Future of the U.S. Rental Market

With the U.S. national apartment vacancy rate expected to remain low moving into 2014, much discussion surrounds the need for more policies catering to transferring employees choosing to rent rather than buy. Michelle Sandlin, Relocation Professional and Correspondent for the Houston Chronicle, presents this issue in her article On the Move: Future of U.S. Rental Market Concerns Relo Professionals.

The need to implement relocation policies for renters was the focus of a panel discussion at the Worldwide ERC Global Workforce Symposium in Dallas this past October. According to 2012 statistics released by Worldwide ERC, 62% of transferees are choosing to rent. Typically, the cost of moving a renter is far less than the cost of moving a buyer, but companies have fewer policies for renters. Challenges renters face today include low inventory and increasing rental prices, along with employer focus on cost containment and diversifying assignment types and durations.

Many rental markets in the majority of US cities are healthy, but often difficult to navigate. Transferees often have very little negotiation room when it comes to lease terms. Companies may need to reevaluate or create rental policies to respond to this market trend.

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Dwellworks Attends 2013 Worldwide ERC Global Workforce Symposium

 Dwellworks was excited to attend the Fall Worldwide ERC Global Workforce Symposium during the week of October 20. We gained important industry insight by attending several educational sessions and through conversations with fellow attendees. The Dwellworks team was honored to receive the following awards: Mobile App Booth2

  • BP Vendor of the Year, Western Hemisphere
  • Cartus Commitment to Excellence Gold – Property Management
  • Cartus Commitment to Excellence Silver – Appraisal
  • Cartus Commitment to Excellence Silver – Destination Services (UK)
  • Cartus Commitment to Excellence Silver – Destination Services (US)
  • Lexicon World of Quality Supplier Excellence Award – Destination Services

 We were also proud to sponsor the Symposium’s mobile app. We’d like to thank all of our clients and new friends that we met during the conference!


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The Balancing Act of Apartment Supply and Demand

According to figures released October 1 by real estate research firm, Reis, Inc., the US national apartment vacancy rate fell to 4.2% in Q3 from 4.3% in Q2. Collecting data in 79 US markets, Reis reported this was the lowest vacancy rate since Q3 2001 when the rate dropped to 3.9%.  While rents have risen accordingly, the increases have not been as high as expected.  In Q3, the national average market rent escalated .9% to $1,121.00.  Not surprisingly, rents in the San Francisco and San Jose markets jumped at a higher rate of 2.2%.  New construction expected to continue in Q4 and into 2014 may serve to raise the vacancy rate and slow down the increases in monthly rental rates.

Hot markets such as Austin, Dallas, Seattle and Denver will continue to see low vacancy rates despite new construction projects.  Conversely, aggressive new building projects may leave other cities with a glut of properties and some developers are proactively slowing down the construction pace. While the absorption of new apartment inventory has been better than anticipated and funding from public and private sources flush, the lower than expected rental rate increases have investors putting on the brakes.

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Reopening of SSA Operations

With an agreement reached on funding federal government operations, we expect crucial Social Security Administration functions to resume, including filing for Social Security numbers.  Recognizing there will be a backlog at many high volume SSA offices,  Dwellworks is advising its local Destination Services Consultants to reach out to assignees to prioritize applications and schedule SSA office visits and application reviews with SSA staff.  Assignees will be advised that SSA wait time and process time will likely be prolonged and may deviate from the typical times due to the increased volume of incoming applications.  As always, our service is there to support assignees until their cards have been successfully obtained.

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Congratulations to the 2013 EMMA Award Winners!

Dwellworks congratulates all the winners of the 2013 EMMA Awards! We were honored to once again attend this industry event. For more information about this year’s winners, click here.

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Thank You Clients! Celebrating National Customer Service Week

This week, the US celebrates National Customer Service Week!  Below is a brief history and explanation along with this year’s theme, “United through Service.”  It’s great how this ties together with the Dwellworks corporate value of teamwork and also the importance of building relationships with customers and clients.

National Customer Service Week was created by The International Customer Service Association (www.ICSAtoday.org) in 1984 in order to set aside a distinct time each year to recognize and reward those who work in customer service companies and industries.  In 1991, the ICSA was successful in working with the United States Congress to recognize the week as an annual National event.

