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Hiring and Managing a Virtual Assistant for Your Real Estate Business

If you’re considering hiring a virtual assistant (VA) for your real estate business, here are some steps and best practices to help you find, hire, and manage a VA effectively. 

Define tasks and company culture

Get clear on the tasks you need the VA to do and the values that are important to your company. This will help you create a job description and find a VA who aligns with your needs and company culture.

Write a detailed job description

Based on your needs and company culture, write a clear and detailed job description for the VA position. Be specific about the tasks, responsibilities, and expectations.

Research VA expectations and trends

If you’re hiring a VA from a specific country, research the expectations and trends in that country. For example, VAs in the Philippines may expect a bonus month of pay in December and may have certain communication or work habits. Knowing these in advance can help you work well together.

Post the job description on relevant platforms

Use job posting platforms such as or other relevant websites to attract qualified applicants for the VA position.

Conduct video interviews

Once you have a pool of qualified applicants, conduct video interviews via platforms such as Skype, Zoom, etc. Focus on evaluating their qualifications, experience, and alignment with your company values. Check references (several just in case) and select the candidate that is the best fit. 

Set up communication and systems

Once the VA accepts the position, set up communication and systems to facilitate their work. Use tools such as Google Docs for protocol and recurring message templates, Google sheets for turnover scheduling, a shared Gmail account you and the VA can log into anytime, Google Contacts including renters and contractors, Google Voice for the shared company phone number, Dropbox for organizing and sharing real estate files like photos of apartments, Quicktime screen recordings for demonstrating how to do recurring real estate tasks on the computer, property management software (like Rentec), and receipt recording apps (like Expensify) to streamline communication. 

Monitor productivity and ensure work

Establish ways to monitor the VA’s productivity, such as daily summaries of work and questions, timestamp on relevant websites, and regular check-ins to ensure that the work is being done as expected.

Set up payment and security measures

Use reliable and secure payment methods such as to pay the VA, and set up access controls in property management software to limit their access to sensitive information. Avoid sharing personal bank account information and set up auto-pay for bills and ongoing expenses wherever possible.

Remember, hiring and managing a VA requires clear communication, mutual trust, and ongoing supervision. Regularly review their performance, provide feedback, and adjust tasks and systems as needed to ensure a successful working relationship.

Explanation of Our Lease Renewal Process

Have a question about this part of our lease?

(This means we might ask you in the fall if you would like to renew your lease for the following year) Language required by City of Ithaca: “By initialing here ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____ I fully understand and willingly waive my rights to 120 days’ written notice in advance pursuant to Ithaca City Code § 258-10: Renewal of Rental Agreements; Notification to Tenants

Here is the explanation:

Most of our leases end and begin in July and August. In October/November we usually ask renters if they already know their plans for the upcoming year.

If renters already know they will move away from Ithaca at the end of their lease, they often let us know that. If renters already know they would like to renew, we start that process for them.

When renters renew in the fall, we usually give them a lower rental price than we offer for the same apartment in the spring. So it is often advantageous for you to decide early.

If you are renting a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment from us and you do not know your plan for the upcoming year by October/November, we generally just ask you again around January and go from there.

If you are renting a 3+ bedroom apartment from us, we might start asking about your lease renewal plans as early as September.


Lower Collegetown Laundry Rooms

705 E Seneca St

Go down the paved driveway on the uphill side of the house. Toward the back of the house you will see a small staircase down to the laundry room. The laundry door is on the right at the bottom of that small staircase. There is a combo lock on it. The combination is 3388. Please do not park in the driveway because the parking spaces are rented out.

115 Stewart Ave

Enter the front door. Walk forward to the staircase that is going down. It is on the right. At the bottom of the staircase, open the door to the laundry room. There is a light switch just inside on the left when you open the door.

422-424 E State ST

Go down the sidewalk that goes between 422 and 420 on the downhill side of the house. Turn right and walk down the stairs beneath the front porch. Walk past the apt B door on your left and trash cans on your right until you reach the laundry room door on your left. It is unlocked. Please do not park in the driveway because the parking spaces are rented out.

