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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA

Real Estate

Getta dacha quick!
By Vladimir Kozlov

As summer approaches, Moscow residents who don’t own dachas, begin thinking about renting one for a few months, a tradition that has been going for at least a couple hundred years. But this year, Muscovites might be more eager to get out of the city for the summer months, remembering the hell which reigned here last August when heavy smog from peat-bog fires in the vicinity invaded the city.

But those who want to escape from the city to the countryside for the summer period have to be prepared to see higher prices than last year, as crisis-time deep discounts become history.

“In the wake of the extremely hot weather last summer, the demand for summer cottages increased by roughly 15 per cent [this year],” Irina Yulmetieva, Head of Relocation Services at Four Squares, told Passport. “The dacha season in Moscow Oblast begins in May and ends in late September. The first requests for renting dachas are normally filed in late January. By mid-April, the most attractive offers find their leaseholders.”

And as the recent financial meltdown is further and further behind, prices go up, making people consider options located further away from the city.

“In 2010, the demand shifted towards property located in more remote parts of Moscow Oblast,” Dmitry Tsvetkov, director of the countryside property department at Penny Lane Realty, told Passport. “This was explained by price hikes, which prompted potential leaseholders to consider options located further away [from Moscow]. This year, this trend has continued.”

“In February 2011, demand for countryside houses continued to go up, with an increase amounting to 43 per cent from the January figure,” Maria Zhukova, first deputy director of MIEL-Arenda, told Passport. “The number of offers also went up, by 64 per cent. This leads us to the conclusion that the activity in the market is increasing due to the beginning of the summer season.”

Zhukova added that in March, activity in the countryside rental market continued to step up, with the total supply increasing by 72 per cent, month on month, and the demand increasing twofold from the previous month.

According to Tsvetkov, the most popular budget requested by potential leaseholders is about $10,000 a month, which would allow them to rent a furnished cottage in a top-quality residential compound with a guarded territory and developed infrastructure, located no further than 30 km from the Moscow Ring Road (MKAD) in any requested direction. The total area of a cottage of this kind would be between 300 sq. m. and 400 sq. m.

Tsvetkov added that houses located between 15 km and 30 km away from Moscow are in the highest demand.

“The most wanted directions are Rublyovskoye, Mozhayskoye, Minskoye and Dmitrovskoye Shosses,” Yulmetieva said. “Old cottage compounds in Moscow’s vicinity, which were built in the late 19th and early 20th century for summer recreation of governmental, scientific and artistic elites, are also in demand. Many of those are located close to a river or lake. But the downside of those offers is the insufficient security level.”

“The West and South West directions traditionally remain the most expensive in the range under 30 km from MKAD,” Zhukova said. “There is an interesting situation in the East and South East directions, where not a single property is on the offer in the range between 30 km and 50 km away from Moscow.”

Although there are people who prefer living in the countryside to the urban life-style and rent countryside houses permanently, as opposed to moving out of town just for the summer months, the majority of potential leaseholders of out-of-town property are still looking to spend the year’s warmest part there.

According to Tsvetkov, 60% of customers’ requests for countryside property come from those looking to rent a house only for the summer. Certainly, prices are likely to be higher for them, but, the difference is normally within the 10-15% range.

“The highest activity in the market is normally in the spring months as leaseholders want to move in before the beginning of the summer,” Tsvetkov said, adding that the March through May period normally sees a twofold to threefold increase in demand for countryside property rental.

At MIEL-Arenda, the highest demand is for the price range between $1,000 and $3,000 a month, which accounted for two thirds of all countryside rental requests. The lowest segment, below $1,000 a month, accounted for eight per cent, the $3,000-$5,000 range for 12 per cent, and the highest end $5,000- $10,000 and above $10,000 segments accounted for 5.5% and just over one per cent, respectively.

As the real estate market rebounds from the crisis, interest in the most expensive offers returns. “One important trend this year in the countryside rental market is customers’ renewed interest in expensive, but adequately priced offers,” Tsvetkov said. “One of the examples of such options is a house in the cottage compound Nikolskaya Sloboda, located 12 km away from MKAD on Novorizhskoye Shosse. The monthly rent is $50,000. The offer features a one-hectare plot of land with landscape design and an artificial pond with a summer pavilion. In addition to the 650 sq. meter main house, there are a garage for four cars and an apartments for domestic personnel, a spa-complex with two banyas, a kitchen, a dining room, a mantelpiece room, a recreation room and guest bedroom, and a barbeque place.”

The highest price offer in the Rublyovo- Uspenskoye Shosse area would set the leaseholder back $70,000 a month, featuring a 900 sq. meter house with top-quality interior decoration and furniture in Zhukovka, nine kilometers from MKAD. The house features a swimming pool, a gym, a billiard room, and a 0.4 hectare wood territory is attached to it.

Meanwhile, those looking for a really inexpensive summerhouse option potentially have a lot to choose from, but the offers in the lowest price range are unlikely to satisfy most customers. “Demand for inexpensive cottages with a rent under 30,000 roubles a month is small, it is three times lower that the supply,” Zhukova said. “Potential leaseholders probably realize that it is difficult to find a property that would satisfy a customer’s demands is difficult. The demand could go up as the season approaches and less demanding customers begin to express interest.” She added that as the summer season approaches, demand for summer houses in the range between 30,000 roubles and 90,000 roubles a month, increased by 84%.

Realtors predict that prices in the countryside rental market are set to go up, but gradually. “If the prices go up, that is going to happen slowly,” Tsvetkov said, adding that last year’s heat and peatbog fires in Moscow’s vicinity, which resulted in heavy smog over Moscow, could prompt potential leaseholders to be more active this year.

According to Yulmetieva, among the key reasons why people choose to rent a dacha for the summer are their desire to have a rest from the poor environmental conditions in the big city and to spend summer with the family in a comfortable environment.

Yulmetieva said that people looking to rent a summer house are normally concerned with the transport situation, preferring options no further away than 10 km from MKAD and security, with guarded-territory compounds having an upper hand over other options. Potential leaseholders also want woods and a river or lake to be located in walking distance and the house’s territory to include parking spaces, a children’s playground and a barbeque place.

There are several factors that potential leaseholders of summer houses should watch out for to avoid problems. “Demand from your agency the most comprehensive offer that includes all the details,” Yulmetieva said. “[Also demand] the inspection of the landlord’s documents and a visit at a time when the transport situation is best.”

“While choosing a countryside house, one has to pay attention to what is located in the vicinity and, in case you plan to commute to work in the city, to the transport accessibility,” Tsvetkov suggested.

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