Communication is Key to a Successful Relocation Process

Albano Mahilaj, MBA

“You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure,” was one of the opening lines Margaret Thatcher used during a conference in 1985. Thirty-five years later, this quote is more relevant than ever and very inspirational to Right-of-Way professionals. I have always believed that as a Relocation Agent our work is vital, and at times complicated. It would be difficult to complete any infrastructure project on time without our full dedication. In many instances, ROW professionals wear several hats and must be the bridge of communication between the Acquiring Agency and the Relocatees. For a relocation process to be successful, the relocation agent must complete the following steps:

The Relocation Agent should keep track of the facts as well as any conversations with all the parties. Before meeting with Relocatees, an agent should have a scoping meeting with the Acquiring Agency to retrieve any information on the project and the affected occupants. Such meetings are crucial, as there could be existing issues or relationships within the project residents or between the agency and the Relocatees. The agent should have a good working relationship with the appraisers and ask them to clarify any questions or items that were not adequately addressed during the valuation process.

The agent should also familiarize themselves with the local real estate market and building codes. Creating relationships with local officials and realtors can often help. Attorneys are another group that agents may need to educate to ensure each client receives their full benefits in a timely fashion. It is beneficial to view landowners’ attorneys as a partner in this process and not an obstacle to overcome. After all, you both want their client to receive every benefit entitled to them.

Agents need to ask questions and probe deeper to ensure they are fully aware of their Relocatees situation, wants, and needs. Through this information gathering, an agent can best assess the situation and bring resources to bear in getting their Relocatees successfully relocated.

There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth, and when it comes to providing relocation assistance, it is always best to use them in that ratio. In other words, listen twice as much as you speak. This simple strategy allows you to provide valuable advisory services and thoroughly explain the benefits that best suit your Relocatees’ needs.

Throughout a relocation process, there is one common denominator, communication. The Relocation Agent is responsible for creating relationships and maintaining them throughout the entire relocation process. With effective communication, the project will move more smoothly and, ultimately restore economic vitality and stability to the project corridor.