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Relocation agents

publication date: Aug 9, 2011
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Just a few years ago, the only people who used relocation agents were top international firms sending their star directors and managers off to foreign parts for a troubleshooting or major development role. It was viewed as a huge corporate expense, with attendant privileges reserved for the elite. Now, the business is much more mainstream with anyone from busy professionals and elegant retirees to footballers and celebrities using their services to save time, hassle and, in many cases, money.

Corporate Relocation is concerned with workforce mobility; that is, moving staff either domestically or internationally. The vast majority of relocation agents undertake corporate relocation work. When Human Resource departments are instructed to move key staff around the country, or into or out of the UK, they contract the settlement of the employee to a relocation service provider.

The remit of corporate relocation service providers is very broad. Not only do they search for accommodation for the employee and the family, they also undertake:

School searches
Area orientation
Cross cultural orientation
Tenancy management
Household goods movement
Visa and immigration services
Private Homesearch

The private homesearch industry in the UK is the most developed in the world. Agents who specialise in private homesearch provide services to individuals looking to move within the UK.

Private homesearch is what most of us first associate with relocation; asking a professional in the area we want to move to, to find the ideal property.

Companies offering private homesearch services will take a detailed brief from the client of their exact requirements and will then begin the search. There are many advantages to be gained from using a homesearch specialist. The in-depth knowledge they have of their area enables them to match the client with the appropriate part of the town or city to best fulfil their needs. For example, if a high priority is good local schools, this will have an impact on the area of search. If a client is planning to move to the 
country, again, finding the village or estate most suited to their needs is a skill which comes only from detailed local knowledge.

Private homesearch, despite the fee charged, will in most cases be a money saving exercise for two primary reasons. Firstly, the costs involved in wasted trips to view unsuitable properties in the proposed location just don’t occur. Most home buyers have felt the frustration of taking valuable time to view a house which turns out to be entirely unsuitable. Secondly, local knowledge of the property market and how fast 
or slow properties are moving in any given month, enables the homesearch specialist to maintain a strong negotiating position

The key benefits of using a relocation company or a buying agent:

• Firstly, reloCation/buying agents are completely independent and are not tied to any agent and nor do they receive payment of any kind from the agents. They work exclusively on the buyer/tenants behalf focusing on finding the right property matched to the brief and in the right location.

• Local knowledge – most people would agree that local knowledge is invaluable if you are moving to an area you do not know well. Choosing a property in the wrong location can be disastrous, both financially and on a personal level.

• Time – the consultant will work hard throughout the whole process speaking
to all the local agents and focusing on the property brief and setting up viewings only at properties which accurately match that brief saving the client valuable time.

• Reducing str tr ess and hassle – the consultant will know the market and will not be put under pressure by agents to view properties which do not accurately match the brief. They will be working on their client’s behalf, keeping in contact with agents to discuss any new properties coming onto the market during the initial stages and throughout the whole process. This leaves the client free to carry on with their life while the search continues.

• Agent links – relocation/buying agents are often made aware of properties which are not yet even on the market giving clients a head start on other potential purchasers.

• Agents may take clients more seriously if they know they have a professional relocation/buying agent helping you.

• Clients don’t have to deal with agents directly – some people dread dealing with the agents and other parties such as solicitors involved in the property finding process. The relocation/buying agent will take care of this.

• The client receives total support and communication from the relocation/buying agent with every step of the moving process from the very beginning of the search right through to completion, move in and beyond.

• Negotiation skill s – the relocation/buying agent will have experience of handling negotiations and handles this aspect on their client’s behalf.

Is it worth it financially for the client?
The retainer fee, typically around £750 covers the time of the relocation/buying agent to set up the first unaccompanied previews so that properties can be short listed by the consultant to show the client. It also covers the cost of their mileage racked up in viewings all the properties. They may view 12 and only shortlist two properties to show the client. This fee covers a certain period of time depending on the company but usually 3-6 months. The fee is refundable from the final invoice.

The main fee is based on success – if the relocation/buying agent does not find a property then they do not earn a success fee and this is what drives the business model – no success means no fee!

However the final success fee is calculated as a percentage of the final purchase price at exchange of contracts or as a percentage of the saving achieved (whichever is greater). Normally the fee is around 1.0 per cent of the purchase price or 15 per cent of the saving achieved off the quoted asking price of the property purchased. This can mean the fees paid can be covered by the savings made by the consultants negotiation skills. There is normally a minimum fee payable; in the case of Citrus Relocation, it’s £6,000.

Why else do clients use a relocation company?
It will depend upon the individual relocation companies as to whether they provide support to both corporate and private clients. Relocating to a new country or even a new part of the UK is both time consuming and stressful. A relocation company will provide total support and communication throughout the move helping with every step of a person’s relocation process removing
a lot of the stress and hassle.

