Jeff Dowler calls himself “The Southern California Relocation Dude.” He’s helped many clients move across the country to the Carlsbad, Calif., area where he does business. But Dowler has also felt the pain of such a long-distance trek himself: He’s made four major moves with his family, most recently from Boston to California.
Based on his personal experiences, Dowler, CRS, a sales associate with Solutions Real Estate in Carlsbad, has developed expertise in the relocation niche, offering clients advice on how to handle a major move through a series of YouTube videos.
Though he focuses on tips for financial preparedness and practical advice for making a long-distance move, Dowler says one of the trickiest parts of advising relocation clients is giving them recommendations for movers. It’s hard to get a good perspective on the reputation of many moving companies because while some might be nationally known brands, their employees on the local level tend to be more transient. Unless you know the people who will be helping your client pack and move, there’s no absolute way to guarantee your client a satisfactory experience.
Dowler recommends national moving companies he and his clients have personal experience working with, such as North American Van Lines, Mayflower, Bekins, and Atlas Van Lines. But his recommendations come with a caveat: “I only give them suggestions, and I’m always careful to say, ‘This is what my experience has been,’” Dowler says.
This kind of precaution is good policy on your part because if a client isn’t happy with a moving company, you, as the person who made the recommendation, will get the blame. “It’s a total reflection on you, like any service recommendation you might make,” says Lisa Adkins, GRI, broker-owner of RE/MAX Platinum in O’Fallon, Mo.
To give your clients an extra sense of security, you can send them to these two websites with resources for protecting themselves against unscrupulous moving companies:
- MovingScam.com: This is an independent site providing message boards, reviews, resources, and tools to help consumers find reputable moving companies. The site also has tips and tools to plan and manage a move nationally or internationally.
- Protect Your Move: This is an online campaign from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, to inform consumers and alert them to the risks of fraud when working with moving companies. The site provides information on consumer rights and responsibilities, planning a move, evaluating possessions, state moving company associations, and filing a formal complaint against a moving company.
Make Yourself the Relocation Expert
Some companies offer branding materials and resources that practitioners can share with their clients to boost their image as relocation experts. Adkins works with PODS, which provides mobile storage units to relocating home owners. The units, which can be rented by the month, are delivered to the home owner, who can then fill each unit at their own pace. Once the owner is done, they call for the unit to be picked up and transported to their new home.
PODS has a promotional program for real estate agents that includes PODS fliers and discount coupons branded with the agent’s logo. Adkins uses the fliers and coupons in her listing presentations and relocation service packages. “[PODS] saves them time and can be less expensive than other storage and moving services,” Adkins says. By having the PODS promotional materials on hand, “it helps [my clients] solve a problem they might not think about until later on.”
Other moving and storage programs available to real estate professionals include:
- Unpakt Referrals: Online moving marketplace Unpakt offers real estate professionals a 10 percent referral fee, based on total cost of a completed move, for clients who use the service. Agents who enroll in the UnPakt Referral program are provided a link to the service for use on their website or in e-mails to clients. Users of the service enter details of their move on the website, then compare competitive bids from licensed movers. They can also order and pay for services through the site.
- MOVR: This is a product from Atlas Van Lines subsidiary Avail Move Management that provides tools and technology for relocation specialists to assist clients with planning and managing a move. Atlas Flex offers moving services to those with 5000 pounds or less of property. Atlas also publishes the annual Migration Patterns Study, tracking national moving and relocations trends.
- Moving.com: From realtor.com® operator Move Inc., this website helps your clients plan their move and receive competitive bids from up to four licensed and insured moving companies. It includes directories of professional moving companies, international movers, and truck rental and auto transport companies. Online tools include a moving costs calculator, packing calculator, and move planner.