January 12, 2021

The Ultimate Guide to International House Removals

Congratulations on your upcoming move abroad!

As you’re planning your move, you’re likely feeling excited about the upcoming adventure. After all, you’re getting to see more of the world, broadening your horizons even further! You’re probably also pretty busy, which is only natural. So, it makes sense to reach out for help so you can enjoy the adventure with an experienced guide at your side.

You may hear other people describe their move to another country as stressful. Fortunately, there is a key to stress-free home removals, and that’s pre-planning.

This ultimate international house removals guide will help you to embrace your move and all of its planning with gusto—and allow you to look it straight in the eye and say, “I’ve got this!" If you already know about Sterling Lexicon’s reputation for top quality international moving services and are ready to get started, simply contact us for a free quote.

Or you can read our ultimate guide first to provide you with the information you need for your international move.

Selecting Your International Movers

Choosing experienced international movers and packers is essential for a successful out-of-country move. When looking for one that meets minimum quality standards, check to see if they belong to quality organizations such as FIDI. These global alliances set the moving industry’s quality standards and protect the delivery of your household goods if your chosen mover gets into any type of financial struggles.

Once you’ve made a list of the best international movers for your needs, you can whittle your list down. How? By considering these four important factors:

  • Quality and Financial Stability
  • Service Options
  • Customer Experience
  • Cost

Quality and Financial Stability

Moving is tough enough without having your household goods damaged, lost in transit, or held up at customs because your provider couldn’t pay clearance fees. So, first ensure that movers on your shortlist belong to one of the professionals organizations named above. Plus, if you check reviews for these international removal companies, do you see financial red flags?

Service Options

When moving across country lines or overseas, working with a home removal company that offers end-to-end services can greatly reduce stress, allowing you to focus on the more exciting steps in the move process. The best international movers also provide additional services to support you during this exciting transition. These are sometimes referred to as third-party services and can include:

  • Vehicle shipping
  • Pet relocation services
  • Handyman services
  • Maid services
  • Settling-in services

young couple on home searchMany movers also coordinate destination services. We’ll share more about that later but, for now, destination services help you acclimate to your new home before and after your arrival. If you can afford to include these moving add-ons to your budget, they are typically worth the expense:

  • Home search
  • School search
  • Area tours

If you’re considering international movers who offer a nice range of third-party and add-on services, be sure to ask if that mover will be your sole point of contact. If so, that’s what you want to hear. If you don’t get a straight answer, though, odds are that you will be carrying a list of dozens of contacts in your smartphone to keep track of all the people with whom you’ll need to facilitate the move—and that complicates, rather than simplifies, your international move.

Customer Experience

Yes, you’ll want a single point of contact—but that alone doesn’t mean that your international moving company will provide all of the services you’ll need. No international movers can, in fact, get you from Point A to Point B with a long-distance relocation all alone.

The best international moving companies will therefore rely upon partnerships with like-minded, trusted, and certified organizations to perform services in other cities or countries. Partnering with other organizations to deliver certain services is often referred to managing the global supply chain.

So, more specifically, you’ll want to search for a home removal company that focuses on streamlining the process across different suppliers to make it easy for you through the use of a single point of contact. Sometimes called move counselors or consultants, these individuals manage suppliers and third-party services so you don’t have to remember multiple company names and their contact information.

Your single point of contact should also guide you through every step of the move process, including preparing customs documents and keeping you informed of delivery times and possible interruptions that may arise.


International moving quotes, also known as estimates, are based on estimated weight/volume, and you’ll need to ensure that these estimates include door-to-door service and specifically state the list of items to be moved.

The estimate should include any charges for third-party expenses such as packing, crating, customs clearance, and ocean freight/trucking, plus container sizes to be used when moving your belongings, and so forth.

If you look at the house removal companies on your shortlist, how do they rank on these important factors?

Your Move Consultant

Once you have chosen a quality international mover, you will be assigned a certified move consultant who will be your guide throughout the process. Your consultant will help you select a departure date, check in to your host country, meet packing requirements, and more.

moving consultant talking to customer

During transit, your consultant will monitor your belongings, confirm scheduled services with carriers, and keep you informed of the progress. At your destination, your consultant will help schedule deliveries, obtain necessary documentation, and assist with any destination services you may need.

Selecting Your Moving Dates

Like other industries, the moving industry experiences high-volume periods. For example, house removal services are in high demand during summer months and school holidays. So, be sure to book your moving dates early to ensure your move will take place when you need it to happen.

Involving Your Children

father and daughter outside new homeHome removals can be stressful for the entire family. This is especially true of children, who may not understand why you’re moving and what that will really mean for them. So, involve them in the process by talking to them about the steps that will take place and explaining why this move is important. Maintaining a positive attitude will help your kids adapt more easily to the changes coming their way.

Identifying Your Prized Possessions

We all have possessions that are irreplaceable: for example, photos, family heirlooms, or gifts from friends or relatives. Make sure to tell your consultant about the things that matter most to you so they can alert the packing crews to take extra steps to protect those items throughout the move.

Consulting and Surveying Steps

A critical step to preparing an accurate cost estimate is the pre-move survey. A smartphone video survey is the most popular option right now, especially with concerns around health, hygiene and safety. The process is extremely simple and allows you to virtually walk an estimator through your home so they accurately determine how much weight/volume your household goods will equate to. Be sure to show your video consultant every item that you are planning to move and specify which items are staying behind or going into storage. This will help the surveyor accurately calculate a price for your move.

During your move, your possessions could be shipped by land, sea, air, or a combination of methods. The method used for your move will be determined by your destination, timeframe, and budget.

