Finding a home or residential property to rent in Moscow requires more than driving through the city and searching for To Let signs in apartment windows. There are more practical means to find your new home, which include:

Your Employer

In general, it is very unusual for an expatriate employee being brought to Russia by his employer to have to find and secure his own accommodation. The HR departments of most companies take responsibility for corporate renting of living quarters and, even if you are moving into a totally new position (and not replacing a previous incumbent), the HR Department would generally have prepared a short list of properties for you to view. In this guide we will attempt to orientate you, make sure you understand the vagaries of Moscow apartments and suggest pointed questions to ask before you agree to accept any offered accommodation.

The exceptions are mainly individuals setting up their own small and medium sized businesses or ‘pioneers’ establishing operations in Russia for their companies from scratch.

Depending on the seniority of your position and your family situation, you may be offered a package that includes a house in a country-side residential compound, close to an international school with two cars and drivers, one for you and one for your spouse. If you are a single, technical specialist, however, you will more likely be offered a one bedroom, central-Moscow apartment within a short metro ride of the office. The HR Department of your Moscow employer will help you make a determination about where to live based on the following factors:

  • What is your family situation?
  • How important is proximity to a school for you?
  • Are you a golfer and is golf likely to play an important role in your business networking on behalf of your employer?
  • Do you prefer to be within the city or in a country-side residential compound?

Relocation Agencies

If your employer does not offer the standard Human Resources assistance common to Moscow, we recommend contacting Troika Relocations where David Gilmartin’s long experience as an expatriate resident of Moscow will ease your way.

Real Estate Agencies

Agents usually charge a month’s rent as commission but add a layer of security to the rental process by verifying that all paperwork is truly in order. They also save you an enormous amount of time.

Working with an agent in Russia is similar to what you might expect in the United States or Europe. You first set up a meeting to discuss your needs and requirements. Based on this, the agent will scour an extensive database (sometimes available to you online) and provide you with a list of possible properties. Your agent will then discuss property and area amenities with you to help you select which apartments to view. Next, your agent will arrange and accompany you to showings. Once you decide to rent an apartment, your agent will facilitate the lease negotiations and paperwork so you can be sure of making a good deal and a solid contract.

The following agencies all have English-language websites and staff members and are experienced in dealing with expatriates:

Newspaper Classifieds and Internet

Newspaper classified and internet sites offer a bevy of real estate ads, however, you should approach them with caution. Unfortunately, scams abound, and you may find yourself out of money and out of an apartment. In general, it is not advisable to rent an apartment without the services of an agent. Even the majority of Muscovites would not do so. If you do decide to go it on your own, never trust a private person who insists on a deposit or first months rent payment prior to your moving in, and always insist on seeing the documents proving the person you’re dealing with is the actual (and only) owner of the apartment.

In Russia, every permanently registered resident of an apartment has ownership rights, and partial ownership rights to an apartment can be sold just as an entire apartment can. Just because you’ve signed a lease with one owner of the apartment, doesn’t mean the other owner or owners will not suddenly move in to their part.

Newspaper Classifieds

The Moscow Times (Mon-Fri) publishes a monthly Real Estate Catalogue supplement which is bundled with the free newspaper and available from hotels, restaurants and business centres.

For the biggest choice you will require a Russian-reading assistant to go through the weekly Iz Ruk v Ruku (“From Hand to Hand” classified advertising newspaper) with an extensive property section on Thursdays and specialist property publications such as the fortnightly Nedvizhimost I Tsena (Real Estate and Prices) weekly magazine which goes on sale Mondays in most newspaper kiosks for 25 RUR and also available free in some business centres.