Renting an Apartment in Kiev, Ukraine
Contributed by Nathan Cox, a Kiev expat and TryUkraine.com fan. Written in November, 2006. Prices have changed since then!
If you're looking for an affordable long-term apartment to rent in Kiev, there are a couple of ways to do it: the easy way and the hard way; or, put otherwise, the cheap way and the expensive way. You can rent apartments on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. And in each case by renting an apartment or room instead of staying in a hotel you will save money and taste more of the local flavor. Within the sphere of apartment rentals, there are as always the expensive and the less expensive options. Here are some hints on how to navigate the market to find what works best for you and your budget.
Finding an apartment in Kiev by yourself
Expect this to be the cheapest and most difficult method of apartment hunting. A google search in English for apartment rentals in Kiev almost exclusively yields sites that service short-term visitors with deep pockets and corporate credit cards. (A search in Russian yields similar sites or databases associated with real-estate agencies.) As of late 2006 there is no such database, such as www.craigslist.org, where private individuals can advertise rental units without channeling through an agency.
However, private individuals do find official and unofficial ways to advertise their real estate. Aviso, the weekly local real-estate want ads, is available fresh every Friday at any press kiosk (or online at the link provided). You can also choose from other print publications at the newsstand. Aviso lists apartments for sale and rent according to the transaction method, whether by agent or by owner (without commission). It also posts ads for real-estate agents. If you skip the first few pages of the section on apartment rentals you'll bypass the ads for expensive short-term apartments (usually priced per diem) and discover the flats within the current market range.
Alternatively, you might get lucky, if you're very attentive, to find an advertisement for a suitable apartment stuck to a streetlight, ad board, stop sign, bus stop, or other immobile, inanimate vertical object on the street. In all cases you'll need to know Russian or Ukrainian or someone who knows Russian or Ukrainian, especially when it comes time to phone owners, talk money, and finalize the deal, with or without contract.
Perhaps your best chance for finding a rental on your own is to spread the word to any and all acquaintances that you're planning a move and search for an apartment (or room, which is a cheaper option). You can also ask such contacts, if you have them, which neighborhoods they might recommend along your interests and price range. If nothing else you can pass this information on to a real-estate agent should you decide to go that route.
Renting through a real-estate agency in Kiev
Certainly the most convenient, time-saving, and worry-free method of house hunting, a real-estate agency offers everything you expect and possibly more, including knowledge of English and of Western housing standards. There are big agencies and small agencies, but probably the best agency is the one that a friend or an acquaintance recommends.
In this country the renter pays the finder's fee, which usually equals half the cost of one month's rent. Since this commission is obviously steeper for more expensive apartments, realtors may lack the incentive to locate availabilities within a lower price range. Armed with this knowledge you have a couple of options: one, know and trust your agent and her work ethic; two, tempt your agent with a personal monetary bonus for her in addition to the official commission; or, two, contact other agencies, which in this boomtown are suddenly everywhere.
Negotiating rental terms
Previously, rental agreements were made verbally, but as the legal system moves toward consistency if not stabilization and as renting becomes more of an official business instead of a matter of financial exigency, contracts are becoming the norm. Expect to sign a contract for one year (but usually no more than 12 months in order to avoid triggering taxes) and, often, to pay two months' rent in advance. Not every landlord will require or desire a contract, though it may be in your best interest to insist on one, especially as a foreigner in a volatile, possibly inflated, real-estate market. If you're not looking for a yearlong agreement, ensure that the contract contains a clause that allows for an early exit given a specified period of advanced notice.
Understanding Kiev apartment pricing
As in any metropolitan city, real estate is most expensive in the center and less expensive as you radiate out toward the edge of the metro system, beyond the metro system to the suburbs, and on beyond the reach of relatively convenient shuttle busses and into the exurbs and the countryside. Besides this, other factors affect the price of a rental, including size, condition, and proximity to public transportation, especially to the metro. The usual recipe. In Kiev, though, each of these ingredients has its special flavor unique to Eastern Europe.
When discussing size, realtors usually reserve statistical references such as "price per square meter” to the buying and selling of property. In renter's parlance you're more likely to encounter price as a factor of the number of rooms. The number of rooms includes everything but the kitchen and the bathroom, perhaps because each room is multipurpose, perhaps because the layout of many Soviet-era apartments features a corridor that leads to the doors of each room. In this sense, owning an apartment is like having a number of dorm rooms, plus the kitchen and bathroom, all to yourself. For an as-is two-room apartment in a central neighborhood expect to pay between US $550 and $800.
Rental apartment conditions
Age and normal deterioration aside, the condition of most Soviet-era flats makes no pretense to comparison with Western standards. Especially in the high-rise apartment buildings, construction is famously shabby, heating and plumbing technology wonderfully outdated and inefficient, insulation a matter of speculation and personal initiative, and the concept of modern conveniences a misnomer, since most of the buildings are pushing thirty or forty years old. Except in the most recently renovated flats, you should be surprised to find the usual conveniences such as garbage disposals, dishwashers, air conditioning, counter space, cupboard space, closet space (closets in general), washing machines and clothes dryers.
