The history of “housing issue”
The “housing issue” – “кварти´рный вопро´с” – has been bothering Russians for quite a time. In Soviet times, it was impossible to simply buy an apartment, and even renting was only semi-legal: All property belonged to the state and was distributed, i.e. actually rented, to the population. But people were thronging to the cities, which failed to keep up with the demand. Hence, people had to live in dormitories or in “коммуна´лки” – shared apartments where you couldn’t choose your neighbors and the feeling of communal hatred was flourishing. Some lucky people got their own apartments, and sometimes even small country houses, or “dachas”. But even so, they had to share this pseudo-property with their extended families, and having in-laws at your premises can sometimes lead to even grosser forms of communal hatred.
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Nowadays, most of those “state” apartments have been privatized, and a regular real estate market has developed. One can buy and sell, one can rent, one can own as many apartments as one likes – if only the prices were not so horrendous. It’s not that bad in many parts of Russia, but Moscow is justly regarded as one of the worst cities in the world in this respect. Depending on its location, a small, dilapidated 1-bedroom apartment in Moscow can cost you as much as a villa in Spain, including the pool.
Renting an apartment
That’s why many people prefer to rent. The easiest way to find a rental apartment is to search through an agency – but their fees can sometimes be pricey. That’s why Russians always prefer to ask around first and hope to find a good bargain through a friend of a friend: In the real estate business, as in many segments of Russian life, connections are the key to everything.
Rental ads without middle-man fees: