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Expanded Families, Diminished Inventory

Mike Moran - May 13 2022
Published in: Mobility
As real estate inventory dwindles to a generational low, increasing numbers of expanded families present a mobility challenge

In the first year of the pandemic, the percentage of adult Americans who reported living with members of their extended family increased by five percentage points, according to the 2020 American Family Survey. Whether bringing elderly parents into the home for their safety and care or welcoming grown children back home who had lost their jobs, more Americans chose to bring the intergenerational family under one roof than they had in generations. Confronting illnesses, financial hardship, uncertain employment prospects, and isolation, Americans turned to their parents, children, siblings, and grandparents.

It seems a funny thing happened on the way out of the pandemic; many of those extended family members chose to stay. “When restaurants closed, and theaters closed, we all gathered around that dinner table again,” says Cindy Nixon, Director of Relocation with eXp Realty. “I think that dynamic made us realize what we had taken for granted.”

Extended family living is still unusual in the relocation arena, but it is frequent enough—and the challenges of extended family moves are sufficiently complex—that it is a trend mobility professionals need to pay attention to. “As the pandemic receded, we have each been quietly assessing what changes will subside with it and what will become part of the new normal, says Nixon. “We are ready to put a stake in the ground that the expanded family relocation is going to be an enduring change.”

Many of these young adults who were previously living independently decided to move home with their parents during the extended shut-down. While they sat out the real estate market during the pandemic, the cost of participation took flight. “With interest rates rising, inflation rising, and home prices and rental rates skyrocketing, many young people were effectively priced out of the home market,” says Nixon.

These larger families with diverse needs are, of course, putting a strain on the kinds of homes that meet all these needs. Transferees are having to look at not just the homes’ existing amenities, but their potential to be adapted to their needs, such as ADA accessibility, the potential for more bedrooms, home offices, and expanded common areas. Remote and hybrid work means many families are sharing these home spaces around the clock.

In another market, expanded families in relocation might have looked to new builds, but the supply chain has created a lot of risk around that proposition. That risk is not just around labor and lumber. Delays on municipal purchases of new transformers range from three months to a year. Fiber-optic cable can take as much as a year. In some cases, the lack of utility meters is the only thing preventing occupancy certifications on completed homes. The shortages drive costs up as much as they delay project completions, so the final price of a new home can rise dramatically after contracts are signed.

“With the limited inventory, we are having to look further to the limits of geography and leverage networks in other markets. It takes a lot of creativity to meet the needs of specific clients,” says Nixon. “Threading all those needles to find the appropriate space, you also need to get there quickly so you aren’t competing with 17 other offers for this rare opportunity. In many cases, clients need to work with three different agents in different markets.

It really means the clients don’t have the time to go home and sleep on a decision,” says Nixon. “They need to focus on what are the must-haves versus their wants. If the nice-to-haves aren’t there, we need to focus on how we might accomplish those after we secure the property.”

The challenges of relocating and extended family in this environment put particular emphasis on the role of the RMC and the real estate agent. It is equally important for mobility professionals along the spectrum of service to transferees to be up to speed on the realities of the market. A phrase you have certainly heard around the mobility industry lately is that we need to set expectations.

This conversation will be taken up next week at the Worldwide ERC Virtual Conference in the session Expanding the Definition of Family to Remove Mobility Barriers at 12:15 on Thursday, May 19. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask panelists questions and chat amongst themselves.

Cindy Nixon will be joined by Douglas Barnett, Managing Director Corporate and Government Moving Services for Schroeder Moving Systems, Inc. United Van Lines; Lisa Meinczinger, SRA, AI-RRS, ASA, RAA, Certified Residential Appraiser. Advance Appraiser Service; Linda Nesper, SCRP, GMS, Vice President, Client Services, Altair Global; and Michelle Velasquez, Director of Client Services, Preferred Corporate Housing

For more information on the Spring Virtual Conference, click here. Registration is just $150 for the two-day event, and attendees can earn up to 24 total continuing education units for (S)GMS®/(S)GMS-T® and (S)CRP® recertifications through viewing the live and recorded sessions.