Moving your possessions and household contents across the Channel will save the time and expense of replacing items and will provide the element of familiarity in your new surroundings. However, the move itself can seem an insurmountable task and if not carried out well, your new life in France could get off to a stressful start. Calling on the services of a reputable removals company can help to demystify the process and provide a comprehensive door to door service.

In this article we will look at:

Finding a removals company

When looking for a removals company, it is important to choose one with an in-depth knowledge of France, the contacts, affiliations and practical skills to take care of you all the way to your new life and for your further peace of mind, they should offer full financial protection door to door.

Recommendations are a good starting point but other than that make sure movers are members of at least BAR (British Association of Removers) BAR is the only trade association in the industry that helps members and protects customers. It sets high professional standards and the BAR code of practice is approved by the Trading Standards Institute. It offers clear professional advice and also provides a scheme of pre-payment protection. Don't think you need to use a local company, as experience and knowledge on overseas moving is more important. Also, as payments are made prior to moving, it may be more reassuring to use a financially bonded mover who belongs to the BAR Overseas Moving Group or FIDI. FIDI is the Global alliance of International quality removal companies, and offers customers a portal to an alliance of recognised quality movers. The FAIM standard covers a company's operations and service to customers through quality management and a certification programme. The BAR Overseas Moving Group, meanwhile, comprises movers that offer an international guarantee that customers advanced payments are protected should the company cease to trade.

All of this means that if you have paid prior to your move and that company ceased to trade before your move, your payment is protected in a similar way that ABTA works when booking flights and holidays.

The next step is to get a realistic quotation and for this an experienced estimator should visit you in your home to accurately calculate the volume you wish to take and any of your packing requirements. They should give professional guidance on how your entire move could be planned right from the collection stage in the UK to delivery to your new residence in France (or vice-versa), without any obligation. Ask for a realistic quotation, which will include full removal insurance, based on a first class, high quality service.

Lock, stock and two smoking barrels

Since some clients do not need the use of a full-sized furniture van, many removal companies can offer prices for 'part loads'. This means that you can send a small consignment of belongings over to France which goes on a shared vehicle with other customers. The cost will then involve the space pre-booked in the van rather than having to pay for the cost of a sole-use vehicle. Delivery dates will need to be flexible as the removal van will have several deliveries to make. Normally part loads can be collected and delivered within two to three weeks depending on traffic. French specialist movers will offer services on a regular part load basis to most parts of France. Some movers can also arrange collection and delivery of motor vehicles and motorbikes which can be transferred in road trains (a vehicle with a boxed trailer).

Packing it in

Choose a removal company with professionally trained removal operatives to ensure that all of your personal effects make their continental journey in complete safety. Packing can take longer than many people think, so bear in mind that the movers will need to factor packing materials and the time needed to prepare for the move, into the quote. All specialist items or items needing extra care be these paintings, mirrors, musical instruments etc. need to be packed in special cartons and with protective materials which have been approved by the British Association of Removers, for maximum protection. If you choose to pack yourself give yourself plenty of time as it takes longer than you think. The moving company can supply packing cartons and materials for clients to pack belongings themselves, but remember owner-packed goods are not fully insured, whereas those packed by the mover are.

Safe keeping

More often than not, you'll find that a move to the continent will require the use of storage for some intermediate period before your possessions can be taken to your new abode, so it is important to use a remover with storage facilities. Opting for containerised storage means that containers will arrive at your UK home on the furniture multi-purpose vehicles and an inventory will be made as each item is carefully loaded into containers and transported to the storage facility. The furniture stays in your own containers until ready to come out of storage. Containers rarely travel to France as they take up a lot of space so normally the furniture is transferred directly into a furniture van the day before departure.

Alternatively, self-access storage involves your possessions being stored in individual padlocked rooms, to which you are able to have access to your items during the period of storage. Try and give the remover two to four weeks' notice in order to arrange for your belongings to be delivered from storage.

The delivery

Delivery at the new premises should involve your removal company unwrapping all furniture items, reassembling of items that require non-specialist attention such as beds, dressers and bookcases etc. It is always important to have keys to the new property prior to the delivery day. Always discuss the access to the French property as sometimes a shuttle service from the vehicle to the new home will need to be arranged.

Ten top tips to guide you through the move to France

Moving your belongings to start a new life in France, will give you a lot to think about. After many decades of moving families to and from France, we've compiled a few hints and tips to bear in mind to help prevent any last minute problems occurring during the move.

  1. Save the date: arrange this as early as possible and notify your removal company as far ahead as you possibly can. Avoid cancellations or postponements as much as you can as this will add to the costs.
  1. Power it up: Removal companies are not allowed access to mains services, so make the necessary arrangements with gas and electricity boards well in advance of your move. Moving into premises with no heat and light will make the day far harder, particularly if your move is during the winter when the temperatures plummet and there are less day light hours to unpack in.
  1. Food for thought: Plan ahead and run down food stocks in the weeks/ days ahead of the move, or you'll find there'll be quite a waste. Defrost your freezer Some removal companies, like Burke Bros Moving Group, have partnerships with charities whereby they can donate any non-perishable food items that customers don't want to take with them on moving day. Speak to your removal company to see if they run such schemes.
  1. It'll be curtains: Your mover will take down curtains/blinds by prior arrangement – but will not put them back up again or lay fitted carpets. Check your quotation and/or service specification to ensure you are clear on this.
  1. Packing it in: If you are packing yourself- start this Don't be tempted to put it off. It is also worth investing in the best packing materials. You can often purchase British Association of Removers standard packing materials from your mover. How much packing the mover does depends on your quotation and/or service specification. If you are paying for a total service, leave it to the professionals.
  1. Special care: If you have possessions which require special attention, for example, or are concerned about moving any items such as plants, fine art, wine collections or antiques, discuss them with your remover well in advance. They will advise you on how they will take care of these items and give you an idea of costs.
  1. Drawers: As movers, we are often asked by customers if they need to empty out drawers. Our advice is to leave them as they are, as long as they are not over full, but don't lock them.
  1. Prepare for the un-load: As a guide, we advise that a moving van requires about 50 feet of parking space. The closer the van can park to your property the better for a more efficient and safe removal of possessions. It's important to discuss with your chosen mover if the access to your property is difficult or if there are small doorways or spiral staircases etc. which could affect the removal crew's movement.
  1. Have a spare key: It is very common for the van to be at the house before the owner is there. If it's possible, give a spare key to the remover as any waiting time will add to your costs
  1. Moving on up: If you're moving into or out of a flat or apartment, you will to have priority for the lift. If the lift is only small or non-existent, ensure that you warn the remover in advance, as they will need to take this into account when planning the move. Don't leave it until the van arrives on moving day

