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Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 11
Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Hi everybody,

The wife and I are thinking of retiring to France. Before we get too carried away, I need a dose of reality, especially as it pertains to all the stuff we've accumulated over the years.

First, there are computers, stereos, guitars/amps and power tools we'd want to take. I understand enough about electricity to know that the U.S. standard is 110 volts and Europe is 220, and that adapters and converters are available. What I don't know is if the aforementioned items will work in France just as well as they do in the U.S. if I use some type of adapter or converter.

Next, our furniture. I've done some preliminary checking into what it would cost to move some of our stuff from the Midwest U.S. to Central France. It looks as though it could run tens of thousands of dollars, and I'm sure there's hassle upon hassle in getting our stuff over there in one piece. However, the other options available to us aren't much better:

1. Try to sell our stuff here. (When I see $2500 china hutches selling on eBay for $150, I lose interest in this option quickly.)

2. Give it to charity and take the tax deduction. (Still a money losing option, but we'd likely come out better than with the first option.)

3. Give our stuff away to family and friends. (Not a bad option, but we'd probably only find takers for about a fourth of our stuff.)

4. Try and sell our home as "furnished". (Very challenging to find the right buyer with this option.)

Any advice on these matters would be greatly appreciated. We're serious about checking out the French real estate market, but we may have some show-stoppers here.
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm a huge fan of selling items on Craigslist. You still will only get 50% at best of what you paid for it, but I think it's a better option than eBay (and doesn't require shipping). I just always make a statement about "CASH ONLY. NO DELIVERIES" in any of my postings.
beanweb24 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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My parents moved to France from California and back again (to North Carolina) eleven years later.

They did not take any furniture. Furniture from another country just does not fit in the space of the new country. Too big or too small or just wrong.

Abandon anything electric. It's not just current (110 vs 220), it's also cycles (60 vs 50) -- so anything with a motor will burn out sooner or later. Face it: it is good to buy new things. Or to decide that you don't need to buy them after all.

After my parents moved from North Carolina to Florida, they lived there happily for a number of years before my father died. My mother was already well into her Alzheimer's symptoms, so I had to go and dispose of an entire life of possessions and memories. Most of the furniture and related items went for maybe 15-20% of the value to an auction house. Most of the dishes and little items went to Goodwill. 90% of the clothes went to a Veterans' organization. I saved the ancestral dishes and crystal and other trinkets and decorative items, the family photos and related items, and the odd item here and there that had sentimental value but absolutely zero "real" value. An example: the wooden spoon for stirring pots on the stove that my parents had been using for the last 15 years.

All of the tools in the garage, the fishing equipment (a family obsession, but not one that I can really enjoy living in Paris) and various handicrafts went to my brother who lives in California.

My opinion? It is good to purge yourself of the majority of your items before you make a big move. Take only things of sentimental value and replace everything else. Most of the stuff needs to be replaced anyway, right? And even some of your new stuff just isn't the right item for France.

Anyway, that's my opinion about this subject. Good luck if you go through with your plan.
kerouac is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:19 AM
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You're going to have to look at your stuff from a bulk and weight versus value perspective, because you're going to have to ship all this stuff at great expense. Big heavy things like furniture are a loser. I would ditch them, and buy new when you get there with the money you've saved, unless your furniture is truly valuable, heirloom quality. By "heirloom" I mean ACTUAL HEIRLOOM, not just two-year-old Ethan Allen. There's a reason those "$2500 china hutches" only go for peanuts on Ebay.

Likewise, I would ditch the power tools -- I wouldn't want to convert the power on anything like a tool. Your guitar will be fine, but your amp won't be. Your computer just needs a new power cord, which I'm sure you can get at any computer shop over there -- all computer power supplies are dual voltage (but you'd better move that slider!)

You are likely to find that your current stuff not only costs a fortune to ship, but doesn't fit into a central France lifestyle. Get rid of it!
fnarf999 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:20 AM
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1."better than with the first option"
The fact you say you'd be economically better off donating infers you would plan to deduct $2500, and get a (30%) tax deduction of $750.
Not to question your charitable nature, but you LEGITIMATELY, LEGALLY, and ETHICALLY can only deduct $150 for a (originally $2500) hutch whose resale value is $150.

