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Finding the Right Corporate Housing Provider Can Make All the Difference

Published Thursday, April 1, 2010 by Amanda Cook

Not all lodging alternatives that offer “corporate housing” are credible. How can you choose the right fit for your employee, client, and company needs? Be informed and shop around to find the best corporate housing providers.

To avoid a bad experience—and an even worse living situation for whoever is in the apartment, house, or condo—start your search by identifying a legitimate corporate housing provider. This is their focus and they provide the complete package of products and services. These providers demonstrate how corporate housing is more than just a room.

A professional provider focuses on service as well as product. Profes­sional providers know exactly what you are dealing with when relocating, regardless of assignment length. This knowledge comes from the experience of having successfully provided housing for all types of situations. They know the properties, the communities, and have a network on which to rely to provide what you need where you need it. At the same time, every move is different and with their experience, they can get a “read” on your specific situation quickly and preempt questions before you even realize it is something you need to know.

As defined by the Corporate Housing Providers Association (CHPA), corporate housing is “a furnished apartment, condominium, or house made available for a temporary basis, primarily for 30 days or more.” Corporate housing also may be referred to as temporary housing, temporary apartments, serviced apartments, corporate apartments, or corporate rentals. Accommodations typically include furniture, full kitchen, private bath, linens, housewares, electronics, and utilities. All of these variables can be tailored to your specific needs. Accommodations are move-in ready, necessitating the client to bring only their clothes and personal items. Most corporate housing offerings are conveniently located in and around metropolitan areas where you need to place consultants, interns, families, and the like. It can be a cost-effective solution for companies with long-term housing needs.

Identifying a Reputable Provider
How do you partner with a reputable provider? Following are tips to avoid suspicious or disreputable companies.

Ask if the company is a CHPA member. CHPA is the only trade association dedicated to the corporate housing industry. Its mission is to improve the overall corporate housing industry, and its member companies provide corporate housing as their primary and often only business.

Members abide by a code of ethics that increases their professionalism and highlights many areas of social responsibility. The CHPA code of ethics centers on members deserving the trust placed in them by clients to provide professional products and services. They commit to respecting the relationship with their clients, the communities in which they conduct business, and the overall temporary living experience for all customers.

CHPA’s website, www.chpaonline.org, details how to understand what you should expect from a provider. A list of member companies can be provided on request to anyone seeking corporate housing in a specific locale. CHPA members also have access to an international network of providers to help find temporary housing globally. Mem­bers refer business to each other on a daily basis—a seamless process from the customer’s perspective.

Seek out specialists with expertise. If you were in search of a mobility provider, you likely would search for someone who has earned the Worldwide ERC® Certified Relocation Professional™ (CRP®) or Global Mobility Specialist™ (GMS®) designation(s). Certification programs encourage professionals in a specific industry to gain extensive and useful knowledge of all aspects of that industry. Certified individuals have achieved recognition though their comprehensive knowledge of principles, practices, and laws governing and affecting an industry.

CHPA’s Certified Corporate Housing Professional (CCHP) certification program supports and enhances the professionalism of the temporary living industry. CCHPs exemplify competence and experience in the industry. The knowledge and skills to become a CCHP are directly derived from corporate housing operational best practices. A company owned or staffed by those holding a CCHP certification should increase your comfort level, as you can trust that you will receive effective and courteous service from a trained, highly knowledgeable, and skilled professional. The result is the right match of need and solution.

Ask and check references before committing. Check out your potential partner by asking for references and checking them. Learn from someone else’s experience, validating that what you are promised is what you really will be receiving. This is particularly important if you decide to do business with a new company or one you have found through an Internet search. While many legitimate businesses provide outstanding service and aggressively market their companies online, there are just as many companies who use the Internet inappropriately—and sometimes deceptively—and often lack the infrastructure necessary to support your needs. Many professional providers also offer online tools to help you select a property, take virtual tours, book online, choose your services, and even provide links for you to prepare the resident for their arrival.

Use a secondary means of contacting a company you found online. Your treatment in both communications, as well as the responsiveness of the potential partner, is a good indicator of how you will be treated as a customer. If you cannot get someone on the phone or verify references, move on to another company with reputable business interactions and one willing to share their successes. Professional partners go beyond providing just housing—they relay information about the surrounding community, offer recommendations for other service pro­viders, and ease the transition for all parties involved.

References also help you determine your potential partner’s time in the industry. Some dubious companies try to make a quick profit by providing what they call “corporate housing” but, in reality, these companies provide substandard housing in areas or buildings that are less than desirable. They are unable to provide you with a quality lodging alternative or relocation experience, and might even be a scam. If you are unable to establish a history of business through positive references, move on to another company.

Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). With 123 BBB offices in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, there is likely one located in or near the area in which you need housing. The BBB creates a community of trustworthy businesses, sets standards for marketplace trust, encourages and supports best practices, and denounces substandard marketplace behavior. Verify that your potential partner has been practicing good business.

If you find a complaint filed against a company with the BBB, consider the complaint, when it was filed, and if it was resolved by reviewing the business’ reliability report. If the complaint was not dealt with to your satisfaction, it is advisable to seek an alternative corporate housing provider for your relocation needs.

Understanding rates quoted. Everyone wants the best value for their temporary stay, but different corporate housing providers provide different properties and services. Comparing rates often means comparing different properties and their features and their service offerings. Most corporate housing rentals include all utilities and high-speed Internet access in their monthly rates. Ask for the details—sometimes housekeeping service is included in the rate. Some companies provide quotes as an all-inclusive rate, while others provide a low daily rate but have additional fees—which can add up quickly—so be sure to know what the quote includes. Asking the right questions and breaking down the quote will help ensure an apples-to-apples comparison for the entire experience, not just the rate.

Keep an open mind and do not let your preconceived notions dictate your search. Ask your potential provider partner if it has anything else you may be interested in once you have explained your needs. If you are flexible in your needs, it often can work with you to find the best value-oriented solution. Having alternatives, or other properties or units available, is a key customer service factor, especially after someone has moved into the unit. If the particular property is not the right fit, professional corporate housing providers often can move the person to another location to provide the appropriate services.

The Reality of Life on the Road
Even a temporary move is a stressful event. You cannot afford loss of productivity or multiple moves that may result from working with an inexperienced partner that does not understand all the steps in the relocation process. Eliminate much of this stress by partnering with a qualified, professional corporate housing pro­vider that is familiar with the process and can give you a quality experience and product. Improving your re­search will help you make the best decision for your company’s needs. All that is left is to pack a toothbrush, your clothes, and maybe a hair dryer. Everything else is taken care of.
 
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