Floor and Rooms
Floor – In Russia, there is no notion of a ground floor. The floor count starts at one with the first floor.
Rooms – As opposed to the more customary European or American emphasis on the number of bedrooms, the Russians always refer to the total number of rooms in a residential property. This includes bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, studies and dens, but not kitchens, storage rooms, laundry or other service facilities. However, in cases of an open floor plan with homes in which old walls were removed, there may be disparities between the actual and the perceived number of rooms.
In general a four-room first-floor apartment means you are on the ground floor, and you can split the four rooms as 1 bedroom, 1 den/study, 1 dining room and one sitting room.
Note that in Russia, both the first and the top floors of a building, particularly a Stalin-era building, are less popular than the middle floors; the first floor because windows require metal grills for security (make sure you have them!) and the top floor because problems with water pressure from the central city water system may occur. In both the first and top floors, central heating may also be imbalanced – it is generally hottest on the first floor, and coolest on the top floor. Depending on the weather, this may be an advantage or disadvantage.
Because most of the housing stock in Moscow is old, some dating back to the Stalin era and before, most apartments offered for rent to expatriates have been renovated. The Russian word for renovation is remont and this is frequently used in advertisements, for example Evroremont.
- Evroremont – Indicates a standard in line with western European quality including materials and standards of finish including re-wiring and recessed electrical points, plumbing and fittings. This implies fundamental rebuilding of the interiors of the apartment including structural work, replacing doors, floors and windows; adding insulation. Décor can be assumed to be white-painted walls and ceilings, modern kitchen units and, if furnished, international IKEA-style furniture.
- Cosmetic Evroremont – This implies that the fundamental structure, wiring and plumbing was not renovated. Renovations extend only to décor, probably recessed electrical points, stripping wallpaper and possibly installing new kitchen units and bathroom fittings.
- Semi-Evroremont – Realtors usually give this term to apartments that only partially meet European standards; perhaps only local materials were used and the décor may be more in line with local tastes, for example, bolder paint on the walls and louder wallpaper. Limited, if any, work has been done on the kitchen and bathroom.
- Designer remont – Encapsulates a fundamental demolition of old interior walls and a redesign of the interior layout to more open use of space, re-wiring and new plumbing, new bathroom which may include Jacuzzi, fitted kitchen and new appliances.
- Russian remont – Implies a renovation that took place approximately ten years ago and reflects Russian tastes in décor and furnishing – dark woods, bright colours, busy wallpaper, oriental carpets on floors and walls.
- Needs remont – An opportunity for a bargain – but not for short term rental – you need to have at least a three-year lease, or include a right to buy at the current value of the apartment, before laying out capital sums on the renovation. Expect it to take twice as long as any estimate given by builders and be aware of the many building permits required before structural alterations may be initiated.
Furnished vs. Unfurnished
Apartments are offered unfurnished, partly furnished or fully furnished. There is a substantially lower number of unfurnished apartments than furnished apartments available on the market, however. Single family houses are generally offered unfurnished.
In a furnished or partially furnished apartment, you should verify the exact furnishings included. They will usually be listed in the lease agreement. In fact, you can sometimes negotiate a lower rental amount by asking the landlord to remove some furniture.
The major appliances normally provided by the landlord in all properties are stove, refrigerator, and washing machine. Most apartments for expatriates will also have a dishwasher, but you should verify that.
Electrical appliances such as TV and DVD player are sometimes provided in unfurnished and semi-furnished apartments, and almost always provided in furnished apartments,
Small electrical appliances, linens, and crockery are normally not provided by landlords except in furnished serviced apartments.
In a typical Russian apartment, the bathroom consists of a shower/tub combination and sink in one room, and a toilet in a very small separate room. In many remodeled apartments, the wall between the two has been torn down to create one large bathroom. If you have a preference, you will want to search for s/u (sanitarniy uzel, or sanitary corner) otdelniy – separate or sovmeshenniy – combined.