Further, would you rather have a tax deduction as above of 30% of $150 = $30, or the $150? You're money ahead with the garage sale.
2. What would you do for health isurance? Even if you're lucky enough to have employer insurance post-retire-ment, in such a drastic move, you should consider all contingencies, such that your seemingly perpetual insurance can be taken away in this day and age...and Medicare doesn't cover in France.
tomboy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:21 AM
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Thanks. I've never used Craigslist, but I'll check it out. I'm pretty sure I could live with a 50% "loss" on the stuff we'd leave behind.
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:34 AM
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Thanks everybody else! Some great advice, and I'm slowly but surely coming around to the idea that divesting myself of worldly possessions is healthy for any number of reasons.

And tomboy, I'm aware of the tax law regarding charitable contributions. Trust me, I wouldn't be declaring the "fair market value" of our hutch at $2500, but I wouldn't declare to be $150 either. You raise a good point about health insurance, too. I need to get smarter about our options in this area as well.
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 10:56 AM
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I trust you're already aware of the fact that you can't just up and move to France and have at least initiated all the formalities with the Embassy and so on....
StCirq is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 11:28 AM
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Hi BB,

>The wife and I are thinking of retiring to France.

1. Medicare doesn't cover you outside the US.

2. The Euro is now at $1.36 and unlikely to drop much in the next 10 years.

3. You have to get a permit to live in France.

4. If you move somewhere near Paris, you will trade your 2500 sq ft $300,000 home for an 800 sq ft apartment at similar cost, without an elevator or AC. It's not much cheaper in other cities.

5. Unless you have some good antiques, nothing you own is worth more than 1/4 what you paid for it.

6. Shipping anything but items of sentimental value isn't worth the shipping costs.

7. Before you sell everything and move, go live in France from Feb thru April and again from June through August.

8. You should plan to do this about 10 years before you retire.

Hope it works out for you.

ira is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 12:13 PM
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"I trust you're already aware of the fact that you can't just up and move to France and have at least initiated all the formalities with the Embassy and so on"

Well, yes and no.

"Before you sell everything and move, go live in France from Feb thru April and again from June through August."

Right now we're living where the summers are hot and humid and the winters are often bitterly cold. I hate the former and my wife hates the latter. Part of the appeal of France (at least the areas we're considering) is a considerable moderation in those extremes.

It looks like I'd better begin focusing on what all is involved in being able to move to France, buying property there, and possibly becoming a citizen (to participate in their health care system).

My wife will be retiring from her job next year, and we'll continue having health care benefits per her union contract. I need to see if we're covered overseas. And, of course, I realize retirees are guaranteed nothing anymore.

Thanks again, all.
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 12:17 PM
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The electric guitars will work - the amps will need converters. Shame to sell those if you really love them.
As far as the rest goes it isn't worth taking. Maybe a couple of pieces of furniture that you are really fond of, but it's really a great oppotunity to have a clear out and make a fresh start.
However you do need to look into the problems of settling in France from a legal point of view and also for your health care and pension provisions. Not to mention a social view - do you speak French? Do you have friends/family there already? If not then will you really be happy an ocean away from them?
I moved from the UK to the Netherlands and it took a long time to build up social contacts here, and I had three young kids to help me out. And when family in the UK needed me that little bit of North Sea might as well have been the Pacific!
hetismij is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 12:28 PM
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Framed pictures from your current home for the walls and your favourite decorative items are more important than your current furniture for making you feel at home. If you use Christmas decorations, that is also quite important to take with you as well, to make the link with your previous home.

It is not too hard to prove that you have sufficent revenue to live in France (assuming that you do) but look long and hard for a local French insurance company to cover health needs at a reasonable price. MAAF, MACIF and MAIF are good companies to check. The first M in each name is "Mutuelle" meaning that they are not-for-profit.
analogue is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 12:30 PM
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http://tinyurl.com/ymwge3 has a lot of information for you.

