How Housing Shortages Impact Employee Relocation

As an employer, your goal is to get relocating employees on the job as quickly as possible. It’s why you provide relocation benefits, are we right? But sometimes, external forces slow relocations down—and one vexing example is the housing shortage.

It’s classic cause-and-effect: employees can’t relocate without a place to live, and the longer it takes to find one, the longer it takes to move. The resulting uncertainty creates stress all around: for employees, their families, their bosses-to-be—even coworkers.

The good news is, there are steps you can take to sidestep this hurdle. The key: understand what’s driving your local housing shortage, identify solutions—we’ll give you some—and then put them into place, updating your relocation policies as needed.

Yes, the housing shortage is real—and may get worse. But with some planning, problem-solving and creativity, you can keep your employees’ relocations on schedule, while minimizing their stress and yours.


What’s Behind the Housing Shortages? 

Although it’s cooling slightly, the U.S. real-estate market has been white-hot for a while, fueled largely by record-low mortgage rates. According to

  • Residential real-estate prices are up (the median listing price is $450,000, up 17% over last year), while
  • The number of days a home stays on the market is down (homes remain on the market for an average of 32 days, down 11% from last year) 

Given these conditions, it’s likely taking longer for relocating employees to find a great new home in their budget, let alone close on it. And renters are also impacted, because rents have soared nationwide, too.

But the market is only part of the problem. The U.S. is facing a true housing shortage—we’re 3.8 million homes short of what’s required to meet current housing needs. This is according to Up for Growth, a policy and research group, which claims that this once coastal, big-city problem has spread to most of the country. 

In fact, in the organization’s analysis of 300+ cities, more than three-quarters are experiencing a housing shortage.

The question is, what can employers do about it?

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How to Outsmart a Housing Shortage

Despite the housing shortage, there are several ways to keep your relocations on schedule by tweaking your current relocation benefits. 

If you work with a relocation management company, start by asking for their ideas. After all, it’s not their first rodeo, and they may have some turnkey solutions to offer. In addition:

Offer (or Expand) Short-term Housing Benefits

Paying for short-term housing is the fastest way to get relocating employees on the job quickly, whether or not they’ve finalized their permanent housing arrangements. 

Short-term housing benefits are traditionally provided in 30-day increments. But be warned: if your area is in a housing crunch, you may want to offer—or at least be open to—longer 60- or 90-day benefit periods to help your new hires stay focused on work.      

Better Yet, Provide Short-term Housing

Want to get your new people on board even faster? Instead of simply offering short-term housing benefits, arrange the housing directly and spare them the hunt. Some employers purchase or rent corporate condos for this purpose. If that’s not your thing, broker an arrangement with a local extended-stay hotel, take advantage of services like Airbnb and VRBO or ask your relocation company for help.

For example, UrbanBound has a discounted agreement in place with a top extended-stay chain—which gives our clients an affordable, easy-peasy short-term housing go-to every time. 

Extend the Length of House-hunting Trips

In hot real-estate markets, it’s difficult to find (let alone lock in on) a home in just 3-5 days. If you’re willing to extend the length of house-hunting trips, you’ll vastly improve your new hires’ chance of scoring a home the first time around. 

Not only will this reduce employee stress, expanding this relatively low-cost benefit reduces more expensive short-term housing costs dramatically. It’s a win/win.

Connect Your People to Top Realtors    

There are advantages to working with realtors who specialize in relocation—and one is that they get that time is of the essence. In addition, they know what information newcomers want most—say, school and safety rankings—and which neighborhoods appeal to out-of-towners.   

Ideally, your relocation management company has built a network of vetted realtors for this purpose; it’s certainly a highly-utilized feature of our services. 


Okay, you say: all this short-term housing talk makes sense—but it’s going to cost us more, and our relocation program is already pretty pricey. 

To that we counter: maybe it’s time to look at those program costs and see if you’re getting the best possible value? There’s a huge range in relocation management costs.  

Here’s the thing: when employers switch to UrbanBound, they slash their relocation costs by up to 66%, while improving employee satisfaction. And we’ve got some great short-term housing solutions to share, too. Just ask.    

Human Resources Today