actually running their business and executing real estate transactions.
To that end, an unlicensed assistant in the real estate industry really might be thought of as a paralegal in the legal profession. Paralegals are usually employed by lawyers to devote their attention to specialty tasks like case planning, development, management and others. They research legal topics and provide support for any tasks that don't require a law degree. They're not a replacement for an attorney, but then again they were never designed to be and that's not what is expected of them. An unlicensed real estate agent really does operate in much the same way, albeit via an entirely different field.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the rules can change on what the state allows an unlicensed assistant to do so it’s important to check your state’s rules periodically to ensure that you are following the rules.
These guidelines are intended to help not only real estate agents but also the members of the public that they've dedicated themselves to serving - which is ultimately the most important goal of all.
Are you ready to get your real estate license?