Checklist for moving house overseas

Private Property South Africa
Jackie Gray-Parker

Moving house is stressful at the best of times but the stress is multiplied when moving abroad. Here are some tips to help you with your move if you’re emigrating.

As is the case whenever a country experiences challenges, some of its residents inevitably seek out ‘greener’ pastures. The statistics and facts surrounding the thorny issue of emigration in South Africa are debatable. Whatever the truth behind the numbers, emigration is happening which usually entails moving house.

Moving house is no simple matter. Moving house to another country is another matter entirely and can be a complicated and downright intimidating affair. The following are just a few of the aspects which need to be carefully considered if you are planning on moving overseas.

Dot the i’s and cross the t’s:

Ensuring you have all the correct documentation in place before you make a move is imperative. Although it is sometimes possible to emigrate in your own capacity, the process can be overwhelming and fraught with difficulties. As such, you may want to engage an emigration specialist to assist on this score.

Documents which typically need to prepared (if you are not already a citizen of your chosen country) include, amongst others, police clearance certificates, medical certificates, birth and marriage/ divorce certificates and the relevant permits/ visas which will entitle you to work and live abroad. Your passports and ID’s should also be up to date. Once you have all the necessary documentation and secured a spot for yourself and/ or your family via the correct channels, you can make the physical move.

Wrapping things up at your current residence:

Generally speaking, whether you own or rent a property, you will have to make arrangements to move out. If you are renting this is a fairly straightforward matter. If you own the property you live in things get more complicated. You may want to rent it out, continue to let other family members live there or sell it outright.

Keep in mind that if you intend to sell the property and need the money to emigrate it may take longer than you think which could scupper your plans. As such, it would be wise to plan a sale well in advance.

Your plans will also need to take into account your belongings. Depending on your situation you may want to store them, sell them, give them away or ship them. The choice is yours really. Again, plan well in advance what you want to do on this score.


Shipping your belongings can be a complex matter in its own right. Aspects which need to be considered include deciding exactly what it is you are going to ship, the cost of shipping versus purchasing new goods in your new country, timing (it can take months for your belongings to reach your chosen destination by sea) and the services offered by the shipping company.

Other aspects to consider include, amongst others, costs relating to applicable duties and taxes, freight charges, storage, delivery to your new residence, access to your old and new property, special packing requirements, insurance and warranties.

Before you commit to anything, shop around and obtain quotes from at least three shipping companies. It would be wise to also check sites such as Hello Peter to see how people rate the shipping company you are interested in. Generally speaking, it’s better to go with tried and trusted companies which have been around for some time.

To rent or buy?

Whether you are in the extremely fortunate position of being able to purchase a property outright overseas or, like most expats, have to rent a property first, there are a few basic principles which apply.

Arguably the most important aspects to consider are affordability and the property’s proximity to your place of work, schools, supermarkets and hospitals. The nature of the neighbourhood, the associated running costs and quality of the property are also important considerations.

If you are unsure about any of these points, rather hold off committing to a purchase and rent, or rent somewhere else until you get to know your adopted country better. Also make very sure you understand the terms relating to rentals or purchases as these can differ greatly from country to country.

Your pets:

With all the excitement and stress of moving to another country, people can sometimes forget to factor in their pets. If for whatever reason you can’t take your animals, do the right thing by them and make sure they are properly re-homed and cared for before leaving.

If you can take your pets with you, do your homework and get quotes from several pet moving companies. Moving a pet overseas is quite a specialised business so it’s important to go with a tried and tested, specialised company that knows what it’s doing and will take good care of your beloved pet.

It’s also important to keep in mind that moving your pet can take several months due to local and international quarantine laws. With this in mind, make sure your pet has all the necessary vaccinations and the correct procedures are carried out leading up to the move otherwise you and your pet might only be reunited in your new country long after you’ve already left.

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