Moving plants to France

After years of planning, planting and nurturing your garden, leaving it behind when you make the move to start a new life in France can be a wrench.

Moving your possessions and household contents across the Channel will save the time and expense of replacing items and will provide the element of familiarity in your new surroundings. But can you take your garden too? It's not always easy but you don't have to leave your favourite plants behind. Most plants, seeds and bulbs can be carried freely within the EU, with a few exceptions (endangered species or certain plants that might carry disease and parasites.)

With many years of experience of moving our customers to and from France, we've put together a few hints and tips on how to plan a move that will help you put down roots in your new French home.

Be Clear

Be careful to make decisions about which parts of the garden you wish to take with you, as early on as possible and inform your solicitor from the outset so that it is added into the contract. Don't leave this until the last minute to make this clear to them. Once someone puts in an offer on your property, they have the law on their side that the garden is to stay entirely intact unless you have stated otherwise. A list of plants and garden equipment (containers, ornaments and bird tables etc.) that you wish to take should be included in the contracts.

For All Things there is a Season

It is not always feasible to plan a house move for a specific month, particularly if you're making the move across the continent. As a general rule of thumb, however, most plants have a dormant season during late October to March and this is generally known to be the most ideal time to move them, they are less vulnerable to damage and have the greatest chance of surviving.

Climate Change

Bear in mind that whilst your existing garden may positively flourish in your current UK climate, a move across the Channel will open up a new climate. Of course, this depends on where in the UK you are moving from and which part of France you're planning to call home. It's important to research the extent of the change in climate as this will most likely determine which plants are feasible to make the move with you.

Down to Earth

Another important factor in determining the success of moving your garden is to take account of the soil type in the new garden. Depending on the type of plants you have, some will prefer soil with lower ph. values; the more acidic soil types and others will thrive in higher ph. values; alkaline soil.

If the present owners of the new property you are moving to are keen gardeners, they are likely to know what type of soil they have- so it is worth asking. Alternatively, when you visit the property, obtain a soil test kit from a garden centre and take this with you to test it yourself.

Cut and Run

Equally, some plants and trees which are either very well established or in general are not well disposed to being up rooted may have to be left behind. This is an area which will need some research, depending on the types of plants you have, but it is advisable to take several cuttings, place in a pot with compost and take this with you instead. Cuttings can be taken at any time except mid-winter. A vast array of trees, shrubs and climbing plants can be grown from cuttings.

Get Potting

If you can plan ahead it is advisable to propagate new plants from old as soon as you start thinking about making the move. Growing them in pots makes them far easier to handle and transport. Propagate and pot a selection of plants into containers in the spring or autumn. Once you arrive at your new premises, the plants can remain in their pots, whilst you figure out the planting scheme already in place in the new garden and decide where you want to add your old plants into.

The Moving Experts

Don't underestimate all that is involved in moving your garden and garden equipment to the continent.

Plants are easily damaged in transit so need expert handling. Equally, an experienced removal company has the knowledge and equipment to protect the rest of your household effects whilst in transit.

Discuss what you are moving with your removal company prior to the move. For example, if you plan to take large potted plants- let them know as they will need to plan the lifting of such items.

It's important to choose a reputable and experienced removal company. Find a company that has the practical skills to move you from door to door safely and securely. It's not even essential to limit your choice of remover to a company local to you. Prioritise finding a remover with the right experience and knowledge of moving to France, regardless of where they're based. Any remover you use should be a member of the British Association of Removers. More specifically your mover should be a financially bonded mover who belongs to the BAR to ensure a guarantee that customers advanced payments are protected should the company cease to trade. Equally, they should be FIDI accredited (the global alliance of international quality removal companies) as a reflection of their operations and service to customers.

Moving Cars to France

An experienced removal company will arrange collection and delivery of motor vehicles to be transferred in road trains (a vehicle with a boxed trailer) or via a recovery vehicle, although this method will cost more.

In what instance would a car need to be transported rather than driven to destination?

It is essentially the customer's preference. Some customers simply don't want to drive their own vehicle through France or incur the wear and tear on the vehicle. In the case of a classic car, for example, it might be more advisable not to drive it such a distance. Sometimes customers don't want to expose the vehicle to inclement weather conditions.

For the transport does the petrol tank need to be completely emptied?

The tank needs to be as low as possible but not entirely empty as the vehicle still needs to be driven into and out of the trailer. The customer would need to run it down.

Does anything else travel with the vehicle?

The car would be on its own and strapped down with 'ratchet straps'.

Once the vehicle has been de-registered in the UK, it can then be re-registered in France, but must conform to the French road standards. This process varies depending on the make, age and country of origin of the vehicle.

Burke Bros Moving Group has carried out hundreds of moves on behalf of families and individuals moving to, from and within France every year.
Tel: +44 (0)1902 714555 /