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Relocations packed with perks a thing of the past

Companies aren't routinely picking up the tab for a new home, points on a home loan or the like anymore. So learn to maximize a reduced relocation package.

By JANE BOKUN
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002


TAMPA -- Back in the go-go '90s, transplants to the Tampa Bay area were offered fat corporate relocation packages that included everything from buying homes to paying for childrens' education.

Times have changed.

Now, depending on the job, full relocation packages have dramatically downsized and may only include paying for temporary housing or moving expenses, and sometimes, not even those.

"It's true," said Ray Tofti, a market director with K-Force Professional Staffing, a $680-million personnel company in Tampa.

"Corporate relocation packages offering perks such as paying for a new home or the points on a home, stock options, moving expenses, sign-on bonuses and more, have become few and far between in today's economy.

"Five years ago we were handling relocations that offered those kinds of benefits, but nowadays, 99 times out of 100, companies want local people."

Although times are tough, the housing market is still on the rise and people are still on the move.

Whether newcomers handle the cost of moving on their own or try to get the most out of reduced relocation packages, there are ways to save time and money.

Mary Christie, an agent for Coldwell Banker on Waters Avenue, suggests starting with the relocation department of a real estate office that specializes in the Tampa area.

"They can get a specialized list of specific agents who have shown excellence in their field," she said. "The person relocating can pick and choose."

Mary and her husband, Bill, have worked for the agency for the past seven years and she said half their business has come from relocating employees. The Christies do much of their business in the subdivision of Countryway.

"We close on 80 to 100 homes per year," Mary Christie said.

The Christies have been chosen by real estate companies and employers based on ratings.

The ratings come through comment cards completed when homes sell. The agents also are rated on how close they come to achieving a seller's asking price.

"We take classes every year to stay on the preferred relocation list," she said.

As one of the area's largest personnel companies, K-Force has moved its own employees -- but also oversees relocations for clients.

The company offers a list of preferred real estate agents to take newcomers to different neighborhoods to look for homes, Tofti said.

Hot Tampa neighborhoods for relocation these days include FishHawk Ranch in Brandon and Hunters Green, Westchase, Countryway, said Maria Elena D'Amico, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc. in Tampa.

"Northwest Tampa and anything near Citrus Park is hot right now for relocating employees," she said. "Popular areas also include New Tampa, Brandon and Riverview."

"There are lots of subdivisions coming up that offer more home for the dollar," D'Amico said.

Homes in those subdivisions, she said, range from $100,000 to $150,000 and beyond, including sites. Many of the newer communities offer shopping, restaurants, medical facilities and entertainment within walking distance.

After the new home is chosen, it's possible to shave money off moving costs by doing some of the work yourself.

For instance, Movex Load Consolidators rents out fully equipped professional moving vans with items such as dollies and tie-down straps -- and even a driver.

The customer does the loading and unloading, said Stewart Suddath, owner of Tampa company.

"We're a self-service moving company, and we do moves all over the United States," he said.

"We cut costs by taking out the labor."

A move with Movex costs about half what a full-service move would cost, Suddath said.

Patty Mitchell, 37, moved recently to Countryway from Manchester, N.H. She said she took advantage of her company's relocation package to find her new home.

Mitchell is a sales representative for Burndy Electrical, a New Hampshire company. Her new territories included Orlando and the Florida coast, so she wanted to be near an interstate highway.

"I also needed good schools for my children," she said.

"My move was lateral so the company paid for my moving expenses, trips to the new community and temporary housing," Mitchell said.

"I also found a good Realtor and location through the company's recommendations, and now I love my new home."

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