An international move is the mother of all chores. Once the excitement of your new posting wears off the reality of getting from A to B starts to consume your life. It requires so much organisation and planning it can be easy to keep putting it off. Don’t! The sooner you get onto it the less stressed you will be and the better coordinated your move will be.
I have moved 15 times on 4 continents and am the founder of Anna Moves. I am here to tell you that yes it’s a drag but it has to be done so go ahead and get organised and ultimately you will end up saving yourself both time and money. How you organise yourself depends on what works for you.
Some people will have a massive spreadsheet others will have everything in their calendar (synced to everyone else in the house and their phone). Not me. I am a list person. I like to make lists and I make them old-fashion-style: pen on paper. This way I get to cross things out when they are done. This is clearly the best part of having a list!
I have had to get up in the middle of a panicky sleepless night to add to that list. It always magically puts me at ease and back to sleep. I like to leave the list out on the kitchen counter – that way my husband gets to share my panic when he gets his morning coffee!! I note everything that comes to mind and try to make categories. The list will be a work-in-progress for a few weeks and sometimes months.
Get moving quotes
This is arguably the biggest chunk of the work you will need to do. I recommend you get it over and done with first and as quickly as you can. Here are a few key points to consider and figure out before contacting any moving companies.
- Where and when are you moving to? These are obviously one of the most important bits of information to share with the moving company. You do not need a fixed date in the beginning but an estimate of when you expect to move is helpful.
- Who is paying for the move? If your employer pays for your move they will probably have a list of contacts for movers they have worked with and possibly hold an account with – this is what you’re hoping for! On the down side an employer will probably ask you to get at least 3 quotes from different movers (because apparently you need more work to do!).
- Will you need a ‘full service move’? If you are moving internationally and want insurance this might be your only choice. We will talk more about insurance soon.
- Will your vehicle(s) be moved too? This is very location dependent and will not even be a realistic possibility for some moves.
- Will your belongings have to be stored at your destination or do you already have a new place to receive at? When you are getting your quotes you may not have this information but you can always ask for quotes with storage and without storage.
When you are reaching out to moving companies for quotes be sure to tell them you are moving internationally. They love that and will reply much quicker! It also depends on the time of the year. Anything during the school holidays is going to be more of a struggle. Sometimes you will have to chase up to get the quotes you need. Unfortunately all too often this is part of the process and when deciding on the final company to go with you will need to weigh up the pros and cons of each one you are considering.
These days most international moving companies will use virtual moving survey apps and I think they are great! It saves you so much time and the hassle of having someone come to your home. You download an app and then essentially you are video-showing-off your home and everything you own to a stranger over a Zoom-like app. They record your virtual tour and use it to calculate how heavy you are. Hah! Do not forget your garage, your yard and hide any items you would prefer to pack yourself.
Compare quotes carefully. It seams all international moving companies have different ways of reaching a total so make sure you are comparing apples to apples! Watch out to make sure you compare the weight you have been estimated. It might fluctuate slightly between the quotes. If you have been underestimated you might end up being charged surplus. If you are overestimated you are just simply being overcharged. Don’t forget to check the currency of the quote. You do not want to be comparing USD with Euros.
International moving Insurance
For international moves this is recommended. If your container gets dropped or worse, ends up at the bottom of the ocean you will want to have insurance. My feeling about insurance is that it is to cover the worst case scenario rather than the odd thing that might get broken or damaged – but that is covered, too.
The moving company will have to do the packing in order to get insurance which increases the price of international moves dramatically. The insurance is not usually included in your initial quote as you need to make a list of your belongings and their value once you decide on what moving company you are going with. The insurance is then calculated as a percentage of the value of your move.
Cancel, cancel, cancel
I recommend starting on cancelling service and ending or transferring contracts as early as possible. In some countries you can be required to give up to 3 months notice (I am looking at you Germany!). Work though everything in a systematic, logical way.
Log on to your banking and credit card apps and jot down everything you pay for every month! Work down that list (and don’t forget to cross it off when done – soooo satisfying!!). You are clearly at an advantage if you are using online services and apps: most utilities like electricity, gas and water can be terminated online. Do not assume this though. Always check if online cancelation is possible and the notice period you need to give.
Usually you can provide the end date (make that a day or two after you move out!) and you should get a confirmation within minutes. Internet and cable can often be somewhat trickier to terminate, as these companies will try to keep you as a customer and will want transfer your service. If that works with your destination great but if not be clear that it must be cancelled.
If you receive paperless billing you might not have to even worry about your cell phone or other monthly subscriptions (Netflix, icloud storage etc.). Be aware that by changing your address with the provider you might save on sales tax (or end up paying more).