Whereas estate agents work in the interest of the landlord or seller. A relocation company acts solely on behalf of their client searching the property market thoroughly – they do not work for the letting agent or landlord. They will also provide totally unbiased support and advice on properties and locations. Relocation companies do not receive any commission or referral fee from lettings agents.

Estate agents are more likely like to favour an offer if they know a relocation company is involved as they know there is a serious and committed potential tenant. Very few relocation clients pull out of a tenancy so the landlord and the property agent do not then have the inconvenience of having to remarket the property.

The benefits of using a relocation company
• Puts the relocation into the hands of a relocation professional removing the hassle of dealing with agents directly particularly when there are distance constraints

• Provides support to the client and their family throughout the whole moving process

• Helps to find a new home which accurately matches requirements and budget

• Provides unbiased, independent advice on properties

• Provides expert in depth local knowledge and information on the new location

• Ensures that the lease agreement used protects the client

• Ultimately saves the client time, hassle, stress and money avoiding costly mistakes

Most relocation companies also provide a ‘one stop’ range of services for the client. This can include visa and immigration support, arranging short term accommodation, orientation tours and a schools search. They can also offer a range of settling in services such as support to open a UK bank account, assistance with obtaining a national insurance number and getting the client and their family registered with a local doctor.

The agent’s view
tate agency is all about service, you can have a window full of properties and have no takers for any of them, relocation agents are a proven source of high calibre buyers and tenants.
Canan Mounir is Corporate Services Manager, at Hamptons International Corporate Services Department, which specialises in providing a complimentary home search service not only to blue chip companies directly but also to relocation agents. She says, “Relocation Agents are a valuable tool for people who are moving to a new area. They can help to relieve this stress by taking care of everything from finding the right school for the children, organising your visa, to providing a hand held property search service. My department works very closely with Relocation Agents and as a result, we find our applicants are fully prepped on the property market, different areas and the general process.”

Peter Rollings, Managing Director, Marsh & Parsons says that yes, indeed, attracting landlords and vendors is paramount to the success of an estate agency. “In order to do so, the agency must be able to provide good quality prospective tenants and buyers for these clients. Marsh & Parsons works tirelessly to do so through employing strategic marketing and advertising techniques, ensuring we provide a first rate service and building a positive brand image. Working with a relocation company benefits any agency. Due to the nature of the relocation company’s relationship with their clients, corporate entities, the agent is guaranteed a first rate tenant for their landlord. In addition, the tenant has already been prepared for the market and their expectations detailed and managed, this helps the agent greatly as he/she quickly knows which properties will suit. The same applies when working with a buying agent. The process is so much more streamlined when working with someone who knows exactly what they want. A fact that extends to the offer and exchange process.

“In summary, working with relocation and buying agents assists Marsh & Parsons in providing our clients with tenants and buyers of the highest quality and also helps to streamline the process assisting us in providing a smooth and speedy service.”

Laura Godfrey, Senior Negotiator, Lanes Rentals Ltd, in Milton Keynes says, “Working with Citrus Relocation has introduced us to quality, corporate clients. The letting process is extremely efficient as the relocation company filters the communication, streamlining the transaction. It has always been a pleasure working with Citrus Relocation. It is refreshing to deal with a company with which you have a professional working relationship. We are aware of each other’s requirements and the results are reliable and regular business for us”.

Accreditation and quality
Relocating staff is a complex business for international companies; it is a huge stress for many relocating staff members – a new role, usually promotion, a new country, a different language, a family to bring, schools to find, there is much more involved in the happy settlement of the family than most agents have the time or experience to deal with. And this is where the relocation agent comes in; but the quality of the service they give is paramount.

There are two organisations that offer accreditation and membership services to relocation agents, EuRA and ARP

Dominic Tidey, Operations Manager, EuRA, says, “The pioneers of our industry in terms of relocation providers, are in the majority women, who have been relocated in some ways themselves. Across Europe, relocation companies have been built to provide services to people who are going through and a major life transition by people who have experienced that transition for themselves.

Female expats or women who have been through the relocation process have been very successful in building relocation companies and they seek out others like themselves as staff. The vast majority of relocation counsellors are women, as our industry is a human service with a great emphasis on nurturing and caring for families experiencing a huge change to their lives. Ex caring services staff are also highly sought after ,such as nurses and social workers. Whether providing a service to family coming to the UK from overseas or to a private client looking for an investment property, the home search and settling in process is by its nature one of managing expectations and fully understanding the client’s needs.”

Sue Myrie, Managing Director, Citrus Relocation. Tel: 0845 402 3124 Mobile: 07956 571615