A 31-year-old organization for relocation professionals, which formerly had membership exclusive to Century 21 franchises, has broadened its horizons by welcoming other franchises and independent companies.

The Board of Directors for International Relocation Consultants Inc., or Inrelco, voted in October to open the organization’s doors to all real estate firms that maintain a relocation department. Since that change took place, the organization has received requests to join from about 75 firms, said Kirk Paschal, president of the group and president of Century 21 Executive Realty in Houston, Texas.

Last year, Inrelco members closed an estimated $30 billion worth of real estate transactions. It members span more than 400 offices and 20,000 Realtors across the country.

“I believe opening up Inrelco membership to all real estate firms will facilitate collaboration of many new offices coast to coast,” Paschal said.

While the education and training components are key to Inrelco, Paschal said that the networking among members is invaluable. “It’s a close-knit group,” he said. The organization, based in Roseville, Minn., hosts annual conferences for its members.

Technology has changed the relocation business, Paschal said, and “The Internet has had a large impact on broker-to-broker referrals. Broker-to-broker referrals have dropped off so much industrywide.” Consumers facing a move are doing a lot of research on their own these days, he acknowledged. “It’s just a totally different world.”

Third-party corporate relocation companies, which management the relocation process for corporations, have become a stronger force in the relocation industry, and the Inrelco organization and its members can benefit from working with these third-party companies, he said. “It’s a golden opportunity for somebody to plug into a network like we have.” Paschal refers to the Inrelco network as “the last mile” in a real estate transaction, as its members are familiar with local real estate markets.

“We feel that Inrelco is absolutely something that is a marketing product, and it’s not for profit,” he said.

A 2004 corporate relocation survey by Atlas World Group Inc. found that about one-third of firms expected the number of relocations to increase this year, compared with 13 percent in 2003.

Also, 29 percent of respondents said they expect relocation budgets to increase in 2004, compared with 15 percent in 2003. About 41 percent of respondents said they relocated one to nine employees within the United States in 2003, 22 percent said they relocated 10-49 employees, and 34 percent said they relocated 50 or more employees.

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