REMOVAL brokers are a way to reduce the high cost of moving house. There are many reasons behind the high prices charged by French firms.
Home-owners typically move less frequently than in the UK. This leads to fewer removal companies and less competition. As much of the mobile population lives in a few large cities, moves are often from one flat to another nearby so the DIY option of hiring a van remains popular.
This results in less demand for removals firms - and fewer firms. Sometimes the price problem is compounded by language difficulties in understanding what is included in the quote. This, plus high labour costs, helps explain why French firms tend to be expensive and why service levels are often not of the same standard as in the UK.
However, over the past five years activity in France by non-French removal firms has increased dramatically.
According to Peter Driscoll of ET Brokers (www.etbrokers-removals.com) a good way to take advantage of this is to use a removals broker such as his firm.
He said: “You can simply contact your broker and ask him to find you a removal company that is going to be in your area at the time you want to move.”
UK firms delivering in France often unload on Fridays and, as HGVs are not allowed to drive on the motorways on Sundays and bank holidays in France, many find themselves stuck.
The more enterprising have found that while they cannot drive on a Sunday, they can load or unload their vans, turning a “dead day” into an earning one.
Companies whose lorries are on their way back to the UK have no extra vehicle costs compared to those making an internal move because both legs of their journey can generate income.
The same applies to other foreign firms in France, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch, Italian and German ones. On a daily basis there are more than 100 foreign removal companies crossing France - all looking for work.
The problem is finding them and this is where using a broker can help. You will have to supply details of the load size, which can normally be estimated over the phone. The broker will aim to find someone who can complete your move at a much lower price than you could find on your own.
The broker, who is independent and familiar with all the different firms, will be able to explain the strengths and weaknesses of companies interested in your job.
The services of the brokerage are “free” as they usually only charge you if they find you a company and save you money.
Using a brokerage to help you move is a fairly new trend. Mr Driscoll, who set up ET Brokers five years ago, said: “It was set up amid howls of pain from established removals companies.
“They thought - correctly - brokerage would mean an end to a quasi-monopoly that had been providing inflated profits for years.
“As a result of brokerages, prices for the clients have indeed fallen but profits for companies have risen - instead of having to rely upon just one outward-bound client for profit, the removal companies can consult the brokers and find profitable return loads. This efficiency means that removal vans are no longer burning up valuable resources carrying nothing and carbon emissions are almost halved.”
Apart from removals within France, another area where a brokerage can help is if you have furniture in storage in the UK that you want to bring over. This scenario can cause problems. For example - you want to move to your new home in February.
You call the company storing your furniture and find that either they have stopped doing European removals or will not have a trip to your area of France until May.
“Often they will then propose to meet the dates you need - but at a high price,” said Mr Driscoll.
If your furniture is in a self-store then the problem is somewhat lessened, as you can ask the entire marketplace to give you a quote. It is however not always easy when you are in France and you are looking for a removal company in the UK.
The thing to remember is to search for a company not just in the area of the store but all over the country - companies that deal in European removals are always criss-crossing the entire UK.
Also you may be able to use a French company whose vehicle is returning empty from the UK. Once again, here you can ask a broker to assist.