In a domestic relocation, the home selling process seems to receive most of the attention yet finding the right home is arguably even more important to a successful transition. The extent of assistance offered by companies varies, depending on the policy tier, homeowner vs. renter status, type of reimbursement and more. Clearly defining home finding benefits with the employee at the outset will make the process more efficient and reduce confusion and exception requests.
What to Expect with Home Finding Benefits
For companies working with a relocation management company, a relocation counselor usually conducts a needs assessment to help focus the home finding process. The discussion includes housing style desired, neighborhood attributes, educational requirements for children, transportation options, desired amenities and any special needs. The objective is to prepare the family so they can maximize their time on the home finding trip. The relocation management company usually offers online and hard-copy resources to assist with the process.
With the needs assessment complete, the counselor will help the transferring employee to select a real estate agent at the destination. The counselor will also determine the home finding reimbursement or lump sum payment and begin the process for a mortgage pre-approval. The counselor works with the employee and the destination agent until a new home is found and the property closes.
For employees who are renting at the destination, the counselor will help them to select a qualified rental agent and remain engaged until the employee finds a suitable rental property. Renters share most of the same concerns as homeowners relative to the property and community, and in fact, often have a wider variety of housing styles and urban/suburban locations to consider.
What to Offer
The major consideration regarding home finding benefits is how much to offer in terms of time and money. Many companies create a tiered system where employees who rent are given three to four days to visit their new location and find a place to live, while homeowners are given as many as seven to ten days for the process. Senior executives often are given even more time as their moves tend to be more complex and they often end up using part of their time reporting to their new office instead of focusing on their home search.
Virtually all companies reimburse allowable expenses for an accompanying spouse/partner and many companies allow employees to take their whole family on the home finding trip. The trips usually include economy air travel or mileage per the current IRS rate for travel within 250 miles of the home location. Hotels are usually the same business-level hotels included in the company’s business travel policy. Reasonable meal expenses are reimbursed as well.
How to Handle Reimbursement
Once you have clearly defined what is and is not included in the home finding benefit, you will need to decide how to handle the reimbursements themselves. Some companies use an expense report process where employees submit their receipts and receive reimbursement, much like corporate business trips. An increasing number of companies are streamlining the home finding expense process and simply providing a lump sum, with no receipts needed.
By assisting your employees with the home finding process, you help to ensure that they are settled and returned to productivity more rapidly. You also increase the odds of a successful transition and reduce the chance of “buyer’s remorse”.