|Real Estate Primer
The majority of people who come to Moscow on a long-term employment contract are faced with the problem of finding a proper residence. You can opt for staying downtown and enjoying the entertainment, shopping and night life options the city has to offer. Families that come to Moscow with children would rather opt for staying in Moscow outskirts, the so-called cottage settlement, in order to provide safer ecological conditions for the children, sacrificing a considerable amount of time towards travelling to and from work.
Unlike many other larger cities, there is no real division between residential and business areas in Moscow yet. This means that wherever in the center you choose to settle, you will have easy access to shopping centers, supermarkets and cultural life. At the same time you will be able to enjoy the many smaller parks, quiet side streets and yards, and the historical charm of central Moscow.
In Russia, residential properties are categorized to the total number of rooms. Kitchen and bathrooms are not included in the room count (i.e. they are not counted as separate rooms). For example, a three-room apartment is an apartment with a living room and two other rooms (e.g. a bedroom and a study or two bedrooms), as well as kitchen and one (or more) bathrooms. Apartment size in Russia is indicated in square meters (m²). There are 10.7 square feet to one square meter.
In Russia, the concept of a ground floor is not common. Floor numbering usually starts from the very first floor, which may be residential or commercial. The first and the top are usually the least desirable, and rent should be cheaper that on the floor in-between.
Electricity: The power supply is 220V AC, 50 Hz.
Gas: While gas heaters are quickly disappearing from Moscow's apartment buildings, gas is still commonly used for cooking.
Water: Water is piped and, although officially safe to drink, is better avoided.
Heating: The heating system in Moscow is central and turned off from mid-April to mid-October.
TYPES OF BUILDINGS
There are many beautiful pre-revolutionary apartment blocks in the center of the city, and many of the apartments have been tastefully renovated. The apartments in the pre-revolutionary buildings are very popular among expatriates due to their spaciousness, charm, and character. The major attractive features of these buildings include their traditionally high ceilings and large windows.
Specific features of these buildings include high ceilings, large windows, and green yards. They tend to be nice and warm in winter due to their thick walls. The Stalin Blocks include the so-called Stalin Skyscrapers, of which there are seven in Moscow. Four of them are apartment buildings. One is located right outside metro Barrikadnaya, close to the US Embassy; one is on Kotelnicheskaya nab.; one is right outside metro Krasnye Vorota; and the last one is part of the Radisson Royal Hotel (former Ukraine Hotel), located right at the beginning of Kutuzovsky prosp. The combination of their architecture, spectacular views, and good security make them popular with expatriates.
Most of these buildings were built in the 1970s and early 1980s and were considered the first VIP blocks in Soviet times. Today they are popular for their clean entrance, good security (most of them have a fenced-in yard and twenty-four hour security), secure parking, large windows and balconies, and lots of built-in storage space.
VIP Apartment Buildings
This new generation buildings include Western developments and newly-constructed elite compounds. These buildings usually have a concierge, nice entrance, as well as equipped kitchens, air conditioning, and electronic alarm and fire control systems. Many also feature twenty-four hour security, an underground parking garage, or a private fenced-in yard. Some have a gym, sauna, and/or swimming pool.
While some are located in the city center, others are located outside of the Garden Ring. They offer professional on-site property management and good security. Townhouses in gated communities catering to expatriates and the Russian nouveau riche are also available. There are bargains to be had. Rental prices can sometimes be reduced by 10 to 30% from the original price depending on how long the apartment has been on the market; what the landlord's main interest is (price or timing); the type of building and its location; and the season. The basic rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the center of Moscow or to a metro station, the more you will have to pay.
What You Can Expect to Pay for Rent
Rental prices in Moscow can range from $ 600 a month for a Soviet-style studio or one-bedroom apartment far from the city center to $10,000 and $20,000 a month for a luxury apartment in downtown Moscow. Generally, rental rates for Western-style housing in Moscow are very high and are comparable to those in downtown New York, London, or Tokyo. Prices also depend on whether the neighbourhood is industrialized and polluted or green with parks and trees. Remember to ask your real estate agent whether taxes, such as VAT, are included in the quoted rental price or not.
What You Should and Should not Pay for
Expatriate residential expenses in Russia usually consist of monthly (or quarterly) rental payments. Rent should include all municipal facilities such as water, heating, and building maintenance. Electricity, gas bills and the monthly phone line subscription fee are usually excluded from the monthly rent because the final sum depends on how much, e.g. gas or electricity you use each month. Charges for electricity and gas are still very low in Russia and shouldn't add more than a few dollars to your monthly rental costs. In addition to this, you will of course have to pay the phone bill for any inter-city and international phone calls, as well as the monthly subscription fee for satellite TV.
When renting an apartment through a real estate agency, be prepared to pay a commission fee equal to one month rent. When making the first rental payment to the landlord, you will usually also be expected to pay a one-month security deposit, which is then used as the rent for the last month of your stay in the apartment or house. When negotiating your rental contract, make sure it clearly states who has to pay for what in order to avoid problems later on.