AP NEWS

Relocation involves the art of collaboration

March 18, 2019

Last week was a big one for Texas relocation organizations and their members.

It all began with Houston Relocation Professionals’ (HRP) spring educational luncheon, held on March 5 at the Marriott Medical Center. Attendees had the opportunity to network with other industry leaders, and share their knowledge about some of the most perplexing issues impacting relocation today.

The event was entitled: “The Art of Collaboration,” which brought together technology leaders and corporate mobility managers who discussed the changing landscape of mobility technology, and the all-important focus on the customer experience through the eyes of the transferring employee.

The event was kicked off by Michelle Velasquez, director of client services for Preferred Corporate Housing, and the 2019 president of HRP. She highlighted the benefits of collaboration among the regional relocation groups.

“We have deemed 2019 as our year of collaboration, and so one of the first steps was to get with other regional groups around the country and see if we could collaborate with them,” said Velasquez. “We know from being on our board, and attending their events, that we all work really hard with our groups to make sure that we have relevant content, and are staying abreast of industry trends.”

She added, “So, rather than reinventing the wheel every time, we thought it would be great if we could collaborate, share ideas, best practices, and what works and doesn’t work.”

Gabe Roel Martinez, research director at the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), was one of the headliners at the event. He provided an update on Houston’s economic outlook and said that he thinks the city has definitely turned a corner for the better.

“We emerged from a very severe downturn in the oil and gas industry, but we are back on a path to normal economic growth and performance,” Martinez said, “Right now, we are nearing full recovery. Some think that we are on the verge of expansion, and all of Houston’s industries have either stabilized or are expanding. This expansion, and this recovery is going to continue.”

Following the educational event, attendees had the option of attending HRP’s Relo Rodeo Roundup event at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This provided an additional networking opportunity, as well as introducing many attendees to their first Houston rodeo.

Next up was the Texas Relocation Network (TRN) Conference, held on March 7 at the Dallas Carrollton Conference Center in Carrollton.

One of the most compelling sessions was led by Kathy Connelly, senior vice president, corporate services at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, and Jo Lay, vice president, relocation services at Baird & Warner in Chicago. It focused on current disruptors in the real estate industry, and their impact on relocation.

Connelly pointed to companies like HomeLight, that are targeting consumers through TV commercials, to help them identify and connect with Realtors in their market.

Likewise, she said that there are iBuyer companies, like Offerpad and Opendoor, which use technology to make quick offers on homes. This has been touted as a simpler, more convenient way of buying and selling a home, thus competing with the traditional home sale process.

“The relocation world is not immune to this,” said Connelly. “The thing that’s really interesting here and the thing I think we should all take away when we talk about disruptors, is that these companies have figured out how to get an offer to a seller in less than 24 hours.”

Connelly said that as an industry, it’s important to see what can be learned from these companies, and to figure out how to best apply it in relocation.

“Technology though, is not taking brokers out of the picture,” said Lay. “It is going to be a different world, but we are here trying to figure out how we fit in, and what we’re going to do next. So, it’s all about service for us, and that’s never going to go away.”

Lay added, “In 2017, 87 percent of buyers purchased their homes through a real estate agent. So, buyers are going to go out there and do some shopping, but then they really do want an agent to help them through the whole process.”

The bottom line, according to Lay, is that this industry is not going away. The disruption simply means there will be necessary changes in how the business is done, and what that looks like moving forward.

To sum it up, Connelly said, “If we can all get on the same page, understand what is going on, and work together to solve some of these challenges, I think the industry will be better for it, and we will have a chance to redefine our future, and not have somebody do it for us.”

Michelle Sandlin is an award-winning writer, journalist and global mobility industry expert. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMichelleSandlin and on Twitter: @MichelleSandlin. Also visit “On the Move” at blog.chron.com/onthemove.