Finding an apartment.
Finding an apartment
Unless your company provides relocation assistance, finding an apartment in Moscow can be a time-consuming and costly affair. There seems to be a general impression that all expats coming to Moscow have money to burn and a lot of English-speaking real estate agencies will charge accordingly. For example, there is a distinct lack of services available to those coming to Moscow to teach or work in media, where the salary is perhaps no higher than that of the average Muscovite. But with determination and a sensible attitude there are some great properties out there to be had, whatever your budget!
There are basically three main ways to rent an apartment in Moscow, all with advantages and disadvantages:
Renting through an agency
In countries such as the UK, this is by far the most common way to rent a property. The property owner pays the agency for managing the property and has very little direct contact with the tenant. While this can be an attractive option if you are coming to Russia for the first time or do not speak the language, this type of rental is typically more expensive as you are paying extra for peace of mind and having someone on hand should any issues arise.
The four main English-speaking agencies are Evans, Landmark, IntermarkSavills and Penny Lane. If you have a budget of less than 2000 USD per month then these agencies have limited options as they tend to deal with the luxury end of the market. If budget is no issue then they have some truly stunning properties in fantastic locations and excellent customer service! Please find the full list of Real Estate agencies here.
There is an abundance of realtors in Moscow who usually work on a freelance basis. They work on commission which is generally paid by the owner and the tenant. Commission is usually 50-100% of the monthly rent. Realtors will occasionally offer discounted commission rates if the rental amount is over a certain amount per month. Some realtors demand commission up front and then they get to work finding you a property. However, even realtors themselves acknowledge that this is risky and many are now paid commission once the tenant has signed the lease on the property. Always be wary of paying anything to realtors up front!
The realtor will coordinate with you to find out your requirements and will then usually send you a list of potential properties. You can choose which ones you would like to view. If you find an apartment, the realtor will then oversee the drafting of the lease agreement between you and the owner. From then on you will deal directly with the owner of the property and they will be your point of contact should you have any issues or queries.
Renting directly from the owner
This has obvious advantages such as no commission or agency fees. However, unless you have a lease agreement with the owner you have very little in the way of a safety net should anything go wrong.
That said many owners simply want to avoid commission and agency fees themselves, so this style of renting is very common in Moscow. As long as you are sensible, check everything out thoroughly and trust your instincts this can be a good option for those on a budget. This is also the most common way of renting rooms within a shared property.
Try classified adverts online or ask friends if they know of anyone who has a property to rent. Remember that English is not widely spoken in Moscow so you may need a Russian friend to help you if your language skills are limited.
· The rental market in Moscow moves at lightning speed so be prepared to view an apartment, make a decision, sign the lease, pay the rent and get the keys on the same day!
· If renting through a real estate agency or realtor you will usually have to pay around three months’ rent up front – fees/commission, security deposit and the first month’s rent.
· Moscow is an expensive city with some of the highest rental rates in the world (comparable with London and New York) so if you are offered an inexpensive, yet dreamy apartment in the city centre that sounds too good to be true…it probably is!
· You will pay more for a property with ‘euroremont’ or European standard renovation. If you really don’t mind about the condition of the property then your budget may go further! You will need to prioritise!
· A vast amount of Moscow’s housing was built at a time when quantity was definitely taking precedence over quality and aesthetics. Do not be put off by the exterior of a building. You can find some excellent apartments in seriously ugly buildings and vice versa!