My ninth post in this series on Buying Property in Paris is on the move itself. Moving is not a pleasant task in any country. But it can be especially daunting when you are in a foreign country. Below are a few tips I learned from the experience of my recent move.
Before reading this, I invite you to read about my thoughts and experiences on pre-search preparations, the apartment search, signing the purchase agreement, planning for renovations, the closing, managing renovations, an interview with Adrian Leeds and an update on the renovations.
- Start early. This is the most important tip I can offer. Do not underestimate how long it will take to organize your move. In addition to the limitations on your own time, moving companies can be in high demand during certain times of the year (the summer especially) and you may have to reserve a month or more in advance to secure your ideal dates. Remember also that a number of agencies and organizations are closed or just working at a slower pace in August. So if you are moving in or around the month of August, you will really need to plan ahead.
- Make lists. Have you figured out by now that I am a big fan of lists? One of the first things I did was sit down and make a list of everything that needed to get done and by when. I tried to tick off at least one item from my list each day.
- Storage. If you need to put any items into storage, you should call and reserve ahead as space can fill up. Certain storage units are conveniently located in the center of Paris and allow you to access your belongings when you need to. Une Pièce en plus is an example. I considered using them, and I must say they were very friendly and professional on the phone, but in the end I opted for short-term storage in my friend’s basement (free). If you do not need to access your things during the storage or you are looking for more long-term storage, your moving company probably offers a storage option.
- Moving companies. Which company to use depends on your specific situation and your gut instinct about the various companies. If you are entrusting them with all your worldly belongings and all your worldly belongings are actually worth anything, it might be wise to pay more. Ask around for recommendations. At the very least, I recommend going with a moving company that will visit your home and give you an estimate based on volume and on accessibility to your apartment (i.e. do you live in a 6th-floor walk-up like I did?) You don’t want any surprises when the movers arrive. If they visit your home in person, they will know how much packing material to bring, whether they need an exterior lift, how big of a truck you require, and how many people they will need to get the job done. Ask what the estimate includes: Will they pack all your stuff for you? Just the valuables? Do you need to pack everything yourself in advance? Once you have an estimate of the volume from one company, you can also ask around for other price estimates based on that volume and get a sense of prices and a basis for negotiating your price down (almost always possible with most moving companies in France). For my (partial) move to Brittany, I spoke with several moving companies: STPS, Les déménageurs bretons, Crown Relocations, Top Dem…. I was impressed with Crown’s service, but they are very pricey – more worthwhile for international moves. In the end, I went with STPS. The movers complained non-stop but got the job done. Except for one broken item that they tried to cover up and for which they refused to reimburse me (and yes, I even threatened to denounce them in my blog and they could not have cared less!) Everything else went smoothly, but I have to say their dishonesty left a very sour taste in my mouth. I would not use them again.
- Start collecting boxes early and often. Ask at your office and at local shops. Bubble wrap (papier bulle) is quite expensive in stores such as Office Depot. I ordered it online from Carton Market, a much better deal. You can also order boxes and other packing needs from them and you can choose between home delivery or delivery to a nearby location like a tabac that may be open later than your local post office.
- Smaller moves. If you have packed everything yourself and just need some furniture or boxes moved, not a whole apartment full of items moved, you can find people to help without dealing with a full-on moving company. I had a very professional and friendly man named Khaled help me move boxes to my friend’s basement, move some sports equipment to another friend’s house and deliver a laundry room full of items to a nearby charity. I’m happy to give you Khaled’s contact info if you shoot me an e-mail.
- If you have things you can’t keep, but someone might be able to use them, consider donating to a local church or an organization such as Emmaüs.
- For the pure junk, the mairies (city halls) in each arrondissement provide a wonderful free service: they will come pick up your junk if you call ahead, sometimes even the night before. Call your local mairie for details. But remember, if you leave junk out on the street and you have not called ahead for permission, you may be fined.
- Do not forget to change your official address. For a worthwhile fee, you can sign up online with the post office to have your mail forwarded to your new address for 6 – 12 months. Do you need to notify any other agencies or organizations of your move? For example, lawyers must promptly notify the bar of which they are a member of any change in address.
- If you are a foreigner with a carte de séjour (visa), you must go in person to the commisariat (police station) in your new arrondissement and fill out a change of address form that will be stamped (of course) and you will be given a receipt. You must do this as soon as possible after your move (at the very latest within 8 days of your move). Be sure to bring your current carte de séjour, your passport and proof of your new residence (EDF bill, lease).
- Call EDF (the electric company) and ask them to terminate your account or switch it to your new address (but consult with your landlord or the purchaser of your property before having the electricity turned off – they can close your account without cutting off the power). Call the cable/internet/phone company in advance to tell them of your move and be sure you do not need a France Telecom rep to come to the new location in person to turn on the line. Of course call any other applicable utility companies.
Do you have any additional moving tips to share? Do you have a moving company in France that you would particularly recommend?