The Washington Post

Market Insight:

The beginning of President Obama’s second term has prompted a flurry of personnel changes in the administration.

Typically, the change in administration or start of a second term accelerates relocations to the region — and business for moving companies. Even during non-changeover years, Washington is among the leading places where people relocate, experts say.

We asked Ryan McConnell, vice president of corporate marketing at Atlas Van Lines, to discuss a company study detailing moves to our area in which it was involved. (The survey only included the firm’s customers and may not necessarily reflect broader moving trends.) Among other topics, McConnell via e-mail discusses how people can minimize their potential for problems whether they’re moving across country or across town.

The number of people who migrated to the Washington area through your company has substantially decreased during the past few years — 510 moves in 2012 vs. 738 in 2005. What were the main reasons and do you anticipate moves will return to previous levels anytime soon?

 The migration patterns study only refers to interstate household moves (state-to-state) and doesn’t include any intrastate moves (within the state), so overall, the numbers might be more similar and balanced than they look.

 Atlas’s core business model is corporate transferees. This industry was relatively flat year-after-year, due to economic uncertainty. As an example, July is typically the strongest month for the full-service moving industry. While July 2012 was equitable to July 2011, we experienced a slow down during the middle of July 2012, which demonstrates a weakened confidence in growth. The other contributing factor to volume decrease was a focus on maximizing capacity, which is provided through our labor crews and professional van operators [drivers]. Both segments of the full-service moving industry are on the decline.

 While Washington, D.C., has a fewer number of interstate moves since 2005, it has been consistently inbound in its interstate relocations, which proves people are still on the move.

 This can also point to a positive sign in the economy that perhaps the job market is more stable and fewer people are forced to move for work. Fewer states are facing the issue of losing more residents than they gain, so nationally more states are seeing a stable in/out moving pattern.

 What are the top states that are supplying the most relocaters to our region?

 Our migration patterns study shows that California, Florida, New York and Texas have the most residents moving to Washington, D.C. Several other states are close behind, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Georgia, to name a few.

 What specific type of jobs are drawing the majority of people to this region?

 Our study doesn’t point to any direct evidence of why Washington, D.C. continues to have the most inbound moves and what jobs might be associated with the moves, but there might be some correlation between the 2012 presidential election and how many might be moving to the D.C. area for jobs with the government. Fromthe House to the Senate to the Oval Office, election years can affect several industries, including the moving and relocation industry.

How has the economic downturn affected the relocations — are employers still covering relocation costs or are they asking employees to pick up more of the tab?

 According to Atlas’s Corporate Relocation Survey released last May, the total number of relocations had increased by 47 percent since 2010 with more than 50 percent of budgets staying the same (36 percent said they increased budgets). Of the companies that responded to the survey, 60 percent anticipated the numbers to remain the same for the following year. These few statistics alone show that relocations are maintaining their capacity even with the economic downtown. In fact, several companies are offering additional incentives (73 percent) to get employees or new hires to relocate for the business.

Of our total sample in the Corporate Relocation Survey, 65 percent stated that they fully reimburse relocation expenses for transferees and 57 percent fully reimburse for new hires. Lump sum payments were second most popular at 47 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

 From our findings, it’s clear that the overall number of relocations is still steady, as well as the budgets.

 What tips can you pass on to people relocating across town or across the country to help them have an orderly, less stressful move?

 There are several ways you can have a successful and less stressful move. First and foremost, you should always research ratings and history of any movers you consider for the job. Once you’ve selected a mover, reviewing and approving moving estimates — while asking questions on anything you aren’t sure about — will help you avoid extra fees on your transaction.

If you have flexibility as to when you move, be aware of the busy season. The most hectic months for the industry are May through August. Consider moving early or late in the year instead, which will give you more options and sometimes better chances to save.



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