A panel of leading industry experts on Wednesday discussed the challenges and unique approaches for addressing the “next normal” in real estate – navigating housing through the various market lockdowns and the transition to a virtual delivery system for services as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The virtual roundtable, which featured experts from Stryker Corporation, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Suite Home Corporate Housing and UnitedHealthcare, was hosted by Sterling Lexicon, a leading provider of global relocation services, and its parent company, The Suddath Companies.
Major corporations are limiting relocations to only the most necessary ones at this time, the panelists agreed, and they are turning to digital solutions for once-common relocation practices such as exploring prospective homes and completing purchases or leases electronically.
“As we move into the second phase of this pandemic, creating nimble corporate relocation policies that evaluate everything on a case-by-case basis is crucial,” said Julie Coleman, global mobility expert formerly with Shell.
That sentiment was seconded by Jack Jampel, senior manager of global mobility for Stryker Corporation. “Most companies are making decisions based on doing what’s right for each individual employee and for the company,” he said.
Coleman and Jampel were among six panelists at the roundtable, which was moderated by Melanie Klaschka, director of business development for Sterling Lexicon. Even as they discussed the impact of COVID-19 on their companies, the panelists said they saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel regarding the real estate market.
“The housing market is being impacted in so many ways,” said Darren Wagner, vice president of real estate for Sterling Lexicon. “There has been a lot of good news, and not to minimize the seriousness of what’s going on, but I think we’re in a different phase of this pandemic now.”
An overarching theme of how to be successful during COVID-19 continues to be flexibility, whether it comes to policies or utilizing technology in new ways to keep business moving forward. For example, several panelists noted how various aspects of the home buying process have now gone virtual.
“The real estate industry has had to be innovative and a lot of aspects have been able to be handled virtually with technology, from exterior mortgage appraisals to online showings, so that both the seller and buyer feel comfortable during the process,” said Wagner.
Michelle Asell, vice president of business development at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage confirmed that most of the mortgage process, including closing, can be completed without ever having to come in contact with another person, although it can vary depending on location. Breen also noted the prevalence of virtual tours and online leases in the temporary housing industry.
Looking to a future in which things will finally start to shift back to normal but with continued social distancing, Dr. Arwindekar noted that flexibility is essential. “Having the flexibility to add time is key – if something’s making an employee uncomfortable, or if something comes up and somebody gets sick, that you have the ability to delay or change the timeframe a little bit. Cleanliness is also crucial, and there are steps that need to be taken to make sure that everything in an office is sanitized properly,” he said.
As companies consider plans for relocations, the experts noted, they should incorporate flexible policies that can be catered to each employees’ unique situation.
“Right now, we have quite a few people that are on hold,” Coleman said. “I think that once things start opening up the next 120 days, we’re really going to be busy in protocol. When the floodgates finally open up and there to be a lot of pickup.”
To listen to the roundtable discussion in full, please click here.
Jack Jampel, Senior Manager, Global Mobility, Stryker Corporation
Jampel is responsible for managing the company’s relocation program. Prior to joining Stryker, Jampel worked for Wyeth Pharmaceutical, where he managed the global mobility program and held a variety of positions in HR. He is currently president of the Delaware Valley Relocation Council and is a member of the RDC Advisory Council. He was also a recipient of a Meritorious Service Award and a Distinguished Service Award for his many contributions to the Worldwide ERC.
Julie Coleman, Global Mobility Expert, formerly with Shell
Coleman managed Shell’s global supplier contracts and the domestic U.S. and Canada relocation programs. With more than 25 years in the global mobility industry, Coleman managed large programs that include USAA, Waste Management, BP, and Shell Oil on the supplier side. For the past 13 years, she has managed mobility programs within the oil and gas industry. Prior to joining Shell, Coleman spent most of her career working for relocation management companies in various roles of operations and account management. She holds her Certified Relocation Professional and Global Mobility Specialist designations from Worldwide ERC.
Darren Wagner, Vice President, Real Estate, Sterling Lexicon
As the senior leader of the Real Estate Division, Wagner manages the premarketing and inventory team and is also responsible for the broker network and the performance of the broker providers. He brings more than 25 years’ experience in relocation, home sale program and property management, and customer service and has a broad background in real estate and corporate relocation industries.
Michelle Asell, CRP, Vice President, Business Development, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
Asell is a relationship management and business development professional with more than 20 years of experience in the relocation industry. She has held various positions with Wells Fargo, including in client services and account management. In her current role, Asell is responsible for new business development and managing national relationships with relocation management companies. She is a member of Worldwide ERC, is a Certified Relocation Professional, has served on the board of the Minnesota Employee Relocation Council, and often speaks at relocation industry events.
Jennifer Breen, President & Co-Founder, Suite Home Corporate Housing
Breen co-founded Suite Home Chicago in 2005 after years operating as a vendor for the temporary housing industry. Today, Suite Home is an award-winning furnished housing company providing temporary accommodations throughout the U.S. Overseeing the sales and operational teams, Breen has led the company through year-over-year growth in addition to overseeing the company’s recent expansion into the Chicago suburbs and Wisconsin. She is a Board Member of the Corporate Housing Providers Association and President of the Chicago Corporate Relocation Council.
Dr. Amit Arwindekar, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare
Dr. Arwindekar is a physician executive, clinical leader and educator specializing in acute care for globally mobile populations. As the North American Medical Director for United Healthcare Global, he specialized in cross-border medical care, evacuation, medical transportation, complex case management, and innovations in medical services to meet the needs of globally mobile citizens. Dr. Arwindeka received his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine and his MBA from the McDonough School of Business, before competing specialist training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Chicago.
About Sterling Lexicon
Sterling Lexicon offers end-to-end relocation solutions that enhance and optimize the mobility experience, delivering happy, productive employees through a personalized, high-touch approach. Whether clients are mobilizing talent for a new office, managing overseas assignees or recruiting college graduates, a partnership with Sterling Lexicon means they have integrated solutions tailored to fit their business goals. Discover the positive impact Sterling Lexicon can have on global mobility programs at sterlinglexicon.com.
Suddath moves people, businesses and products.
The Suddath Companies was established in 1919 and has grown into a nearly $600-million global transportation, relocation management and logistics company, serving 150 countries with 2,200 employees around the globe. With more than 30 locations and nearly 3 million square feet of warehouse space in the U.S., Suddath each year moves more than 70,000 households, including 30,000 military families, and is also North America’s largest commercial mover. For more information, please visit www.suddath.com.