Making the move from one home to another is never easy - especially when the “new” home is also located in a “new” country. Among the many questions, challenges, surprises and changes involved with moving out of country, housing can be a big one. The process of finding the perfect home in your destination country can be anything from a relatively simple matter to a nightmare. There are many variables: the housing market; the size of your family; financial assistance, if any, offered by your employer; the expected length of your assignment; and more.

One of the primary factors that can contribute to the relocation experience is the ease at which you can communicate with property owners and rental agencies in your destination country. Cultural considerations also come into play, as expectations for the renter and the property owner can vary significantly from country to country. In some European countries, for example, rental properties come furnished with bathroom and kitchen fixtures whereas the renter is expected to furnish his own bathroom and/or kitchen fixtures in other European apartments. If you’re lucky, you could even find yourself entering a well-supplied housing market where property owners are accustomed to accommodating the requirements of expatriates and their families.

In most cases renting an apartment or home makes the most sense. It allows you to start small so to speak, without a long term commitment, mortgage payments or property taxes. The can be especially helpful if you are not familiar with your destination country and are unsure about which neighbourhood or school system is right for your family. Depending on the rental market, property owners may or may not agree to a short-term rental contract (1-2 years). Within Italy, for example, the standard housing rental agreement is 4 years with the option to extend the contract for a subsequent 4 years. The renter in this case is entitled to cancel the contract with written notice at any time, but the property owner is obligated for the duration of the contract barring special circumstances. The rental market in your destination country can also affect the attitude and approach of the property owners toward foreign renters. Don’t be surprised if the property owner requests written character references, financial information and a large security deposit covering up to several months of rent.

Because rental policies can differ from country to country, you should try and maximize the contacts and resources available to you in the new country. Be sure to get as much advice and information as possible, and contact other expatriate colleagues (via the Internet or a personal network) who are living in your destination country to find out whether there is an established community of foreign residents that may be able to provide advice and assistance. You should also think carefully about what to do with your current home, and whether or not you want to transfer all, some or very few of your personal belongings to your new country.

An increasingly common service offered within many if not most of Europe’s larger cities is relocation consultancy, which can help manage many of the details associated with an out-of-country move. These services can help ease insecurities associated with moving into a new country, but can be expensive. A cost-effective alternative is to utilize a housing service specialized in temporary, short-term and medium-term housing. Most temporary housing specialists are experienced in working with expatriates and can assist not only in selecting a suitable home but also with minor relocation details. Another advantage is that many of the homes come completely furnished, which can be especially helpful when the length of your stay is uncertain or simply for the convenience of not having to ship large household belongings such as furniture and appliances.

Temporary housing specialists create tailor-made solutions for the expatriate and typically have a rich portfolio of centrally located apartments to choose from at competitive prices, which are available for short-to-medium term stays. Apartments can be viewed virtually via the Internet, with relocation specialists available to answer questions regarding the neighborhood, the proximity to work, shopping, schools and more. Plus, homes are usually “move-in ready” with gas, electricity, water and other amenities to make the transition as easy as possible.

Moving to a new country is never easy - even when things go according to plan. There is the emotional stress of leaving friends and family behind, the uncertainty and excitement of building a new life in a different place and the mild to serious cultural differences that can turn a routine errand into a nightmare. Luckily there are ways to help make the move a bit less difficult, including enlisting the help of acquaintances, colleagues and expat-friendly service providers. When it comes to finding suitable housing, a temporary housing specialist is often one of the better places to start looking because of the personalized service, on-going English-speaking assistance, and wide selection of centrally located properties.

Making the Move: Final Thoughts

Think it through: Moving out of country - even if you are moving to a country with a similar culture and language - is not easy. It’s a good idea to carefully assess the reason for your move and make sure it is right for you, before you pack up and go. You may also want to consider a trial move in which you relocate to your intended location for a month not as tourist but as someone who is starting to build a life there.

Set a budget: Unless you are relocating for a well-paying job where money will not be an issue, you should take the time to set a relocation budget before you leave the security of your job, home and local support network. If you are planning to find a new job in your destination country it makes sense to understand the local job market and be prepared in the case that it is more difficult to find work than you had originally expected.

Be prepared for cultural differences: Cultural differences can range from a “no big deal” observation to serious clashes with how you were raised. The best way to ease into the culture of the new country is to understand that cultural differences are to be expected and try to keep an open mind.

Decide what to do with your current home and belongings: You will want to think carefully about what to do with your current household - especially if you own a home or have extensive personal belongings. One option is to store your belongings in your home country, another is to sell or get rid of your belongings, a third option is to move your entire household to the new country. Understanding how you want to manage your personal belongings will help you decide what size apartment you need, whether or not it should be furnished, etc.

Ask for help: Contact a local expat organization, temporary housing specialist or relocation service in your destination country

Author: Gianni Finiguerra
Founder, MITO Real Estate - Temporary Housing Specialists
Tel: +39 011.303.2123
Internet: www.halldis.com

Posted 06Aug08