Apartment buildings in Moscow are best identified by their era. Development of housing generally occurred in distinct cycles, and housing from a certain period has easily recognizable features.
Pre-revolutionary buildings: Primarily situated in the historic center, these buildings are very popular for their spacious rooms and high ceilings. Constructed prior to the 1917 Revolution, they are of architectural interest because of their ornate facades and large entrances. Wiring and plumbing may be problematic in apartments that have not been fully remodeled.
Stalin-era buildings: Stalin-era buildings are primarily located on the main artery roads leading into the city center – Tverskaya, Kutuzovsky, Leninsky and Leningradsky prospects. These imposing edifices were constructed in the years leading up to and following the Second World War, and are characterized by thick walls and high ceilings. Apartments are generally smaller in size than pre-revolutionary or ministerial buildings, but still spacious compared to Krushev or Brezhnev-era apartments.
Khrushev-era buildings: The true Khrushevka apartment is in a 5-story building. They have no more than three rooms, which are small with low ceilings. Typically the rooms are walk-through, without a hallway. These apartments are not popular with expatriates but may provide an affordable option for college students.
Brezhnev-era buildings: A step up from the Krushevka, these apartments feature slightly larger rooms, large kitchens, and separate bath and toilet. Rooms may be walk-through, or connected by a hallway. They are also not a common choice of expatriates.
Ministerial buildings: Built for senior-ranking party members during the 1970’s, these brick buildings scattered around the city were much sought after in the past. Usually surrounded by secure fencing and guarded, they provide a secure oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With large, functional apartments and ample green areas, these buildings are very popular with families.
Modern developments: The residential property market has developed rapidly during the last 15 years and a large number of new buildings come on the market each year. Modern developments come in a wide range of styles, from those that are little better than a Khrushev-era building – but affordable – to privately managed luxury complexes with concierge service and excellent amenities. Some modern buildings have built up popularity with expatriates because they combine excellent quality accommodation with secure parking, green areas, proximity to the metro, and additional features such as on-site fitness facilities.
Townhouses and Single Family Homes
Many expatriates prefer to live in townhouses or “cottages,” as the modern free-standing single family home is often referred to. This modest name distinguishes these new and comfortable homes from the original Russian “house” – a small wooden building without running water – that still exists in small villages, remote regions, and weekend cabin compounds.
Townhouses and cottages are almost exclusively new developments, and are typically built in compounds that consider all amenities an expatriate or well-to-do Muscovite might need. As such, they provide very comfortable living environments.
The main disadvantages are high cost and the potentially grueling commute.
The number of townhouses and single family homes in Moscow is very limited. Compounds include Serebryany Bor (the newest), Pokrovsky Hills (the oldest), and Syetun. While they provide comfortable living with many amenities on site, and comparatively easy access to the center, they generally have long wait lists and may be selective in choosing tenants. Approximate rates range from $4000 per month for a 2-bedroom townhouse to $15,000 and beyond for a 5-bedroom home with a garage.
In the Suburbs
Alternatively, there are a number of townhouse and single family home compounds in the many suburbs and small towns surrounding Moscow. This typically leads to a very long and difficult daily commute, but can provide comfortable family living with space, peace, and privacy. If you have not lived in Russia long, you should seek out compounds that cater to expatriates, otherwise, you may find you are the only person in your neighborhood who speaks English. Note that wait lists and high competition for available spaces are likely. You should plan ahead to secure housing by the time you need it.
To get a true taste of Russia you may consider renting a country house (or dacha as it’s known locally). Renting a dacha outside the city is a common practice, however, due to the harsh winter conditions it isn’t really appropriate for year-round living. Prices start at around $2,000 per month for the less desirable locations.