More than one million people move between EU nation states every year. France has traditionally been one of the most popular destinations for both second homes and complete relocations, especially from the UK. The fantastic culture, food and countryside make this a very appealing destination. The relatively affordable housing, more laid back way of life and low population density often seal the deal. So once you’ve found your dream home, it’s time to look at the practicality.

There are a whole raft of companies offering services to help you relocate to France. These include brokers, advisers, professional removals firms, hauliers and man with van outfits. Service levels and prices vary enormously, so it’s a real case of sorting the wheat from the chaff. The work you do at the start can pay massive dividends for your move.

Let’s start with the brokers and relocation experts. It’s very tempting to pass over all the organisation to a third party with lots of experience: after all, you’re taking something of a leap into the unknown. Your French may not be completely up to scratch yet, so you may want the help of someone who can deal with the authorities, the transportation companies, estate agents and solicitors. You will pay a premium, however. With France, unlike a lot of countries, the paperwork and visa situation is not particularly onerous. It’s up to you whether you feel a relocation consultant is absolutely necessary.

Brokers will do exactly what you’d do on your own, i.e. shop around for quotes from hauliers and removals companies. However, where you may look at up to twenty companies, the broker will talk to hundreds or even thousands on your behalf. And not just those who come up in the Yellow Pages or in a Google search. Hauliers are travelling across Europe every single day, and they prefer, for financial reasons, to travel full rather than half full. So you may find that a broker can negotiate a much keener quote than you can by dealing direct with transportation and freight firms … but don’t forget they will take a big cut.

If however you decide to solicit quotes yourself, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you’re hiring the right firm. It’s not astrophysics: you just want your possessions to be moved on schedule, safely and affordable, from A to B. OK, so B is overseas, but we’re not talking air freight and major customs controls. It’s staggering therefore how much the price and what you get for it can vary. You really do need to shop around.

Your research up front will pay dividends in the long run. Don’t be fooled by gloss adverts in the Sunday papers or fantastic looking websites. Instead, it’s worth compiling a list through a targetted internet search and then checking out what other people have to say about different companies. There are many Moving to France forums on the internet where you will get candid accounts from previous customers of what a company was actually like.

When your shortlist is prepared, you need to really suss out these companies. What is included and what isn’t. Watch out for surcharges and VAT, plus complex policies and pricing that can be hiding something. What you want is clear, unequivocal information and pricing – that you can understand. It’s a very good idea to draw up a list, or inventory, of what will need transporting. This means you can get an accurate, personalised quote rather than a vague idea or a standard package. It will also help you should you need to make an insurance claim for damage or loss later on.