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The Nuts and Bolts of Apartment Rental in Moscow

Learn how you can make your apartment search in Moscow as smooth and efficient as possible.

So much beauty. So many apartments for rent. But there is just one place you will call home.


Moscow apartment rental prices vary significantly from region to region. And some folks like to live right next to where they work while others would prefer to keep a distance. Restaurants, bars, and nightlife are important to some, while others are more concerned about noise levels, schools, and shopping. Whatever your preference, describe it to us, and we will look for the closest match in Moscow. Be sure to let us know what is important to you when filling out the online forms.

Take advantage of transport

The Moscow Metro is a highly efficient, and cheap, transport system which covers the entire city (less than $1 per journey). If you live close to a metro stop you can be sure to be able to get around quickly and easily. Moscow also offers a network of buses and trams criss-crossing between metro lines.

As we work with you to find you an apartment for rent in Moscow, we will take transport into account to find you savings while making sure you can easily get to where you need to be. We will analyze where you will be working, and if you have children, we will look at where they will be going to school. Then we will blend that with what type of neighborhood and building you want to live in. After that, we will take into consideration whether you will be getting around by subway, car, or on foot.  We will then let you know what some of your best options could be for an ideal blend of location and transport.

One of the most important tips for apartment rentals in Moscow is knowing the public transportation system.

Bonus Transportation Tip:  Yandex Taxi is pretty cheap for getting around, but do you know how to save even more?

Walk The Neighborhood

It’s actually best not to view a bunch of potential flats all in one day. They will inevitably all look the same after the third or fourth. It’s best to choose a neighborhood that you think is your best fit, and then take an afternoon or evening to walk the neighborhood. Check out where the local grocer, fitness clubs, parks, playgrounds, transport, restaurants, and bars are. Drink a cup of coffee and get a feel for the place. This will help you feel more comfortable on deciding on your home in that neighborhood.

You won’t have a feel for your neighborhood if you just drive up to the building and see the inside of the flat.  And you certainly won’t have a sense of your surroundings if you are just handed a map or brochure. Your home extends beyond the four walls of your apartment.  To make sure the neighborhood is a place you are comfortable in, we know of nothing better than just a good old-fashioned stroll.

New Building vs. Old Building

Moving into a newly built flat certainly has its upside.  At the same time, be warned that in a brand new building, there are often kinks that need to be worked out.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t ever run into such issues with an older building.  But in a brand new building you are almost guaranteed to have neighbors running hammer drills throughout the day.

Dollar or Ruble Based Contract?

This is perhaps the most common question we have received in the past couple of years.  This is because the ruble has fluctuated widely against the dollar and euro during this time. We are not financial advisors and we can not shed any light on the future exchange rate.

So, we usually encourage our clients to pursue a contract in the currency that they will be paid in. Or if their employer is paying, the contract should be in the currency that their company prefers.We have been able to negotiate ruble based contracts in a surprising number of cases, even in the elite Moscow apartment rental market. Of course, we can not guarantee this result in your specific situation (particularly in the high end sector). But we will never assume or push on you the idea that a certain flat would only be available in dollars. Instead, we will take your specific goals and work to tailor all the details of the contract to meet your needs.

Do Not Over-Negotiate!

Regardless of whether it is in dollars or rubles, it is important not to over-negotiate your contract.  Although the economy is in difficult times, you don’t want your landlord to regret his or her decision later.

An honest real estate agent will advise you to what is reasonable to expect during the negotiations.   And it is in your interests for your Moscow apartment rental agreement to be a mutually beneficial situation for both you and your landlord.

Why Does It Seem All Moscow Real Estate Agencies Are The Same?

Well, most Moscow real estate agencies are the same.  You might have noticed already that most agencies are hyping up their large databases of available Moscow apartment rental options.  Allow us to let you in on a little secret:  All real estate agencies have access to the same database.  The question is, will they listen to you?  And will they give you access to all flats or only to the flats where they also represent the owner?

The name of the database that most Moscow real estate agents use is CIAN.

How to use CIAN, in English.

Most real estate agents don’t want you to know about CIAN.  They will tell you that it is unreliable.  And it is certainly not perfect, but it is still the best database in the Moscow real estate market.

At Expat Flat, we have no problem with you knowing about all available flats on the market and looking around yourself.  That is because we see ourselves as being a team with you.  Our local knowhow and negotiation expertise dovetail perfectly with all the available options on the Moscow real estate market.  We even went so far as to make a YouTube tutorial on how to use CIAN in English.  If you want to actively take part in the search, this 14 minutes could be very useful.

You might even decide that you can find a flat on your own.  That is, if you have the time, the language proficiency and understanding of the market rates and legal background checks. And CIAN is a great way to double-check that you are being offered a flat at a competitive market price.

If you find a flat that you love, let us know and we will be happy to work with you to pre-check its viability, arrange viewings, negotiate, and work out the contract details.  We are proud of the fact that our commission usually pays itself off quickly. We work to save you both time and money.

