Industry April / May 2010

Make Moving Easier

What is the complication in “Helping People Move” these days? Why is there so much involved in finding that house under budget for someone moving to Japan?

I believe we need to get back to basics: helping people move is everyone’s objective in relocation, and our focus should go back on to the people moving, not on the processes in between.

Let me explain. Increasingly, firms are looking to globally outsource their helping people move to large relocation-management firms that coordinate relocations anywhere in the world. On the surface, this costs the firm less, as large volumes and central control of everything is supposedly most efficient.

So, in order to find a house under budget in Japan, the firm contacts the relocation-management operator who contacts their Asian headquarters, which contacts its partner firm at the destination, which, in turn, contacts a real estate agent to help find the house.
Confused yet? If there is a question, then everything goes back up and down the communication chain, sometimes taking days … so don’t ask questions!

And this is before anybody has talked to the person who is actually moving! Effectively, the information required to execute a smooth relocation goes through a game of Chinese Whispers before it reaches us on the ground, so we can get together with the person actually moving to choose a property and straighten everything out.

The Housing Tour

Based on people’s needs, we do our best to arrange a tour of a variety of properties through a number of agents over one or two days. For any one property, there can be one to three agents, a management firm, an owner representative, and the owner themselves, which means even more hands in the pie.

Due to the ever-evolving internet, information on housing in Japan is abundantly available. So, while it takes time and coordination to set viewings up with the three or four parties involved with each property, the people we are helping to move are now sitting in the back of the car looking through all their options on their iPhone. It is now common to be changing appointments mid-housing tour, as our clients use all the live information available to make their decisions. We need to be flexible, but we struggle, as the real-estate industry in Japan tries to fight the information age.

Listing prices and actual rental prices causes further confusion. In Tokyo, listing prices can often be negotiated by between 10% and 30% (in the current market), which means that while the housing budget may be ¥1 million, properties listed at ¥1.1 million to ¥1.3 million are actually game to be included in the home-finding tour. However, the relocation-management operators wish to assert their control and set rules based on listing prices on the web. This leads to continuous complications over which properties can and cannot be shown, and who decides what can and cannot be shown.

If you were confused by your relocation process, the above might provide some insight.