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Relocation.com Reveals Findings from Major National Consumer Moving Survey

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RISMEDIA, June 18, 2008-As summer begins and peak-moving season shifts into full gear, Relocation.com, an online consumer resource for moving services, announced the findings of its nationwide consumer moving survey. While the U.S.’s economic turmoil continues to keep consumers on edge and home sales slow, the moving industry is seeing marked changes in consumer attitudes. Relocation.com’s survey findings produced some key insights about moving hot spots in the U.S., how the housing and mortgage crisis is impacting moves and consumer opinions about using a professional mover.

With 80% of consumers starting their real estate and moving research online(1), Relocation.com conducted the survey to garner insights about the consumer outlook on moving in order to better address their needs.

“With the typical summer moving season spike, our monthly traffic is indicating similar patterns. However, we are seeing a general up-tick in online searches for moving services that is reflected in the survey feedback,” said Greg Hebner, CEO Relocation.com. “The heightened sensitivities consumers are feeling about the economy and their motives for moving are showing a stronger need for superior customer service support from the moving industry. We work with our partners, the moving professionals, to deliver that high standard of service.”

Based on the most recent U.S. Census data, about 40 million Americans move to a new residence each year, as part of a vibrant industry that produces more than $15.7 billion in annual revenue and employs more than 172,000 people. Knowing the importance of the moving industry to the U.S. economy and the sensitivity of the industry on the general economy and the housing market, Relocation.com’s study intends to help the moving industry gain a better understanding of consumers’ feelings for packing up and moving out in the current marketplace.

“As the price of gas continues to soar, we know that consumers are going online to study and evaluate costs of moving themselves versus hiring a professional mover. We can help them evaluate the best resources available for their move and make smart choices to fit their budget,” said Sharon (Ron) Asher, Relocation.com founder and chairman.

Economic Issues and the Housing Crisis

This survey showed that the two most prevalent reasons for moving in today’s challenging economy are related to job change (relocating for an existing job or finding a new job) and lifestyle change (downsizing or retirement).

The majority of recent movers went from one rental situation to another with only 15% moving from a rental to home ownership. This result is a direct correlation with the deteriorating housing market in the U.S. and the tightening credit markets, making opportunities for home ownership much more challenging than in recent years.

The current real estate market in the U.S. is also likely reflected by the fact that a greater proportion of the sample (19% versus 15%) went from home ownership status to renter status than the reverse, and only 14% of these consumers owned their previous residence and moved to a newly purchased home. It also reflects that efforts from government and consumer groups to combat the rising number of foreclosures have not yet had a significant impact on consumers trying to keep their homes.

Moving Searches Shift Online

The survey indicates that the more mobile and affluent the consumer, the more likely they are to rely on Internet sources (than “yellow pages,” for example) for finding a professional mover and/or general information on moving and relocating (including finding a new home or rental). This trend is especially prevalent in those consumers between 25 and 54. With 66% of recent movers searching for their moving professionals online, it shows a significant shift in the moving marketplace that once depended on classified or “yellow pages” advertisements to attract new business.

“Moving is a high touch business, but the reality is that today’s consumer is more Internet savvy and is using the Internet to conduct business. We are working to meet this demand with our professional mover members to help them market their services to all types of consumers — whether on the Web, on the phone or face-to-face,” said Linda Darr, president and CEO, American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).

State Moving Trends

Slightly more than half of all the recent movers polled had moved from one state to another, with two-thirds moving more than 100 miles from their previous residence and 54% of that group moving more than 500 miles away.

According to the survey results, California and Texas are the two most popular states for people to move in 2007, based on interstate and intrastate moves combined. Surveys over the past decade have shown that California (the largest state by population) has always ranked first in terms of destination state for people changing residences. This trend continues, despite the growing mortgage crisis, which has heavily affected many areas of California. The effect of declining home values combined with the high cost of living has not kept consumers away. Only 43% of people moving to a new location in California currently live in California; thus 57% of all moves to California are people moving from other states.

Therefore, California is the number one destination state with 6% of the total sample moving from another state to California, followed by Florida (5%), Texas (4%), New York (3%) and Georgia (2%).

The top destination state for people moving from California is Texas. Not surprisingly, the “snow birds” from the Northeast seem to seek more permanence in the temperate climate with the number one destination state for people moving from New York being Florida.

When dealing with the Midwest states, Illinois and Minnesota consumers choose most frequently to head to sunny California. Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana residents prefer moving east to the warm Florida climate.

Some consumers prefer to stay close to their most recent residence, with 60% of all moves by Texans remaining within the state, more than any other state, compared to 46% in Illinois, 44% in California and 37% in New York. Florida, however, has the most out-of-state moves with 66% leaving the Sunshine State. Recent data shows that Florida had one of the highest foreclosure rates between November 2007 and April 2008, which likely is a factor behind many of the moves.

Hiring a Professional Mover

The majority of recent movers polled (74%) used a professional mover to move some or all of their household possessions. The average middle class homeowner shows a strong preference for hiring a professional mover whenever an interstate move to a new residence is necessary. Additionally, consumers who are planning to move more than 100 miles are twice as likely to consider hiring a professional mover rather than moving themselves.

The declining economic and housing conditions in the U.S. likely contribute to the rising proportion of moving consumers who report a high level of fear or anxiety regarding an upcoming move (compared to similar findings in 2006 and 2007 research). The majority (52%) of the respondents rated moving anxiety or fear levels as high or very high, with only 8% rating it very low.

This high level of anxiety or fear of moving presents a major challenge for the moving industry because even small problems, disappointments or failed expectations can be magnified under these highly charged emotional conditions. Yet, nearly 70% of the entire sample still perceived value in hiring a professional mover. Setting clear expectations and regular communication between the consumer and professional were key to creating a positive working relationship.

Survey Sample and Methodology

A total of 1,237 consumers completed a national online survey focused on moving and relocation behaviors and attitudes. This survey was launched in mid-March 2008 and was conducted on behalf of Relocation.com.

In order to qualify for the survey (for which there was no incentive), respondents had to be over 21 years of age and either moved from one residence to another within the past 12 months, or is currently planning to move from one residence to another within the next 12 months.

The sample size of 1,237 is statistically robust and yields a maximum error tolerance of less than +/- 2.9% at the 95% confidence interval. Approximately two-thirds of the survey sample (857) consisted of respondents who had moved within the past year; most had moved within the past 90 days. A total of 380 respondents who are planning a move within a year also took the survey.

For more information, visit http://www.relocation.com.

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