Corporate relocation is a process. With so many boxes to check figuratively, and so many boxes to unpack physically, it’s certainly not a process to attempt alone. That’s why Dwellworks provides each of our client’s customers with a Destination Consultant – essentially an expert both at managing successful relocation experiences and in knowing the area a customer is moving to. Dwellworks Consultants support moves from employees on international assignments from their home countries, as well as employees moving domestically. They have literally seen it all.
The Dwellworks marketing team recently sat down with a Consultant in Columbus, Ohio to get their thoughts on how to best set relocation expectations for companies and customers. If your company’s HR strategy includes talent mobility and relocation, this blog and its six key questions may come in handy.
What are the first big steps to complete and how do the Consultants assist?
According to our Consultant, there are two critically important tasks to complete in advance of the physical move - finding housing and obtaining a driver’s license. Relocating employees typically feel more confident in the process once these tasks are taken care of. For home finding, before any property tours are scheduled, a Consultant will familiarize their customers with the area – laying out where the most densely populated parts of town or the most commutable suburbs are, and things like where to live if public transportation or nearby schools are a priority. Then, the Consultant identifies a selection of homes for the employee to view, based on criteria the employee has provided plus the Consultant’s comprehensive knowledge of the local market. The Consultant will share properties through our destination services portal myDwellworks, and help employees narrow down their search and final home selections through ongoing online conversations.
For a driver’s license, every Consultant will know the specifications and requirements needed in their home state. For example, the Consultant we visited with explained that the State of Ohio doesn’t allow a signed lease as proof of an address, so she instructs customers to use their renter’s insurance or bank statements to apply for a license. Consultants will walk through each stage of license registration with the employees they’re supporting – from providing the state's manual for the knowledge exam to assisting with scheduling the driving exam. They even give pointers on general etiquette and expectations at the Department of Motor Vehicles – how long an appointment may take, how friendly the staff at a particular office are – which is especially helpful if the relocating employee and anyone in their family is from another country and unaccustomed to the local process. This level of local knowledge and support is how our Consultants deliver service across the US and in 15 other high-volume corporate relocation destinations worldie.
How do I begin enrolling my children in school?
While our service remit is typically not to assist in the actual enrollment process, Consultants support just about every action leading up to a final commitment between the parents and the school. Consultants typically live in the area where they work and have a vast knowledge of the public (state) school districts and private and parochial (religiously affiliated) schools in the area, including their overall performance or “report card”, what extracurriculars they offer and are known for, and most importantly – the school district zoning.
The Consultant we spoke with explained that the number one frustration they see from families is researching potential properties and thinking they are within budget and in a desired school district, and then learning the homes are not.
Every school district has unique zoning limits, which a Consultant will know like the back of their hand. They also know that most school districts are strict about their enrollment rules and limited in the exceptions they can and will make. Unfortunately for the employee searching online before meeting with their Consultant, immediate physical proximity between a house and a particular school does not guarantee enrollment, or even that the preferred school is the ‘local’ school. Consultants explain the local guidelines early, and repeat them often, to help reorient families in their expectations and keep them realistic. While familiarizing their customers with the area, Consultants will drive by local schools and their campuses and show proximity to any potential home choice.
Why can researching properties online be potentially misleading or disappointing for the relocating employee?
While properties on sites like Zillow or Realtor.com are typically real listings, they are not always current or available as advertised (having been sold or rented but not yet removed from the site). Many properties are owned by sellers/landlords who are not local and use websites exclusively to market properties to prospective buyers or renters. They are not local experts – they are property owners looking to maximize their market exposure for the greatest financial return. The Consultant we spoke with explained examples where some property brokers would require online applications and upfront fees of hundreds of dollars, only to later deny applicants a tour if they were moving from outside the country with a lack of US credit. A Dwellworks Consultant will know the good from the bad when it comes to real estate listings and practices and provide that guidance to their customers. A key part of their role is to be the subject matter expert managing conversations between landlords and transferring employees, including explaining how to qualify as a renter even without established local credit.
Should relocating employees proactively book property tours in advance of their move date?
This is typically not recommended. Properties in most markets around the world are going fast, as demand is greater than supply, as noted in our fourth quarter market updates, so many properties online may be here today and gone tomorrow, but a real estate agent may then try to show the customers another property ‘just like’ the one they were not able to see. Further, for those traveling internationally and without an updated visa, work permit, or confirmed immigration status, it is difficult to see a property and apply for it at the same time without the necessary documentation. Our Consultants will always advise a transferring employee not to act too far in advance of their actual move date or before they have secured all their legal documents and local employment verification. No one wants to have employees fall in love with potential properties on a preview trip, and be disappointed when they’re no longer available closer to the move date.
What is the number one way for an employee to prepare for a successful relocation and destination experience?
Our Consultant said the answer to this question is for the employee and any partner moving with them to thoroughly read and familiarize themselves with any guidance from their Dwellworks Consultant. Whether via email, WhatsApp chat, or a referral to the comprehensive content available in myDwellworks, Destination Consultants take care to provide in-depth, expert-level information for each step of the arrival, home search, and settling-in process. This advice may include explaining what paperwork or documentation to bring along to a property tour, what to know about a local motor vehicle appointment, or the financial/income requirements for renting a potential property.
The Dwellworks Difference
Whether moving across the country or across borders, a relocating employee is typically excited about the opportunity, but is not a subject matter expert on what’s required for a successful relocation. The insights shared by our local Consultant demonstrate the complexity and concerns associated with every individual move – they’re all different. That’s why expert help is necessary to manage the process, ‘control the controllables,’ and deliver customized support for each individual and their needs. The risks and need for positive outcomes are too great to manage relocation and destination services with a DIY approach. Employees have questions they’ll need answered. They won’t know their new town or the resources available to them there. As the Consultant we toured with put it - she and other Dwellworks Consultants in hundreds of cities worldwide are here to lighten the relocating employee’s load. Click here to speak with us about the Dwellworks Difference today.