At Expat Flat, we have no issue with you finding our competitors.  They are easy to find and we assume you have Google!  However, many of the Moscow apartment rental options on the sites are “hooks” of flats that “strangely” were just rented out yesterday “but we have similar options to show you today”.  The bottom line is that CIAN is generally more reliable than options provided on our competitors’ sites.

Will It Help To Hire Multiple Agencies Simultaneously?

Well, the simple answer is “No”.  As you now have learned, all agencies have access to the same information.  So, you will invariably end up being offered the same flat by multiple agencies. The main question is whether they will listen to you carefully and share all available information with you.

At Expat Flat, we ask that you give us 3 days to find your place and not work with other agencies during that time.  After all, we are all using the same database.  The difference is that at Expat Flat we will not limit you to any certain choices.  Our objective is to get you into a place that you love, not into a place where we have an agreement with a landlord.  You will have no obligation to continue with us after those 3 days. But we are confident that you will see the difference in our service.  And in most cases, we will have found you a place that you love within the first day or two of the search.

What Makes Expat Flat Moscow Different?

The truth is, all Moscow real estate agencies have access to all available properties on the market.  So, Expat Flat is not unique in that regard. What sets us apart, is that we specialize in tenant representation. That means we only represent you. And the result? We have no conflict of interest with the property owners. And our search for you is efficient because we are unencumbered by any agreements with any landlord. We are ready to work with you to find a great deal on any available Moscow apartment rental. We are on your team- and that means clear, honest, thorough communication throughout the entire process. Hiring an agency that specializes in tenant representation will save you both time and money.  So, probably our best Moscow apartment rental tip is to choose Expat Flat! 🙂

The Security Deposit

Perhaps one of the key points to any Moscow apartment rental agreement is the security deposit.  In nearly all cases, the rental agreement will require you to pay for your first month’s rent at the moment of signing, plus a security deposit equal to the first month’s rent.  In most cases, you will be able to terminate the rental agreement with one month’s advance notice.  Sometimes there will be a requirement that you stay at the flat for at least six months (for example) in order not to lose the security deposit.  This especially applies to high end apartments.  In any case, this is an important negotiation point for you to understand before signing the contract.

The security deposit can be withheld by the owner for damages to the apartment or other property in the apartment during the duration of the rental agreement.  It can be also be used as compensation of abrupt termination of the rental agreement by the renter with no notice. Be sure your real estate representative explains the details of the security deposit in your rental agreement before you sign the contract. Also, find out if your real estate agent will assist you with recovery of your security deposit.  Having someone in your corner if there is any disagreement with the owner will save you a lot of stress when it comes time to move.

Overall, we have seen at Expat Flat that Moscow landlords are very fair with the security deposit situation. And in most cases, we are able to negotiate any questions with the return of the security deposit over the telephone. In our experience, it is only in rare circumstances, and for very real reason, that a landlord has ever withheld the security deposit.

Your Company’s HR or Accounting Department

Find out what real estate agencies your employer has an agreement with.  Ask about the difference between the agencies. If you feel that the agency they offered is trying to put your unique home search into a cookie cutter system. Or if you are being shown a large amount of flats that clearly do not fit what you have indicated you are looking for, ask your HR department if they would allow you to choose a different agency. The real estate agency will then need to sign a contract with your company for their service.

In most cases, the contractual agreement between your employer and your real estate representative is a fairly standard procedure. Make sure that your Moscow real estate representative not only understands your needs, but also is in close contact with your human resources department.  This is vital in order to insure that the flats they are offering you fit what the company’s budget has allowed for. If your employer is providing for the housing budget it is crucial that both you and the employer are aware of all of the negotiation details throughout the entire process.

Natural Light

There are few cities in the world more beautiful than Moscow on a sunny day.  However, be careful of falling in love with a flat that you visited on a sunny day.  Check out which direction the flat faces, how high it is off the ground, and the size of windows.  Perhaps most importantly, ask yourself if it will still be warm and inviting on a slushy overcast day.

Alternatively, one of the best Moscow apartment rental tips is this: if you visited the place on a bad weather day and loved it, then just maybe you have found your new home in Moscow!

Understand Utilities

We know that arranging utilities can be an extra headache when you arrive in a new flat. It is worth knowing that:

  • You will probably have to pay for electricity and water, on top of your monthly rent. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by the affordable cost for these metered services.
  • In most cases, central heating, trash service, and other “communal fees” are paid for by the landlord.
  • Internet may or may not already be installed and usually it is the one other service (besides water and electricity) that you will need to pay separately from your rent. It is usually something we can ask your landlord to arrange.  Or we can help you explore what internet services are available in your new home. Most Russian internet providers offer similar packages of unlimited traffic. The cost difference is based on maximum speed and the television cable packages that are often packaged together with the internet.
  • We’ll let you know the situation about utilities before you agree on an apartment. And we will work to make your specific arrangement as simple as possible for you.

Moscow Apartment Rental Tips In A Nutshell…

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