What part of France do you plan to retire to? Have you read "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle yet?

I would go over and find a house or apartment before making decisions on disposal of your goods. While there do some shopping so you know what the replacement costs will be. Maybe there is a nearby Ikea, a good source of reasonably priced furniture and housewares.

As mentioned by StCirq and ira the French government has some pretty strict rules on getting your residence permit. I've looked into this in the past. I've also recently read about special terms for Americans who want to move to the Netherlands under terms of the Holland-American Friendship Treaty. That might grease the initial move. You have to start a business. Minimum capitalization is minimal. See http://tinyurl.com/2dotac.

The Medicare issue might be a minor detail since medical care is less expensive over there and you can buy insurance. Hop over to Budapest for dental work based on what I've been reading.

hopscotch is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 12:35 PM
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Consider a shipping container. 20 or 40 foot. You can have it delivered to your driveway, you load it and then they take it away...to France.

I suggest you walk through the whole process...there may be 10,000 Americans living in France and countless more elsewhere.

Try a year without an actual commitment. Don't burn the bridges!
GSteed is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 12:41 PM
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becoming a citizen isn't just you deciding that is what you want to do.

Unless you've done a lot more research than what you posts indicate - don't assume you can just move there and sign on to the health system. You current plan might cover you overseas - but not that many do. Mine does - but I have to pay up front and then they reimburse me when I return to the States. It would not cover me if I moved overseas.

"Right now we're living where the summers are hot and humid and the winters are often bitterly cold." But you probably have forced air heating and a/c.

Not that the lack of a/c should be a decider - my point is don't assume the climate will be that much more moderate.
janisj is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 01:09 PM
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Bear in mind that, if you've an emergency, you must have either the cash or the French insurance card. I really don't think that, in the midst of your heart attack, that you'd get far saying, "just bill me, and when I get reimbursed in a few months from my insurance company back in the US, I'll pay you what I owe". Particularly if your French isn't the best.
tomboy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 01:22 PM
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Don't move, but go there on holiday. It's just a dream, why can't it remain one.
logos999 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 01:26 PM
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tomboy, in a real emergency, medical care is free for anyone in France, legal or illegal. Emergency rooms take care of people, no questions asked. It is probably one of the reasons that France is #1 in medical care in the world, according to the WHO.

To address the question of shipping containers, I should mention that my parents discovered that they could have shipped more than they expected once they saw all of the space left over in the container.
kerouac is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 02:01 PM
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Some great comments and suggestions here, folks. To fill in some more details:

- Our home will be paid off next April. (How ira knew the details of its size and value, I'll probably never know.)

- Our net worth, along with no criminal record or other "issues", probably gets us past the first hurdle of acceptance by the French authorities.

- We are looking at locations in Limousin, Auvergne and thereabouts, where I understand properties are relatively cheap.

- I've located websites with historical weather data, and while it's true that the climate may not be a drastic improvement over what we have now, it's definitely better. Regardless, the suggestion to visit and immerse ourselves in the country, the culture and the climate is a good one.

- There are no family issues that would be a major issue in our leaving the country, and many of our closest friends are several times zones away as it is.

- I had 4.5 years of French back in high school and college, and have been tapping my memory banks in recent weeks to see what's still there. Surprisingly, I've retained a good bit of vocabulary.

I appreciate the idea of keeping the dream alive and simply going to France on holiday. And who knows -- that may be how all this works out. Still, I'll probably be doing some cubic footage calculations on the items that would have to cross the Atlantic with us.

Many thanks again, everyone. I've learned more today than I have in the past month of research.
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 02:55 PM
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Question for Kerouac:
Free ER care: at what point does that cease? That can't mean that, if a 21 year old alien has an incapacitating heart attack or stroke, that health care is free for the rest of his life.
The devil's always in the details. So in the case I originally posted about, once one is stabilized, does the meter begin to tick? At what point does free end, and billing begin?
tomboy is offline  

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