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Baxter could locate 150-plus employees

Chamber officials and real estate agents continue to urge local residents to publicly list their homes on the market so they can be potentially be purchased by Baxter International executives.

And for those homeowners waiting for more details, Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall provided the most detailed look yet on how the Baxter relocation process is going to work at a Tuesday meeting for the public.

Baxter expects to locate 150-200 employees in 2013, and Hall told The News Thursday that a Baxter official told him about roughly 70-80 percent of the company's new hires in 2012 and 2013 will be relocated to the region around the plant.

Hall said he's heard that about 25-30 employees are already in the relocation pipeline.

While many of the 1,500 workers who will eventually be employed at Baxter's future manufacturing plant on the Newton/Walton county line could be hired from the local region, the majority of the plant's executives will likely come from further away, wherever their specialized talents can be found. Those hires will need their current homes sold and new homes purchased in quick fashion.

Baxter has no desire to handle the relocation process itself, Hall said, but has instead turned over the process to AIReS, or American International Relocation Solutions, a Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in corporate relocations.

In turn, AIReS is subcontracting with Atlanta-based real estate firms Prudential, Harry Norman, Coldwell Banker Bullard, Sotheby's and Atlanta Fine Homes, which will do the home buying.

The local chamber is working to educate the five real estate firms about Newton County.

"They come in, we give an orientation about Newton County and Covington, quality of place, what it looks like, what it doesn't look like. We're pretty blunt. We say things you can't see as real estate agents," Hall told the crowd of real estate agents and local residents and officials.

Hall said an AIReS representative has said a house must be listed on both the Georgia Multiple Listing Service and the First Multiple Listing Service, both of which real estate agents have access too.

While the five Atlanta firms will be handling the buying, Hall said he was told that for sellers it doesn't matter which real estate agent or firm they choose, so choosing a local agent is still the best bet.

The other point that was made over and over again is that homes must be listed at fair market value. Even though the housing market is somewhat tight, relocation firms or individual Baxter employees are not going to buy a house for more than its worth and don't have time to haggle, Hall and local real estate agents said.

"If your house is not listed at fair market value, not only is it not going to sell, nobody is going to look at it," said Bill Blair, president of the East Metro Board of Realtors. He said sellers need to trust the fair market value given by their real estate agent, because they've already taken into account every aspect of the home that goes into its value.

The other advice offered to sellers was to make sure their home titles are completely clear and clean (a concern on some foreclosure purchases), get home inspections done ahead of time and to make sure the homes are in the best shape possible.

"It's a beauty pageant," said RE/MAX Realtor Le Anne Long.

Hall said he was told by a Baxter official that housing inventory on the market is light in Newton and most other surrounding counties and that competition appears to be heating up, which was taken as a positive sign for the region's housing market.

However, one area which Newton County can't even compete in is in temporary apartment housing, as no local complexes met Baxter's needs, Hall said.