NEWPORT BEACH, CA—Job seekers express a higher priority on work/life balance, including living in an area that has lots of things to do, great weather, cultural events and outdoor activitiesRETS Associates’ principals Kent Elliott and Jana Turner tell GlobeSt.com. RETS recently surveyed commercial real estate professionals in 10 major cities across the Western U.S. about the motivators that would compel each person to relocate to a new region. The results showed that 60% of respondents said that they have considered moving to a different city in the last two years; when asked what the primary reason to consider moving was, respondents ranked first their career path, followed by the quality of life and outdoor activities—the cost of living was ranked the fifth major driver. When asked to select which city they’d move to if they had to relocate, respondents ranked San Diego first, followed by Denver and a tie between San Francisco and Seattle. We spoke exclusively with Elliott and Turner about the main takeaways from the survey.

GlobeSt.com: Why do you think the cost of living was not higher up on the list of reasons why people would choose to relocate, especially when there are so many disparities in cost of living from region to region?

Elliott and Turner: From our experience and based on survey results, professionals in commercial real estate are more concerned with achieving a higher quality of life and securing an ideal job than they are with the cost of housing. The majority of survey respondents indicated that they would prefer to live in a city with better culture, good weather and access to nearby amenities than pay less money for a less-than-ideal lifestyle. An advantage that candidates currently have is that we are in a candidate-thirsty market, which opens up opportunities for them to negotiate compensation packages to their advantage. Additionally, employers have recognized that base salaries are increasing, and in order to hire and retain the best talent, they need to offer competitive packages. Oftentimes, these packages will cover the expensive cost of living, therefore being less of a priority for candidates.

GlobeSt.com: What matters most to employees regarding their location?
Elliott and Turner:
 The most important consideration to employees in regards to location is quality of life. We regularly speak with clients that have expressed a higher priority on work-life balance, and this often requires living in an area that has lots of things to do, including great weather, cultural events and outdoor activities. Candidates are also prioritizing quality and access to education for children, proximity to work and more.

We are seeing a slight generation difference regarding location. Generation X-ers are weighing both long-term and short-term factors as they relate to themselves, their family, etc. Typically more established, Gen X-ers can often afford more. On the other hand, many Millennials are unwilling to pay the premium cost of living in cities such as San Francisco, even if that’s where their heart is, because they don’t have money to pay for a fun young lifestyle or rent. They want easy access to local amenities and close proximity to their work and are less concerned with long-term family planning.

GlobeSt.com: How has this changed over the years?
Elliott and Turner:
 This is a candidate-driven market. Although the US unemployment rate is fairly low at 5.5%, we estimate that the commercial real estate industry is currently posting unemployment at half that level. Business is expanding, hiring is brisk, and well-qualified candidates can be selective in their professional options. The current state of the hiring market poses opportunities for top candidates to entertain multiple options, and sometimes offers. Recently, we’ve seen a spike in the number of companies that are willing to pay for relocation packages because they’ve realized the great shortage of talent and are willing to go to greater lengths to find the ideal candidate. We’ve had clients find candidates in Irvine and move them to San Francisco, and we’ve seen others bring talent from one coast to the other. This is a huge shift that has surfaced in just the last year or so, and firms need to be aware of what others are doing so that they too can maintain their competitive edge—their talent.

GlobeSt.com: What else should our readers take away from your survey?

Elliott and Turner: Survey results concluded that more than 60% of respondents have considered relocating to a different city in the past two years and are willing to move if the right offer is presented to them. From a competitive standpoint, it is important that employers realize this desire for relocation, especially those based in dense markets like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Because strong talent is at a premium, firms must step up their packages by providing growth opportunities, approximate timelines, and competitive compensation or relocation packages. Those firms that can successfully maintain top-tier packages for strong performers will be the ones who employ and groom the next generation of leaders.