Russia, the world’s largest nation, borders European and Asian countries as well as the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Its landscape ranges from tundra and forests to subtropical beaches.
It’s famous for novelists Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, plus the Bolshoi and Mariinsky ballet companies. St. Petersburg, founded by legendary Russian leader Peter the Great, features the baroque Winter Palace, now housing part of the Hermitage Museum’s art collection.
Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from -12°C to 24°C and is rarely below -22°C in Dec-Jan or above 29°C in July.
Under current law, foreigners are allowed to buy property on almost the same terms as Russians. They are forbidden, however, from owning real estate in border zones, agricultural land, land near sea ports, infrastructure hubs and military establishments.
Once an agreement has been reached for the conditions of the sale, the preliminary contract is signed by all parties involved in the sale and purchase. This can be notarized and at this stage an investor’s solicitor will begin investigating the history of the property to ensure that it is safe to purchase and also drawing up the final contract. As part of his checks the investor’s solicitor will need to examine the property’s privatization procedure to make sure all is in order with it and that it is available for sale legally.
If all conditions for the sale are met it will complete on a fixed date when the buyer and vendor will meet at a public notary’s office to sign the final contract. It is still common for many real estate transactions in Russia to be conducted in cash.
If a buyer is paying in cash they usually place the money in a bank safe deposit box which will only be released to the vendor upon the presentation of the registered paperwork indicating that the property has been transferred into the name of the buyer.
Once the final sale-purchase agreement is signed and notarized the paperwork is presented to the state for registration which can take up to two weeks and then the documentary evidence is available to prove the real estate investor now owns the real estate.
Real estate agents fees can range between 2-5 % and are paid by the Buyer
The seller will pay a tax up to 18% of the sale price
It’s highly recommended expats utilise a real estate agent to assist with the house-hunting process. Though some people in Russia will speak English, most will not, and even if one can speak Russian it's still best to use an agent. These individuals will only charge the equivalent of one month's rent, or a small percentage of the purchase price, if buying.
Furthermore, online listings and printed material are generally poorly done and of little help.
Real estate agents are in no short supply, but it’s best to use a service provider that another individual can recommend through experience.
A standard lease is written in both English and Russian; insist that a translation is available before signing. Leases typically last between one and three years but, as always, this point is negotiable.
A month’s security deposit is usually required and, if possible, negotiate that this amount be used to pay the final month of rent. Landlords in Russia will often find any excuse not to return this payment, even if all inventories are returned as they were received, and even if the apartment is left in a better condition than it was found.
Keep in mind that Russia is still largely a cash-based society, so monthly rental payments may need to be paid in notes, though it’s becoming more common to make payment via account transfers.
Expats should consider their proximity to their work place and their children's school carefully when choosing a home in Russia. Traffic congestion can be severe in Russian cities and therefore commute times can be painfully long, particularly during peak times.
The owner usually pays the utilities except for the electricity, payment for the cable TV, international phone calls and payment for the Internet.
The security deposit usually is equal to one month rent and is kept by the owner until the end of lease.