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Succeeding in the Changing Relocation Industry

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By Lesley Geary

TOP 5 IN REAL ESTATE, July 2010 –

Sue Cooper
Prudential Connecticut
Years in real estate: 29
Region Served: Lower Fairfield County, Connecticut
Average sales price in your market: $550,000

How has the relocation industry changed in the past year or so?
I have specialized in relocation for many years and really like it. In the past, relocation business accounted for as much as 75 % of my business. Today, it is closer to 25% of my business. In Fairfield County, it has changed tremendously. We have huge corporate headquarters here that have pulled back. Traditionally, companies have paid all of the expenses for moving executives, which averages about $100,000. Companies are no longer doing as much transferring because they don’t want to be saddled with such a huge expense. Today, some companies are even advising new hires to rent houses.

And then there’s Wall Street. Many of the people who live in this area worked on Wall Street, so the upper echelon of our market has suffered as they have suffered. That said, I now think there is a glimmer of light and we are now stabilizing here. As companies realize that we’ve reached the bottom of the market, they won’t be as worried about taking such huge hits with transferees. The relocation business will begin to come back.

Are you using relocation to build new business?
Not now. Relocation business gets referred to me and if companies start to move their executives again, I will not turn the business down because I love the process of helping someone move here. I love helping people each step of the way with their move to Fairfield County. But these days, relocation is only a piece of what I do.

What are the biggest challenges with relocation?
Having that client referred to you in the first place is a challenge. I can be referred by somebody I have helped move here or I can get a call from a third-party company. Referral fees that agents pay to receive this business have increased over the years and at the end of the day, the margins can be very thin for referrals. I will always accept relocation referrals as I have a fondness for assisting these clients—myself and my family relocated internationally so I know and understand the process. But you have to have a diversified business base in this market when the number of transferees is down.

How do you market to attract relocation business effectively?
You are selling your area. It is satisfying but difficult work because you are creating weekly or bi-weekly reports for relocation companies—there is a lot of work associated with relocation. The reports have become lengthy. You just have a lot of papers to fill out on the listing side. A lot of your relocation business is built you’re your reputation.

Why did you become a Member of Top 5?
This is my second year in Top 5. I took a look at my business and how it has changed—and it is changing a lot—and I thought I had to differentiate myself more. Of course, to be associated with Allan Dalton is a big plus. Top 5 is a very good tool to help capture the market.

What is the key to a successful life in real estate?
Enthusiasm and the love of what you do. I love people and I am curious about people. You meet a broad spectrum of society in the real estate world. It is a very stressful time of their lives as they move themselves and their families to a new location and you find yourself being part psychologist. You have to understand that when you are assisting them in their move, it is not just the employee you are dealing with, but an entire family who is pulling up roots, from maybe a less expensive part of the country, to move to lower Fairfield County. This can be overwhelming in many regards. Having understanding and empathy is key to helping the family settle. No matter what the challenges, you really need to have a love of the business.

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