Insurance should be on your list. With your car/home insurance you might want to wait and change them over once you are at your destination. You should be reimbursed if that makes you overpay. Again check this is an option and obviously if you are selling your car cancel your insurance as soon as you have done the paperwork.
Some memberships can be tricky. The gym comes to mind! If you use a larger chain chances are you might find a branch at your destination. But be aware that often chains are not as linked as you might think. It is not uncommon for each country or region to be a separate entity even though the name is the same. Make sure you tackle quitting sooner rather than later as you might have cancellation delays and there always seems to be someone willing to make it difficult for you to quit!
Take a breath because what comes next can be difficult and is often emotional. Housing! Are you renting or do you own? If you are renting this can get expensive if you are not organised. How much notice do you have to give or how much time is left on your lease? If you own your home this can get complicated and time consuming. What are you going to do with it?
If you rent your home now is the time to dig out that contract you signed. Got it? Good. Residential leases are often standard contracts so the information you are looking for should be easy enough to find. First, find the terms of your lease, which should be one of the first sections. If it’s month-to-month great! Just check how long in advance you need to give notice to your landlord so the lease won’t renew and how you are expected to do so (probably a written notice).
If you have signed a yearly lease and it is not about to expire, find the section titled something like Termination of Lease, Security Deposit or Opt-out Clause. Also, make sure you check the Lease Renewal section – some contracts require a new lease to be signed every year or they turn into a month-to-month kind of lease. So you might get lucky if your landlord missed the opportunity to lock your business in for another year.
The laws around breaking a lease changes from country to country. However, they all have one thing in common: unless you have a more than wonderful landlord or live in a very crappy home that is in violation of health and safety codes, you will probably owe money if you don’t follow the lease to the letter.
If you have missed your cancellation window my best advice is to display your best diplomatic skills and speak to your landlord. The sooner the better! Losing your security deposit is annoying but better than having to pay the remainder of your lease. If your landlord is insisting on you paying everything you owe there is often still a little bit of hope left.
Laws vary from country to country. However, the law requires the landlord to actively seek a new tenant and once the new person moves in you do not need to continue paying your rent. They should also allow you to help in the search for your replacement, which adds more to your to-do-list but could save you money.
I can not stress that the sooner you get your lease out and read the fine print the better. Many places these days have leases geared towards the renter but it is not always the case. If you really get in a bind it might be worth checking if there is an agency or government organisation who can assist you in working with the landlord to find a solution.
If you own your home you need to decide if you want to keep it or sell it. There is so much to consider here. It might also depend on things outside of your control like the current state of the housing market or taxes.
It also might depend on how long your overseas posting is expected to be. Do you want to sell up if you are potentially only away for a couple of years? Can you afford to keep your property in case you do not manage to rent it out right away? Are you planning on buying at your destination? If so, do you qualify for and can you afford two mortgages?
Renting your property is great for many reasons but it also comes with another list of things to do! Is your home ready to be rented out? What, if any, work needs to be done. Some counties require you to meet certain standards in order to lease it out. You will also probably want to get the highest rent possible which might mean a few repairs or a slap of paint.
Are you going to use a property management company to help you find tenants and take care of your contract, maintenance, and rental income? That decision will also be based on other things like how far away you will be and if you have a strong support system to help you out while you’re away. If you decide to use a management company – choose wisely! Their fees come in all shapes and sizes and their professionalism (or lack thereof) will affect you and wallet a lot.
If you tend towards selling your property you need to figure out what the current market is like. Is this a good time to sell? Hopefully you know a real estate agent that you trust, there are so many of them out there but they are not all equal! Friend’s and family’s recommendations are helpful to find the one that’s right for you. Your perfect agent will be more than happy to come to your home and share professional advice. They will be able to recommend a strategy to be followed, next steps to be taken and home improvements to be done.
You can rest now
I have covered what will take up the bulk of your time when organising your international move. It is definitely a drag! These are all the things you need to do before even thinking about how you are going to get rid of stuff before your move or figuring out what you need to keep back to pack and carry with you. It is not an easy process and requires a lot of attention to detail. By the end of it you will be a whiz at reading the fine print.
If it is in your budget you could consider using a relocation agent or moving concierge service. A moving concierge is often free if you book your moving company through them. They can help you navigate the entire move. They know what to be looking out for in contacts and all the pros and cons of the various options. This can be very helpful especially if you are trying to work full time and move countries at the same time.
Good luck with your big move. When it all feels overwhelming take a few deep breaths and remind yourself it will all be worth it in the end.