Most of our properties have been selling if they’re priced right. 2008 was probably a worse year, actually — it took homes longer to sell then than it did in 2009. That’s because our corporate clients are becoming more willing to take a loss on a sale versus holding onto a home. A corporation’s an emotional seller — if the market’s declining, they don’t want to follow it down.
For the relocation business, everyone’s down. Employers aren’t hiring and they aren’t going to transfer people if they can hire someone locally. Companies that used to move 200 people a year are now moving 30. We haven’t really lost any clients, but we’re looking at 10 percent of our initiations coming from new business, as compared to 25 percent last year.
One of the problems is that a lot of transferees are moving every two or three years, which means that a lot of people who are moving now are underwater — they owe $350,000 on a mortgage, but offers are coming in at $300,000, and the corporation may have to step in to cover that difference. That means that some companies, before they even offer a job, will do appraisals on the candidates up front to find out who’s in a negative equity situation. If they have three applicants, and two of them are underwater, they’re probably going to go with the one who isn’t.
– Robert J. Cepek, CEO of the Mount Prospect-based American Escrow and Closing Company.