Negotiating Moscow’s expat housing market

The Moscow rentals market is complex and presents a number of challenges for international assignees and their managers. Irina Yakimenko and Marina Semenova, of Moscow-based Intermark Relocation, share some useful tips for assignees seeking accommodation.

The Moscow rentals market is complex and presents a number of challenges for international assignees and their managers. Irina Yakimenko and Marina Semenova, of Moscow-based Intermark Relocation, share some useful tips for assignees seeking accommodation. Russia&#x;s property rentals market is very different from other rentals markets around the world. And, unfortunately, potential tenants may have problems just because Russian reality does not meet their expectations.First of all, prices are much higher than in other countries. There are a number of reasons for this.Historically, there is a huge shortage of large apartments in Moscow. This is connected with some of the norms of the Soviet period, when families lived in two-bedroomed apartments of 70 square metres. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, larger apartments began to appear, but the imbalance of supply and demand persists.This mismatch does not induce owners to make significant concessions in terms of pricing and the inclusion of additional services in the rent.The second reason is that there are few professional landlords in the Moscow rentals market. Rented housing is not profitable, because of the yield on the lease of about 3 to 5 per cent a year and inflation of about 10 per cent.There are a number of things for which assignees need to be prepared. As we have already mentioned, the choice of accommodation is very limited, so advertisements must be checked carefully; they can be fake. Therefore, property searches are best left to professionals from a relocation company.Even if the aspiring tenant has found a good advertisement, they need to bear in mind that some items can be misleading. For example, in Russia, &#x;furnished&#x; does not mean that kitchen utensils, tableware, cutlery, bedding, towels, hangers, and so on are provided, and &#x;equipped&#x; does not include small house appliances like juicers and toasters.And finally, if the assignee has found the perfect apartment, they should be aware that the entrance can appear messy and unkempt.At the same time, there have been many positive changes in Russia over the last few years:
  • The amount of English spoken has increased notably, especially in the major international stores and large shopping malls of the big cities, in restaurants and in caf&#x;s. However, experienced expats are urged to learn Russian. This is extremely important for a fruitful cooperation; Russian colleagues will appreciate it
  • The number of international schools has increased. It's now easier to find an apartment close to the appropriate school
  • There are more websites with a choice of English, and this is a welcome improvement when booking theatre tickets and so on. In Moscow, it&#x;s already easy to find cinema in English, and there will be a list of special events
Of course, there will always be difficulties for expats to negotiate. In this regard, the role of relocation companies is becoming more important. It must go beyond professional activity and seek to develop additional services, such as household, language and legal support.In the Autumn 2013 issue of Re:locate magazine, Ray Furlong, who presents The Newsroom on the BBC World Service, and has reported extensively from Russia and Eastern Europe, looks at the challenges faced by global businesses operating in Russia.&#x;