What to do if a car is parked in your space

Returning home and finding an unfamiliar car parked in the parking space reserved for you or others in your house can be frustrating. But it happens all the time, so you can take the high road and still take care of it! It may be an error, an uniformed visitor, someone super stressed out, or someone who had someone parking in their space and they didn’t know what to do.

If an unfamiliar car is parked on your parking space on private property (like Dewitt Place or your driveway), you can:

  1. Text others in your house to make sure it’s not their car or the car of a visitor who accidentally parked in your spot. You can also knock on your neighbor’s door and kindly ask if they are familiar with that car.
  2. Leave a polite note on their windshield like “This parking space is reserved. Please do not park here again. – Your neighbor”
  3. Call Ithaca City Police dispatch at 607-272-3245 and let them know someone is parked in your parking space. Clearly describe the car and the location. The police will send someone to issue a parking ticket. If you will not be waiting there, ask to be called after they have issued a ticket.
  4. If the vehicle moves before the officer gets there, call dispatch back to let them know they do not need to come. They are short staffed.
  5. If you are blocked in and you need to move your car, most tow trucks have been told that if it’s an emergency they can tow without having a police-issued ticket first.
  6. If it is not an emergency, call the tow truck after the ticket has been issued. You can call Finger Lakes Wrecker at 607-273-6972 or another local towing company and ask them to tow the car away.

(FYI: The tow company calls the police with the license plate of the car they towed, then the person who gets towed calls the police, and the police tell the person which tow company has their car. There is no penalty or charge for the person who calls the tow company if someone else has officially been ticketed for being parked in their parking space on private property. The person who owns the car will be charged $100+ to get their car back, so please put yourself in their shoes and go from there).

Circuit Breaket Reset Instructions

If the electricity ever goes out in part of your apartment, there are a couple ways you might be able to get it back on quickly:

1. If the outlet involved in the outage is a GFI and the reset button, press the GFI reset button on the outlet.

2. Reset the circuit in the basement/laundry room.

Instructions for:

Why Didn’t They Take My Recycling? Common Recycling Mistakes to Avoid

Curbside recycling is a truly helpful service. However, if you put things in your recycling bin that are not accepted curbside, they will not take it. Then you will need to store your recycling for another 2 weeks and it will pile up.

Wondering if something can be recycled? Find out here:

These common errors keep the haulers from taking recycling away:

Padded envelopes are not accepted.

Plastic bags are not accepted curbside. Bring clean plastic dry bags to a grocery store that recycles them or the entrance of Walmart or Lowes, etc.

Styrofoam is not recyclable.

Plastics without a #1, #2 or #5 on the bottom are not accepted curbside. Look for a #1, #2, or #5. Don’t see it? Put it in the trash.

**At the dump there is an area for rigid plastics (ice cube trays, trash cans, plastic storage tubs, hangers, etc). If you want these recycled, bring them to the dump.

Electronics are not accepted curbside

**At the dump there is an area for electronics (keyboards, phones, computers, vacuums, etc). If you want these recycled, bring them to the dump. Otherwise they go in the trash.



Having Trouble Getting Your Gas Stove Burners to Light?

These are some possible causes and solutions:

  1. Water overflowed on the stove top and put out the pilot light under the stove top.  Solution: Very carefully light the pilot light with a long match or long lighter.

This is a helpful page on how to light your oven and stove pilot light

2. There is food stuck in the burner cap that is keeping the igniter from lighting.

Solution: Make sure the burner cap is not hot. Clean the burner cap with an old toothbrush or poke the food that is stuck in there out with a paperclip. Usually you can remove the burner cap and soak it in the sink or a bowl of water and/or vinegar so it’s easier to clean. When the burner cap is dry, place it back on the stove as designed. 

