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Finding, Buying and Renting Property for Expats in Russia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: February 2014

Finding Property

It is probably best to start looking for property on the internet, as it will enable you to get a feel for the types and prices of property there are available, and you can do it while still in your home country. However, be aware that there are many fraudulent websites offering Russian property. Some popular (genuine) websites are given below:

It is generally a good idea to use the services of an estate agent, preferably one that has been recommended by a colleague or friend. If you are renting, estate agents typically charge you a month’s rent as their fee.

Otherwise, if you can read Russian, you can look through the local newspapers.


Renting is very common among expats in Russia. Most rented accommodation is in the form of apartment blocks, especially in the larger cities. If you are renting, you might want to consider starting with a flatshare, as this is the cheapest option.

There is often a high degree of negotiability with Russian landlords. For example, you may be able to arrange a non-standard rental period that suits your requirements. Furthermore many landlords will furnish or remove furniture from your accommodation at your request – for a fee, naturally.

Tenancy agreements must be drawn up in both Russian and the tenant’s native language. Terms are usually restricted to from one to three years. The law is in favour of tenants; for example, the rent is fixed and tenants are able to make minor alterations to the property without being penalised.

The typical amount for a security deposit is a month’s rent. When leaving rented accommodation, it is best to arrange with the landlord to withhold your last month’s rent payment. This is because the landlord may otherwise ‘forget’ to give you your deposit back. Monthly rent payments are likely to be in cash. You may want to take out insurance as most properties are uninsured.

Buying property

After rising exponentially in the first half of the 2000s, house prices have stabilised and are currently rising only a little in Russia. Moscow and St Petersburg have actually seen a slight fall in property prices recently, though house prices especially in Moscow are still very high.

Unrestricted foreign ownership of property has been allowed in the whole country since 2006. Nevertheless, few expats choose to buy, partly because most of them are on temporary employment contracts. If you don’t speak Russian, and even if you do, it will probably be worth working with an estate agent. Using a lawyer to represent your interests is also a good idea.

Before going ahead with the purchase, it is very important that you check there are no former residents registered to the property. These may well be children, due to the bizarre law that if you have a child you cannot move into a smaller property. Many people circumvent this law by moving to a new, larger property illegally, while still registered at their previous address.

Due to the tax incentives that are available, sellers may want to declare only part of the sale. This may complicate matters and require delicate negotiation. Once you have made an offer the seller agrees to, the two of you need to assemble the documents necessary to formalise the purchase. Passports, title deeds, an official document from the Urban Registration Office stating there are no legal barriers to purchase and a floor plan of the property.

After this, a preliminary agreement can be signed. This document gives a plan of how the purchase will proceed. The sale itself occurs in a bank, and involves the buyer placing the down payment in a safe deposit box for the vendor to collect – once they have proved their identification to the bank’s satisfaction.

The vendor is responsible for paying VAT, which comprises most of the total amount of house purchase fees. The buyer needs to pay a total of 2.7% to 7.5%, as follows:

Note also that non-residents must pay 30% capital gains tax when they sell property.



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