If you can earn a reputation as an expert in the real estate relocations market—as an agent who can make the process of moving to a new city as smooth and painless as possible—you can dramatically increase your sales volume by bringing in clients from all over the world.
This is particularly the case in a market with a STEM-based economy that attracts talented professionals. In eastern Iowa, that describes the Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Iowa City area, known locally as “the Corridor.” Healthcare, education, manufacturing, and agribusiness are major draws for the area.
Clay Claussen is an associate with RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts in North Liberty, Iowa, a small town located between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. His relocation business, he says, is one of the perks of association with a large, nationally known organization.
“Many people transferring into our market have no knowledge of the local brokerages, but they know and trust the RE/MAX brand,” he says. “I got into the relocation business by accident. A buyer contacted me who was the lead employee of a large company moving into the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area.
“We developed a great relationship while we toured the community and I explained the local market. Then he told me that employees were required to work with a company-approved agent. It turned out that I had the requisite experience, so I completed the application and have been working with that company for more than 10 years. I’ve also collaborated with several other national relocation companies. They all have similar policies and procedures.”
The challenges of real estate relocations
The biggest challenge to relocations, he says, is the extra paperwork. Companies that are relocating employees always have addenda for buyers that might require a certain amount of earnest money, specific items to be addressed in the purchase agreement, and more defined periods for responses from sellers.
If an employee is selling, the offer to buy might go to a company representative rather than the employee. The company relocation staff usually is on a nine-to-five weekday schedule, although much of the residential agent’s work takes place outside those hours. The substantial referral fees—25 to 35 percent of the commission—are another drawback.
“But real estate relocations are business I otherwise would not get, so the additional revenue is appreciated,” Claussen adds. “Generally, I work with large national companies, and their relocation staff serves as my business contact. I’ve also established relationships with key personnel in local businesses. They recommend me to serve as the agent for their staff, for no fee.”
The importance of knowing your market
If you’re working with buyers who are new to the area, Claussen advises, be prepared to answer questions about neighborhoods, schools, parks, recreation, shopping, entertainment, local government, and other resources.
“The first step is to make sure the buyer has been pre-approved by a lender, so we’re searching in the right price range,” he says. “I prefer local lenders over out-of-state banks and internet lenders. The client gets much better service and often avoids hidden fees. I encourage clients to view a decent number of homes to make sure they have a feel for the market. And I need to help the customer understand the homes’ relative values.”