Life after the move

Author's book offers tips on relocating for homebuyers, agents

`You are really frazzled'

July 25, 1999|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

There are times when life imitates art. And then there are times when life "imitates your book contract."

Leslie Levine was putting the finishing touches on "Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home" -- a book (Dearborn Financial Publishing, $17.95) that offers advice and coping strategies for people relocating to another city -- when her husband got a job offer that would move them from Rochester, N.Y., to Chicago.

Unlike their first move from Washington to Rochester, this time, after several years of research for her manuscript, she was prepared.

"When we moved to Rochester, it was a huge move for me, having thought that I would be in the District all my life," said Levine, a native of Bethesda. "So I went to look for a book, and all I could find was books on moving. And I didn't want to read about moving, I just moved, I never wanted to read about moving again.

"I thought there must be something out there that would help people adjust to their surroundings, and there just wasn't anything that specifically dealt with relocating."

Now there is.

Levine was in Baltimore last week as part of a multicity tour as a spokeswoman for ERA Real Estate, to talk to agents -- including those of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA, the largest broker in the Baltimore metropolitan area, about the sensitive side of relocating.

According to David Slotwinski of the Employee Relations Council in Washington, the number of job-related relocations came to 880,000 last year. The average cost to companies to relocate an employee ranged from $53,696 for those requiring assistance in selling and buying a home to $11,491 for new employees with no real estate obligations.

"Some people will say, `You just move. You just do it.' A lot of people get stuck emotionally," Levine said. "It can take years to get settled in.

"I'm a pretty resourceful person, and that is one of the reasons I wrote the book. You are really frazzled when a move is afoot. The reason it's such an unhinging process is that you are straddling two worlds:

"You are saying goodbye to the familiar, and you are somewhat expected to embrace the unknown. And that is not easy."

Levine tells real estate agents that helping people relocate means more than just the transaction of selling and buying.

"If he or she is a good real estate agent, he or she is going to have that part of it -- the real estate logistics, technical aspects of moving into a new house -- down pat," Levine said.

"Aside from knowing what [the buyer's] financial parameters are the [most important thing for an agent] is the ability to listen.

"You don't have to be a relocation specialist to help a family get acclimated. If you are sympathetic, sensitive if you are patient; if you are able to put yourself into someone else's shoes. It's all those characteristics that make anybody on the job, do a better job."

Levine tells of wanting to place a gift in each of her children's closets by the time they entered their new home in Chicago. The only person she knew was her agent.

"There was no one else that I could have called," Levine said. "What I am trying to tell them [is] that often the real estate agent is the only person that someone knows. They are learning that they can be the conduit to some of the services that a city has.

"Something else that I tell them is, don't be afraid to check in on a family. Don't feel [like you are being] intrusive. Call every couple of months and say, `How's it going? Is there anything I can do?'

"ERA did some research some time back on what bothers homeowners most in working with their real estate agents, and one of them was that they don't hear from them again. And you are not likely to get a referral if you don't stay in touch. From a business sense, it makes sense to stay in touch and create some continuity."

Her book, which can be bought through, includes how to ease children's fears, how to acclimate pets and how to ease the complexities of moving as a single or elderly person.

"I wanted to write a book that would benefit people in the industry, too," Levine said. "I think a lot of what I bring up in the book is beneficial to professionals in the [real estate] industry, to help them understand what a mother [or a family] goes through."

Leslie's 10 tips

Leslie Levine's 10 tips for after the move:

1. Uprooting is a major upheaval, and with it comes some sense of loss. Acknowledge and respect your loss.

2. If a new job precipitated your move, remember your work/life priorities, work collaboratively with your employer to achieve a smooth transition, and give yourself time to adjust to your new work environment.

3. If you are relocating for your spouse/partner, remember to take care of yourself. Inquire about possible assistance available from your partner's employer, seek out other relocating partners who can offer friendship and support, and communicate with your partner using noncritical and nonthreatening language.

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