In 1992, President George H. Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation officially recognizing the first week of October as National Customer Service Week. In the Proclamation, President Bush cited the critical value of service excellence in the US economy. He said,

“A business will do a better job of providing high quality goods and services by listening to its employees and by empowering them with opportunities to make a difference. Customer service professionals work in the front lines where a firm meets its customers; where supply meets demand. With responsive policies and procedures and with simple courtesy, customer service professionals can go a long way toward ensuring customer satisfaction and eliciting the next round of orders and purchases.”

The theme for this year’s National Customer Service Week is: “United through Service.” Great service and creating an extraordinary customer experience result in satisfied, loyal clients and serve to establish a foundation upon which to build and maintain essential client relationships. We become – united, through that service experience.

It is sometimes easy to take for granted our internal customer relationships, as we focus heavily on our external clients. It is essential to remember the importance to also foster meaningful relationships with and provide exceptional service to those within your organization.

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Government Shutdown Effect – Social Security Applications

Here is the latest information on the impact the partial US government shutdown may have on relocation services, from the Social Security Administration (SSA):

Effective with a Federal Government Shutdown October 1st, Social Security field offices will remain open with limited services.  Social Security card centers will be closed. Field offices will NOT be able to issue new or replacement Social Security cards.

This information impacts  appointments that Destination Services Consultants have scheduled with assignees to accompany them to SSA offices beginning on  October 1.  It is our understanding that  field offices will not issue new cards or renewals until funding is approved and normal operations resume.  Please be aware that the inability to secure Social Security Numbers also impacts the ability to obtain driver’s licenses in many states, and impacts payroll processing as well.

We will be sure to post and provide updates as this situation changes.

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I-94 and SSN Application Process Update

As of April 30, 2013, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) implemented the automated I-94 process for all air and sea ports. The automated I-94 process means that assignees arriving to the United States will no longer receive a hard-copy version of their I-94, as all information will now be stored electronically. (Note: this does not apply to assignees arriving via land entry ports who will receive a hard-copy I-94.)

I-94 Print Out

  • Upon entry to the US, each non-US citizen traveler receives an admission stamp that is annotated with the date of admission, class of admission and date admitted until. This admission stamp serves as verification of lawful admission to the United States; however, it remains advisable that, for additional validation, assignees (and eligible spouses) print a copy of the I-94 by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94
  • Social Security Administration (SSA) and state driver’s license agencies continue to require proof of legal status in the United States when applying for a Social Security Number (SSN) and driver’s license. The printed version of the electronic 1-94 serves as this documentation.
  • In the event that the SSA clerk at any local SSA office cannot verify the assignee’s information electronically via the system, the paper I-94 documentation aids in the verification process with the Department of Homeland Security.

SSA Processing Wait Time

  • The Department of Homeland Security should be processing I-94s immediately; however, SSA remains unable to confirm the exact time frame in which the data will be accessible to SSA clerks for electronic verification.   
  • Dwellworks resources indicate that the SSA’s previously recommended 10-day wait period may no longer be necessary. Instead, a 3-day wait period appears more appropriate. 

Until SSA officially changes their recommended wait period, Dwellworks DSCs will be explaining the recent change to assignees and will accompany them to apply for an SSN after three consecutive days in the country. DSCs will also make it clear that there is no guarantee that the process will be expedited and/or the card will arrive sooner than it would have if following the official 10-day wait period. Dwellworks appreciates our clients’ assistance in reiterating these changing guidelines to ensure proper expectations are established with each assignee.

Transferees can obtain their number verbally by revisiting the SSA office three days after filing their application.

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Housing Price Recovery Slows Nationally

Per the Case-Shiller report, home-price gains across the country eased a bit in June, spurring concerns that rising mortgage rates are slowing the recovery.  Economist Stan Humphries acknowledged that the June report fails to reflect the impact higher rates are having on house prices, stating that that won’t happen until the July data is released in September.

The U.S. Commerce Department stated recently that sales of new homes across the country had begun to cool, falling 13.4% compared to the month of May.  That was the biggest decline in more than three years. For more information, read here.

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Foreign Service Officer Strike in Canada

A strike continues to disrupt Canadian visa applications as 150 Ottawa foreign service officers have left their processing centers. This strike significantly affects the plans of students, temporary workers and tourists who are trying to enter the country. According to Tim Edwards, the president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, “the output of visas under the current job action will be tens of thousands fewer a week.” Furthermore, Canada’s economy could take a multi-million-dollar hit from the strike. Though the Citizen and Immigration department is working to process as many visa applications as possible, individuals seeking a visa are encouraged to submit their application as quickly as possible. For more information about this strike, click here.

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