Job offers from Moscow become more and more attractive recently. The fast growth rate of the Russian economy (about 10% a year) forced businesses to involve qualified top-managers from western countries to handle most of their ambitious projects.
Once an expatriate offered a job in Moscow the apartment issue turns out to be a problem # 1. Of course, many of such offers are made together with home allowance which assumes that employer will provide the expatriate with an apartment within the predefined amount. However for middle managers this is not always the case. The advice below will be helpful for those who are going to find an appropriate place to live in Moscow for an acceptable price:
Know the city. Before starting the search of apartment you have to understand the layout of the city first. Moscow is built around 4 ring-roads. The first ring embraces the heart of the city and its main sight Kremlin. This place is always crowded with tourists and locals walking around the Red Square, St.Bazil Cathedral, GUM (nice ancient building reformed into huge shopping mall) and other masterpieces of Russian architecture. Of course, it's not a place to live. The second ring originally called "Sadovoye koltso" draws a circle around Kremlin that has a diameter of about 5 km. Everything within that ring is considered to be a city center and the most prestigious place to live in Moscow. This zone is usually overcrowded and heavily jammed with traffic. It is a home for many business centers, cafés and restaurants, museums, theaters, etc.
The 3rd ring is making its way just a little bit far from Sadovoye. It is also considered as pretty close to city center. Living suburbs mainly located between 3-rd and 4-th ring (MKAD). There are vast areas with better infrastructure in the West part of the city and less developed and cheap living areas in the East. MKAD is considered to be a border of Moscow and everything out is called Moscow region (Podmoskovye).
Locate your zone. This could be driven by different factors like desired commute time, transportation you are entitled to (eg personal car), priority to save money or vice versa. Living within Sadovoye ring is not affordable to everyone. There are lots of luxury and middle class apartments in this zone. Prices are high and reaching sometimes over 5,000 USD per month. However you may opt for cheaper one, (2000-3000 USD) if it's inside the old building and poorly furnished and equipped. Subway network within Sadovoye is very scheduled, so you can choose almost every location there and it's not going to be too far from the station. Areas out of the 3-rd ring are characterized by smaller density. When choosing flat there try to find a location close to subway station. Another point is the proximate of sites for daily use like supermarkets, cafes, fitness centers, etc. The best option is to find an apartment which is close both to subway station and some huge shopping mall with everything inside. Bear in mind that some stations out of Sadovoye ring are often located in very shallow places or industrial districts. Living in such places is quite embarrassing because you have to travel by car or subway just to buy something. Also give priority to the stations on the same line with your future office.
Agency. The only way to make your life easier when looking for apartment in Moscow is to apply to real estate agency. Never post your own classified in paper or leave your cell number at some real estate web-sites. Once your number is shown up anywhere it will be shared with almost all agencies in the Moscow and you will be getting calls every 10 minutes during a month or even more. There are several English speaking agencies, although their services are provided to be more expensive. Generally most of the agencies work with the same approach. Once you agreed on the apartment that meets your needs you have to pay in advance first month's payment to landlord, agent's fee at amount equal to monthly rent payment and leave a deposit also equal to monthly payment. Simply speaking your initial payment will be the monthly rental multiplied by 3. However the deposit that you place with landlord will be reimbursed back to you when terminating agreement.
Best option is to apply to 2 different agents. Once they started the search, you'll be getting about 1 offer a day from each. Always go to see the offered apartments together with agents. After couple of rejections from your side they will fully understand your requirements and their future offers will be more targeted and precise. However never believe agent's words, their only goal is to sell faster, so they always try to overestimate advantages of apartment and underestimate its shortages.
Checklist of features. When accepting an offer make sure that apartment meets at least the following needs:
· Landlord has all necessary documents confirming its legal ownership over apartment. There could be plenty of documents and all in Russian. Therefore it's better to agree with agency that they do that job for you.
· Centralized heating system is working properly. For newly constructed buildings it is sometimes a problem.
· Landlord accepts a liability to pay for water, gas and other administrative services, except electricity and phone.
· Find out about parking area or garage.
· Make sure that building is connected to several different networks of Cable TV and Internet providers so you'll be able to choose between based on your preferences.
Other tips and tricks:
· Go through online classifieds in order to know the approximate price for the apartment in selected district.
· If you accepted an offer from an agent after 1st or 2nd attempt, ask for rebate on their fee. You have saved lots of their time, as normally other customers need 5-10 visits before taking final decision.
· If your employer does not support you with registration in Moscow, then do not forget to agree it with landlord. Normally it is their duty to register you at that address.
· Very often landlord does not wish to show full amount of rent in the contract as they usually avoid taxation. You may agree with this but again you may want other rebate in exchange.
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