One of the pandemic’s most prominent trends was the reshuffling of population centers. Driven in part by a desire for more open spaces, in part by the availability of work-from-home options, and in part by economic shifts, many urban areas saw migrations to nearby suburban and rural markets with some markets seeing bigger relocations, like those from New York City to South Florida.
In addition to this, and in part because of it, we’ve been grappling with an almost-unprecedented inventory crisis in markets all over North America and in a wide variety of sectors. Although experts predict it will end — eventually — supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and economic and political realities keep those crystal balls rather cloudy.
Now, we may be seeing another wave of relocations according to sample data from approximately 2 million Redfin users in Q4 2021. Driven in large part by a search for affordability, the trends identified an outflux of residents from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Seattle and New York to warm weather markets in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
Some of the activity may be driven by rising home prices in markets across the U.S., pricing potential homebuyers out of the neighbors they had originally targeted for home searches. In a recent article for Inman, Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, said that this “third wave” would involve a variety of income levels and job types, rather than “just the elite tech workers.”
According to Missouri broker-owner Cort Schneider of Schneider Real Estate, “In MO, we are still considered ‘affordable housing’ as compared to many states. We are seeing an influx of buyers moving here from California, for example, who are willing to pay well over asking price because to them, it’s still less expensive.”
In other cases, according to Redfin, remote work options have solidified, allowing more movers to feel confident in their ability to relocate some distance since they no longer fear that they’ll be called back into the office.
How can you take advantage of the ability to work with prospective clients who are looking to relocate, either for affordability or for a lifestyle that’s more conducive to their personal preferences? We talked to people from all over the country and the industry about the ways that they see demand shifting and how agents can improve their outreach to those who are relocating next.
Do your research
Whether you’re in a market with an outflux of sellers or an influx of newcomers, you’ll need to start by figuring out who’s coming and going and what other markets are involved. Redfin’s data identifies both the top overall market origin of relocating residents and the top out-of-state market, so you can target both markets (if applicable) to capture leads that are headed your way.
Become a relocation specialist
Whether you’re working with a relocation company or pitching your services to a local employer who’s generating significant incoming relocation to your area, it’s important for you to offer exceptional service and a full range of ways to facilitate a seamless transition to your market. Help facilitate virtual tours and showings, temporary accommodations, long-distance moving tips, and other ways to simplify the relocation process. Network with service providers in your area who you can call on to answer almost any need or question.
Update your marketing
If you have special training in relocation, be sure that it’s reflected in your marketing materials. In addition, dedicate a page of your website or a portion of your content to the most relevant incoming and outgoing relocation markets and describe how your services can make the process easier and more efficient. Look for opportunities on social media to connect with multiple markets and create content around the relocation process.
Tap into your professional network
Once you’ve identified markets that are feeding into yours or welcoming those who are moving out of your own, start connecting with agents there. Don’t know anyone? Someone you know does. Reach out to friends and colleagues and find well-qualified, reliable agents to partner with. Go ahead and negotiate referral fees and agreement details before you have a lead to share. That will streamline the process for everyone involved.
How can you know you’re making a great referral? Keep the client at the forefront of the conversation, said Christine Haney, Executive Vice President, Global Relocation and Referral Service for Douglas Elliman. “When either working with your referral department or calling direct, be sure to convey the personality or traits your client likes about you.” While closed deals and market experience are important, the personality fit and trust factor are what make a referral work, she added.
Look for opportunities within your brokerage
Some brokerages or teams span multiple markets across many states, while others are small indies with a hyperlocal focus. However, even if your brokerage is local, your broker has a network of fellow indie brokers and can reach out to connect you with a great agent wherever your relocating clients are moving.
Consider licensure in multiple states
There may be a large number of folks coming into your market from the next state over. Alternatively, you may want to serve those who are bicoastal or who are looking for a second home in a popular, and distant, resort market. If you want to be their go-to in both markets, consider licensure in both or create a team with an agent who’s already licensed in the market you’re focusing on.
Create a referral business
Have a large online and social media presence and connections all over the country? You may want to create a referral business that uses your reach to matchmake for relocating buyers and sellers. Make sure that you have solid insights so that you’re not just making random connections and that you follow up to ensure the leads you generate are being properly cared for.
“Staying in touch with your sphere of influence gives you the opportunity to help somebody, whether they’re moving into your area or moving out of your area,” said Ventura, California broker Troy Palmquist. Even once they’ve moved, continue to reach out so that you can facilitate transactions and receive referrals.
“Never lose touch with a client if they move away,” said Haney. “You will want them to continue to come to you for any future real estate needs.”
Align with a referral service
Alternatively, check out the lead gen potential of an online partner network set up for providing referrals. Online services like Clever or Courted can help you connect with buyers or sellers in your market so that you’re able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by market movements and relocations.
In his review of Courted, Craig Rowe, Inman Tech Editor, said, “What the industry needs is a way to find itself, a digital mortar to bind agents to their markets and to their value in the transaction. The more often smart agents can find each other, the smarter their market becomes.” Apps and services like these can help you connect with other great agents while keeping your expertise at the center of search, no matter where it happens.
Follow up after the referral
While you may be concerned about being intrusive, if you make a referral for your client to an agent in another market, don’t stop there. Keep in contact and make yourself available to help facilitate the process.
“Never do the ‘dump and run’ referral,” said Haney. “Stay in touch with both your client and the agent – regularly.” That means gathering feedback, providing feedback and staying in regular communication with the agent. This doesn’t just ensure top-notch service for your client; it also keeps you open to receiving incoming referrals.
There are plenty of folks out there still making big moves. Make sure that you’re ready to help them navigate the process successfully.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.