Gathering Important Customs Documentation

Successfully executing an international move requires several mandatory documents. Your consultant will make sure you complete or provide all of the specific documents needed for your move, and some of these include:

  • Copy of a legal passport
  • Copy of a visa
  • Transit cover documents
  • Customs regulations documents

The last item is important because some items you intend to ship to your new destination may be regulated by customs. Your consultant will help you determine which items may be subject to special permissions. The most common items that often fall in this category include:

  • Pets
  • Medication
  • Money
  • House Plants
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Firearms
  • Alcohol
  • Food
  • Antiques

Protecting Your Belongings

You have always taken steps to carefully protect your personal items with all types of insurance. As you prepare to relocate your items internationally, it is more important than ever to make sure your belongings are protected. As noted, your property may travel by truck, railroad, ship, or plane over a very long distance.

Certified moving companies should take steps to carefully protect your belongings and, in the unexpected instance of lost or damaged items, they should offer transit cover protection which will cover repair and/or replacement costs. You have two options for transit cover protection:

  • Volume Cover (Lump Sum): This option establishes an average value per cubic feet/meter. The value is calculated on the actual volume of goods you are moving. If you are paying the premium prior to packing and the actual volume is different from the estimated volume, an additional premium may be required. For road, sea, air, and storage shipments, the value is calculated at the current rate per cubic foot, plus any individual items valued at a high cost (see your transit cover application form for more details), which must be itemized separately and added to the total standard valuation.
  • Itemized Valued Inventory Cover: For this option you would need to provide a complete list of the items to be shipped and their estimated replacement value at destination.

Regardless of which option you choose, any items of high value should be listed on the high value inventory so the moving crew can provide additional packing and/or crating services to protect those items (see your transit cover application form for more details).

Collecting Personal Documents

Make sure you have your important personal documents and paperwork together before your move. You may want to consider making photo or electronic copies of these documents and keep them somewhere safe. Examples of these documents include:

  • Valid passports
  • Travel documents
  • Birth certificates
  • Bank and credit references
  • Pension/Social Security documentation
  • Medical and dental records
  • Vaccination records
  • Insurance documents
  • School records
  • Tax documents
  • Vehicle documentation

Packing and Loading

On the packing day, your crew supervisor will review your move details before work begins, to ensure that the services provided are consistent with those discussed during your pre-move consultation.

moving crew member unpacking truck

Packers will protect your personal belongings with international packing materials that are designed to keep your belongings protected during long transitions and place them into cartons and/or tailor-made wooden crates to keep them safe from damage.

Taking Inventory

A detailed inventory list will be created, describing each item and its condition as your items are wrapped, packed, and loaded. The inventory list will be used to clear your shipment through customs, and you will also use this list at your destination to ensure that all your items have arrived and are in the same condition as when packed.

Defining “Do Not Pack” Items

Be sure to clearly define for the packing crew which items should be packed and loaded and which items should be left behind. The pre-move surveyor will provide you with stickers that you can use on items that you do not intend to take to your new home. Plus, you may need clothing, electronics, documents, and personal care items during your trip—and so you won’t want those packed by the movers.

Preparing Your Appliances

Before the packers arrive, be sure that all appliances have been cleaned, disconnected, and prepared for transport. Some items like washers, dryers, and refrigerators may require special services to prepare for the move. Your move consultant can help arrange those services.

Packing Your Own Boxes/Cartons

To avoid delays or complications with potential physical inspection during international customs clearance, it is recommended that your mover pack your belongings. And, a majority of the time, international moves will not transport your household goods if they do not pack them for you.

Expecting Your Delivery

When you have arrived at your destination, you will experience a transition period while adapting to your new surroundings and settling into your new home. The pre-planning you have done on the front end of your move, fortunately, will help make this adjustment much easier.

lgbt couple settling in to new homeYour consultant will notify you when your delivery date is confirmed. It is extremely important that you are on site when your shipment is delivered to your new home and that you check your belongings thoroughly as they are unloaded. In the unlikely event that you find missing or damaged items, mark it on the inventory list and report it immediately to your consultant.

Benefiting From Destination Services

Having your household goods delivered is just the beginning of the settling-in process. Talk to your consultant about additional services that can help you and your entire family feel at home in your new destination. These services include:

  • Cultural training
  • Language lessons
  • School finding
  • Partner support
  • Home finding assistance
  • Settling-In service
  • Short term accommodation
  • Departure service

Ready to get started with your cross borders move? Sterling Lexicon can help.

International Removals with Sterling Lexicon

We have been expertly guiding people and families through their relocations for more than 30 years. Our specialists provide personalized service, along with an easy-to follow plan. We keep you on schedule and within your budget so your focus can stay where it should be: on the excitement of the move and the adventures that lie ahead!

Our dedicated move consultants are experienced in the industry, averaging 12 years of hands-on service. Our moving plans are flexible, built around the unique needs of your family—never boxing you into a plan that’s not right for you.

Contact us for a free quote!


Lynsey DeSouza

Lynsey DeSouza

As Marketing Manager for Sterling Lexicon, Lynsey brings over ten years of experience working within the B2B and B2C markets throughout the EMEA and APAC regions, designing and executing successful strategies and campaigns. She brings a deep understanding of the competitive landscape, market data and consumer behaviour to her role, serving as a liaison between the marketing and sales teams and project manager for multiple lead-generating and brand-awareness-raising initiatives. Lynsey leads and reports on the ongoing enhancements and improvements to the Sterling Lexicon website in the areas of market research, content development, translation, and optimisation for improved user experiences, external rankings, and conversions. Lynsey can be reached at lynsey.desouza@sterlinglexicon.com.

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