Real Estate Companies Seeing Demand For Relocation Services

Posted: May 15, 1988

The growing number of companies moving from Center City and other parts of the country to eastern Montgomery County is prompting many real-estate firms to expand their relocation services.

Merrill Lynch Realty announced last week that it had signed a lease on a new building that would double the size of its relocation office in Fort Washington.

"The reason we needed to expand our Fort Washington service is because eastern Montgomery County is one of our biggest markets in the Philadelphia area," said Susan Pickett, a spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch. "Corporations are moving out of the city, and this is a place they are moving because of its convenience."

The company will be moving to a newly renovated 4,000-square-foot building at 416 Bethlehem Pike, which, Pickett said, is the heart of a growing business and industrial center. The current office, at 421 Bethlehem Pike, has about

2,000 square feet, Pickett said. Merrill Lynch also has a relocation office in Radnor.

Susan Ross of Merrill Lynch's relocation department said the company had relocated 1,000 to 1,200 people in the last year.

"That figure is always on the rise from year to year, especially when the economy is strong," she said. "If the economy goes into a downturn, companies stop moving and relocating people."

Merrill Lynch has helped employees of such companies as Unisys, General Electric, IKEA and Ford to move to the area.

Pickett said the companies used the relocation services to ease the burden of moving for their employees.

"The companies are looking for stress relief," Pickett said. "They want to see the employee get in place with the least inconvenience and the least time."

But Merrill Lynch isn't the only real estate company that has been kept busy by the relocation needs of area companies.

"The whole Delaware Valley, especially the Route 202 corridor, is growing," said Sheila Silver, the relocation director of Roach Brothers Realtors, which is based in Devon, but has several offices in eastern Montgomery County. "It's like a mini-Silicon Valley. Many companies are attracted to this area, and that keeps us busy."

Roach Brothers has helped employees of PNB, General Electric and SmithKline French Industries relocate.

Lee Schulman, of Century 21 in Fort Washington, said the employees of relocating companies had special needs.

"Relocating is traumatic for the family," Schulman said. "They don't know much about the area, which school systems are good. They don't know where to go or what kinds of prices to expect.

"You need someone who cares, will listen to what the family wants and will try to find the perfect match."

Century 21 offers a school matching program for families with school-age children. The program is a national service that compares the quality of education and extracurricular activities of school districts around the country.

Century 21 has done relocation work for Cigna, Xerox, General Foods and

Stouffer Hotels, Schulman said.

Although real estate agents have been helping companies relocate for many years, the growth of two-career families has changed the approach that many agents use, Silver said.

"The main concern is the spouse," she said. "It used to be that we would

mainly look after the person being transferred. But now, we also have to consider a second person with a job."

She said Roach Brothers helped spouses learn more about the cultural and entertainment opportunities in the area.

"It's important that a spouse is happy because when the spouse is happy, the person being transferred is more likely to be happy," she said.

The services that the companies offer include tours of Philadelphia, statistics and advice on school systems and house-hunting.

"It has become a very big business," Schulman said. "It is very expensive for companies to move, so they want their employees to be happy in the new area. We try to make the move as enjoyable as possible."

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