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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Should You Use a Real Estate Agency to Find a Flat?
By Andrei Sado,
Director, Elite Residential Rental Penny Lane Realty

Can I do it?” This is a question which we have been asking ourselves forever. Answering this question in the affirmative will prove to us one more time that we are not average, better then the rest, and different. Our ego will be satisfied because, after all, without struggle there is no progress.

Humanity possibly would have not existed if it wasn’t for people who ask “Can I do it?” Could we fly in the air, could we even know how to make fire, if it wasn’t for that one strange looking guy, who kept trying to twist a straw until it smoked and burst into flames. Whether we are driven by curiosity, ego or the simple desire to object to somebody else’s accusation that we are weak, we challenge ourselves to do things we usually wouldn’t do, or have at least never considered. Of course life sometimes brings us surprises where we simply have to ask ourselves this question; for example if we get lost in the woods and have to battle to survive, or we perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a drowned man, or we find ourselves on an uninhabited island. How we deal with these situations quite often helps us understand who we really are, because it brings out the best or the worst in us.

However, there are certain things which are best left to professionals. Let’s not try to do our own heart transplant, or think that we know the financial markets better than the Wall Street guys. Trying to plan our own vacation is okay when we are twenty, or when we have twenty million in the bank, but to screw up the only one-week vacation you got for the past five years together with your wife, only because you were trying to prove to her that she did marry a MACHO man and never asks for directions, is silly.

Professionals can do it better, faster and in the end, cheaper. Yes of course there are exceptions, but it would be a mistake to think that one can be an exception in every case.

Yes, you can probably find your own home in Moscow, but it will take time, patience, lots of dictionaries, a couple of million destroyed brain cells and in the end you will still have to pay.

The Russian real estate market is different from anywhere in the world. 99% of all apartments are owned by individuals, and to protect themselves they advertise their best properties only through agencies. Professional real estate agencies give landlords guarantees which protect them from unwanted tenants. Every landlord knows that if a client so wishes he can write a 30-day notice and terminate the contract, however if a tenant has paid a commission fee, the chances are that he will not do this, and that, for the landlord, is a very good guarantee that the tenant will stay for the whole term of the contract.

Well, back to our assumption that people can enter into rental agreements themselves. Finding properties is a lot of work; you have to look at the sites of major real estate agencies to find what you like. You have to contact every apartment owner separately and organize your own viewings; you have to prove to a landlord that you are credible and financially well off.

Last week we had to prove to a landlord that Schlumberger is a worldwide major corporation. The landlord did not like how Schlumberger sounds and found somewhere in Yandex that the company has an office in Panama, and decided that Schlumberger and its employees are crooks. Trying to prove him wrong by yourself, especially if your Russian is not that good; well, good luck!

I am sure that one in every hundred people, who will decide to find an apartment on their own will succeed without major bloopers. The rest will learn by mistakes, hopefully not major ones, because there are hidden traps that can ruin your stay. I will touch on that more in the next issue.

Maybe in ten years, when we will have in Moscow new residential complexes, built for the sole purposes of rent, people will have a better chance to do it themselves. But until then, the developers and investors will continue to build to sell, simply because the return on their investments is much faster that way. We are in a world dominated by individual landlords, and in this battle for better price, location, view or parking space, you will need every bit of help you can get, and a professional broker is a partner worth paying for.

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