3. The burner cap is not aligned properly. Solution: Make sure the burner cap is not hot. Turn the burner cap until it rests where it was designed to and the igniter can light.

4. The igniter is bad and needs to be replaced. Solution: Put in a service request to have the stove serviced by a professional

If you smell of gas, text and/or call management immediately. The NYSEG gas emergency line is 1-800-572-1121. They will come quick, check for leaks and most likely shut the gas off to the whole house until we can find / fix the leak.

Smoke or Carbon Monoxide Detector Chirping or Beeping? Here’s What to do

When a smoke or carbon monoxide detector is making a loud alarm noise every second, it may be an emergency and you need to leave the house immediately. 

If there is a fire, leave immediately and call 911.

If there is danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave immediately and call 911.

If a “combo” (smoke detector and carbon monoxide) detector or carbon monoxide detector is making a constant loud alarm noise and you don’t see smoke, quickly make sure the stove and oven are completely off, turn off space heaters and any other gas-consuming appliances, open a window if it’s quick and easy, and immediately leave your apt. If it is easy for you to bring the alarm with you, do that.

First call 911, and the fire department will come test the air for carbon monoxide. And call management to let them know.

If the alarm is still sounding when you are in fresh air outside of the house, it may be a faulty alarm. Call management for a replacement.

If the alarm needs to be replaced, answer these questions when you tell management:

  1. Is it a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, or smoke and CO combo alarm? 
  2. Twist the detector off of the base. Can you just walk away with it, or is it hard-wired to the wall? 

If it has “10 year alarm” written on it and you are 100% sure that there is no fire or carbon monoxide but the alarm keeps sounding, management may ask you to follow instructions on the alarm to disable it.

In addition to gas stoves, a boiler, furnace or hot water heater could emit carbon monoxide. These are often in the basement in a separate room from all apartments.

If it is not an emergency, figure out what kind of alarm is sounding. There are a few kinds:

  1. Smoke detector. Figure out which kind of smoke detector it is. There are 3 versions:
    -battery operated with batteries (AA or 9V) you can replace
    -10 year alarm with non-replaceable battery (the whole alarm needs to be replaced)
    -hard-wired (if you twist the alarm off of the base you will see wires holding it to the house)
  2. Carbon monoxide detector. Most have replaceable AA or 9V batteries
  3. Combo smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Figure out which kind of detector it is
    -battery operated with batteries (AA or 9V) you can replace
    -10 year alarm with non-replaceable battery (the whole alarm needs to be replaced)
    -hard-wired (if you twist the alarm off of the base you will see wires holding it to the house)

Just chirping about once a minute? Replace the batteries

“Chirping” is when the alarm beeps about once every minute. This is not a constant loud alarm noise. Chirping means the battery needs to be replaced or the alarm has expired. Please have a couple 9 volt batteries and AA batteries in your apartment at all times in case this happens.

Cannot find where the batteries are? It may be a 10 year alarm and you cannot replace the batteries.

If it says 10 year alarm on it and it keeps chirping or sounding when there is no danger, call management to have it replaced.

Still chirping after you replace the batteries? Call management to get it replaced.

If you put in new batteries and the alarm is still chirping, it might be expired. Many alarms last 10 years. There is usually an install date on the alarm. Tell management what kind of alarm it is so they bring the right one (ex: hardwired combo alarm, battery operated smoke detector, etc)

Is it a hard-wired alarm chirping?

If the alarm is attached to the ceiling or wall with wires, it is “hard wired”. If there is a backup battery, replace the battery, put the alarm back and press the test button. If the alarm keeps chirping even with a new battery, either the alarm has expired or the electrical circuit it is on may need to be reset. Call management and they will come over or talk you through it.

Can’t find the chirping alarm in your apartment?

Email management. The alarm may be in your neighbor’s apartment and they are away, or in a shared hall or in the basement.

Smoke alarm keeps sounding every second even though there is no fire? Open windows and fan the alarm

If there is no smoke or fire and it is a smoke detector beeping, open windows and fan the alarm with a towel. Heat and smoke from cooking or even a steamy shower could set off an alarm when there is not actually a fire. If this happens consistently, ask management if they can move the alarm.

Excessive dust can make detectors malfunction

If you are sanding wood or doing something else that emits many particles into the air in your apt, you may be damaging your detectors and they may malfunction.

Info from the Emergency Guide: 


  • A working smoke alarm is required in every bedroom and in the vicinity of every bedroom, as well as in the hallways and common areas of the building. Carbon Monoxide detectors are located within 15 feet of every bedroom. Some models are a combination alarm for both smoke and carbon monoxide.
  • Keep detectors dust free and free of any covering that will reduce the sensitivity to heat or smoke.
  • If there is a detector directly wired to your electrical system be sure that the signal light located on the detector is blinking periodically.
  • Never remove a battery or disconnect a detector unless it is chirping from low battery and you are replacing the battery. Some detectors are ten year detectors, and the battery in those cannot be replaced. If a detector is not functioning or it is going off sporadically, contact maintenance immediately for replacement or service. It is a misdemeanor punishable by fine and or imprisonment to tamper with or disable any fire protection device.
  • Detectors may be on the ceiling or wall. Some are plug in models and may be in an outlet.


How to Set up Electric and Gas with NYSEG

Before your lease begins, you can set up your electric and/or gas service to start on your lease start date. 

  1. Figure out your meter number(s). You have 3 options:
    1. Look on the “good to know” page we emailed you with info about your house, and your meter number might be listed there.
    2. If there are no meter numbers listed on the house “good to know” page and you are not in Ithaca yet, you can try to register with the house address and apt number in place of the meter number.
    3. If you are in Ithaca, you can find the meter and read the number (see image below).
  2. If you do not already have a NYSEG account, call NYSEG at 1-800-572-1111. When we checked in July 2022, NYSEG no longer allowed new customers to register online. They required the new customer to call NYSEG in order to register. But it could have changed since then! 
  3. If you already have a NYSEG account, go to , choose “My Account”, and see if you can “Turn service on” and answer the questions for your new meter(s).

This might work in place of a phone call, but a phone call might be easier: Fill out the Request for Service pdf and email it to

You have 2 options for reading the meter amount before you start paying the bill:

  1. Ask NYSEG to come read the meters
  2. OR you can do a meter read on your own and send it to NYSEG. 

NYSEG will schedule a time for them to come read your meter after you request to turn on the service OR you can do your own meter reading to get your account started faster. You can find the electric and/or gas meters by walking around the house and going in the basement. 

They usually look like this:

Take photos of the meters where the meter number and measurement gauges are visible so that you can do a meter reading or just follow the steps here: 

More info on setting up your NYSEG service:

  1. NYSEG has already read the meters at your house, so they know where they are. If the meters are indoors (ex: basement), they know how to get in. 
  2. E-billing service means that your bills will be emailed to you rather than mailed to you as a hard copy. Electronic Funds Transfer Enrollment means you can enter your bank account info and NYSEG will automatically withdraw your bill payment each month. Both of these options may make it easier for you to pay your NYSEG bill on time.  
  3. If you do not know the name of the previous tenant and the NYSEG form asks you for this, simply leave it blank or write “I don’t know” 
  4. If the NYSEG form asks you for the landlord’s contact info, enter “True Renew Homes, PO Box 524, Ithaca NY 14851”  
  5. If the NYSEG form asks for Third Party Notification Service, enter “True Renew Homes, PO Box 524, Ithaca NY 14851”  
  6. Email to let us know you have successfully set up your NYSEG account.

Recent Tenant Reviews

Alicia and Jonah were the ideal landlords. The tenant/landlord relationship can often feel strained or uneven in power, but they were always fast and attentive to my needs without being overbearing in any way. When I did finally move out they even gave me chocolate as a parting gift! I would genuinely recommend renting from these stress-free folks.