I thought I’d share another chapter from my book (My guide to a successful relocation). In the last month or so I have spoken to a number of expats who are just finished with their initial relocation to a new country and many of them have shared not so positive stories about their relocation consultant experience. I was lucky with one relocation to have an excellent consultant but with my second a below average experience. I learned a lot about how to handle a consultant. I know that on one hand people who get a relocation consultant offered to them by their new employers are lucky as not all people have this but even if they are not paying for the service out of their own pockets, someone is and the consultant should be offering the best service they can. Anyway onto the chapter below….Managing a relocation consultant
Depending where you are relocating to and the level of the new job you may be fortunate enough to be offered the services of a relocation consultant, or at least decide to use your own. There are enormous benefits to using a relocation service, especially when it comes to finding somewhere to live that suits you and your budget. Having the inside track on life in the new city, from the culture to the bureaucracy, is also really useful.
The relocation company will be chosen by the new employers hopefully because they have been successful in finding people suitable accommodation. They will also often handle registrations and opening bank accounts in your new country. However, not all relocation consultants are created equal and there are certainly a number of ways you can make sure you get the most out of their services.
Being Clear from the start
You need to be clear from the outset what your relocation consultant can do for you within the package offered by your new employers. There may be a maximum number of properties they are permitted to show you, as was the case when we moved to Berlin, and if the market is tough you may get through your allocation pretty swiftly.
Find out from the start what is offered within the package and perhaps renegotiate the terms before the process starts. It may be the case that you will want to do some things yourself and keep the areas where their expertise lies in reserve.
Think about your budget carefully
One of the first things they will ask is what is your budget for rent. For many people moving to a new country this is a total guess. Make sure you ask your consultant for honest advice on what you should expect to pay for your desired level of accommodation before you think about this figure. You should also consider other associated costs such as heating and TV which may be added to the base rent price but will need to be paid.
It is important that you set a reasonable budget, but it is also useful to set an absolute maximum as you may find that your first figure is not enough for what you need or what is available. You don’t want to have to scramble about doing calculations. Tell your consultant the first figure but keep the other one in reserve.
Take the initiative
To a certain extent you can’t be totally reliant on your consultant. Use property rental websites to get an idea of the type of accommodation you are likely to be looking at, both in your budget and desired location. In our case when moving to Berlin our consultant gave us a login to the rental portal she used so we would browse ourselves and also make notes about places for her to see. Making notes about properties is essential as after some time looking you can forget which property was which and why you liked or didn’t like one. Also, if you see a pattern emerging of reasons why you are rejecting places you need to make sure your consultant is aware of this.
I know this is something I will keep coming back to but realistic expectations are essential. This is another area your consultant should be able to help you with.
Before you start working with the consultant you need to do some clear thinking of your own about how you see your new life. Do you want real city living in a central apartment or a more suburban lifestyle in a house? We downsized from a four bedroom detached house in the UK to a 100square metre, four room (excluding kitchen and bathroom) city apartment, but we loved it. The space was perfect for us at that time. You need to think about how many rooms you really need. When we were just a couple we wanted a second room which could be used as a guest room for the few weeks of the year people visited, and it also doubled up as office space. But you need to think about how important that extra room is, and is it worth the extra money in rent.
Set your priorities honestly
Setting your priorities is important, but you need to be prepared to be flexible. We were advised to think of our top three priorities for our new place. Was location very important? Was the number of rooms and size of the apartment an issue? Do you need an elevator (a dream in some period apartment buildings in Northern Europe)? If so, and one isn’t available, then what is the highest floor you are prepared to trek up to? Are you bringing a pet? Do you have a car? Parking can be an issue in some city areas. Do you need your own laundry room or washing machine, or are you happy to share a communal one (as is often the case in Copenhagen)? There are many things you may think are important, but what are the real deal-breakers? You need to be realistic but at the same time flexible, as what you normally expect from your home country may not be possible.
Location, location, location
I truly believe that location is the most important thing that can make or break a new relocation. I really think you can make an average apartment work if you are living in a great location; it is harder to make a bad location work even if the apartment is perfect. Think about areas of your new city you think you might like to move to, and again order them in priority. Usually this is dependent on the location of your new workplace, especially if you want to keep commuting time to a minimum, but you may be prepared to compromise on this for your perfect location or to find somewhere that fits your budget. Research beforehand is helpful, but so is asking your consultant for an honest view, and perhaps arranging a time with her or alone to visit some second choice areas. You can explore the areas around your potential apartments to get a feel of the local community. Also, take a look at Google Maps and Street View. It might not be immediately obvious what is close to you and potentially disruptive or disturbing if you were living there – like a school or a late night bar.
I cannot stress enough the importance of communication – both ways – with your consultant. You need to be sure that they understand your ideas so they can give you relevant advice. If you feel really strongly against a place they have shown you, tell them and explain why. It will save time in the long run as you will avoid seeing more of the same. If you are very new to a city, get advice from your consultant about the areas they recommend in light of your budget and priorities. Also ask them if your priorities are realistic. I realise that time is often a luxury when relocating, but there is a lot you can do virtually to help aid your decision and maximise the time you do have with your consultant.
You are the boss
Remember they are working for you; be confident but open to advice. If you are really not happy with the service your designated consultant is offering you, ask if you can have another one. I know no one wants to offend anyone, but once they are off the scene you can then be stuck in a situation that is wrong for you in the long term.
Give feedback at the end
You will probably breathe a huge sigh of relief once the final box is unpacked in your new home, but it is very worthwhile to share your experience with the relocation company. I am a big believer in giving feedback – both good and bad. Once you have found your home and registered and your contract is over with the relocation consultant, make sure you give feedback about the service you received. If things worked well, tell them, and if others didn’t, say this too. If there were things where you could have used help or more assistance, tell them this too. All of this will help the next people.
If you enjoyed this chapter you can buy the book either in paperback or for the Kindle here.