In the past three or four years, as the price of real estate has doubled, tripled, and in some cases quadrupled, new, stylish high-rises have pushed up into the skyline. These new constructions come with all the modern conveniences for a modern, often Western, price tag. Many of the older apartments have undergone the so-called "Euro-renovation," which, though sometimes makeshift or improvised given the layout of an individual apartment, can prove quite comfortable and convenient. For renovated apartments, a loosely applied term, prepare to pay between $700 and $2000 for two rooms in one of the central neighborhoods.
Ease of public transportation
Proximity to a metro station means almost everything, despite the fact that there are numerous alternative modes of public transportation, including shuttle bus ("marshrutka”), tram, bus, and trolleybus. Besides these methods, official and unofficial taxis can get you from the center on a cold night to your well-priced rental on the outskirts of town for between six and eight dollars (official taxis are pricier). Expect the price of a two-room apartment near a metro to be from ten to twenty percent more than a comparable apartment far from a metro station. Though the metro system is quite convenient, if not often overcrowded, you may find other forms of transportation more useful depending on your most consistent destinations. If you can navigate the city sans exclusive dependence on the metro you're likely to find a better bargain.
Kiev neighborhoods (districts)
The following information on a few of Kyiv's neighborhoods is quoted from the October 5th, 2006 issue of the Kyiv Post, the most widespread English-language newspaper in Kyiv.
As Kyiv continues to develop and spread into its peripheries, neighborhoods outside of the center are becoming more dynamic and unique. While the center is still the preferred choice of tourists and those without a budget, many are finding that living outside the center is in fact more convenient, more pleasant, and a better value for your money, than living in the center.
Kyiv's center, which for obvious reasons is most often recommended for first time visitors, encompasses many different neighborhoods, whith Khreshchatyk and Maidan Nezalezhnosti commonly considered their epicenter. It is difficult not to see the benefits of living in the center: here you can see a developed commercial infrastructure as well as a beautiful and bustling city urban landscape. But there are some disadvantages. The center is noisy and crowded; it is a congregating place for just about the entire city and on weekends Khreshchatyk draws large crowds with its free concerts and activities. The central metro stations are always overcrowded and large grocery stores are scarce. However, living in the center does have certain charms.
Podil, Kyiv's oldest neighborhood, has beautiful pre-Soviet architecture, quiet streets, a nice selection of restaurants and is host to the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, one of Kyiv's oldest, most prestigious universities. It is also located on the Dnipro's banks and is close to several of Kyiv's star tourist attractions—Andriyivskiy uzviz's souvenir street market and numberous art galleries are in Podil, as well as its one and only funicular, both of which lead directly to Mykhaylivskiyi and St. Sophiyiskiy cathedrals. It also hosts Zhovten movie theater, which is unofficially known as Kyiv's most artistic, alternative movie theater, the Chornobyl museum and many nice restaurants. Podil is less expensive than other central neighborhoods. Small apartments may still be found in this neighborhood for a slittle as $350—a bargain compared with other areas—although you shouldn't expect them to be luxurious or recently remodeled.
Defined by its location in the very ceneter, close to the Rada and other parliamentary buildings, as weel as the beautiful Mariyinkyiy park, the Pechersk neighborhood is perhaps the most prestigious in all of Kyiv. Pechersk is situated in between vul. Khreshchatyk, Lesi Ukrainikiy and Druzhby Narodiv blvds and bordered by the Dnipro on th eEasat. Black Mercedes line the streets near Ukraine 's governmental buildings and residential dwellings look impeccable and refined. If you get away from the major streets you will find many qiet residential neighborhoods. The old caves monasteries of Pecherska Lavra and the Great Patriot War Museum with the giant steal lMaty Batkivshchyna statue are only a quick bus ride or walk away, as well as numerous restaurants, clubs and upscale shopping. Rental price estimates from real estate agencies were about $700 - $2000 per month.
Starokyivskiy and Lukyanivka
This area is loosely defined to encompass the areas between Lukyanivka and Zoloti Vorota metros and bordering Tarasa Shevchenko blvd. This neighborhood hosts some of the most elite residential areas—with prices to match. One agency recommended residences on Yaroslaviv Val in particular. This area is also known for quiet streets, upscale restaurants and shopping, as well as many cultural institutions, such as Kyiv's national Taras Shevchenko Opera and Taras Shevchenko University . Just like Pechersk, rent in this area could set you back $1000 or more per month.
Outer-lying areas of Kyiv are developing quickly, which means that a lot of them boast recently constructed modern apartment buildings with stylish décor and modern appliances. Apartments that would cost $1000 in the center may cost half that or less in the Kyiv "suburbs.” For anyone with a tight budget or who would like to get more for their money, here are some neighborhoods worth a look.
North of the city center and following along the Dnipro you will find Obolonski Lypky, roughly located between the Minska and Obolon' metro stops. The apartments along Prosp. Heroyiv Salingrada near Minska metro is an up-and-coming area. Running along the Dnipro's bank, there are many new high-rise complexes with pretty views of the river, as well as a wide selection of restaurants. One apartment complex we found had a nice centralized courtyard with rows of ethnic restaurants surrounding it—including Chinese and Japanese restaurants, a Pizzeria, as well as a pub and tea shop, all located within steps of another. The area also hosts Kyiv's largest shopping mall, Karavan, where you can find high-end retail shops, a Hypermarket, cinema, bowling alley, billiards and skating rink. If that isn't convenient enough, just one or two metro stops away is the giant Petrivka book and electronic market. This neighborhood is a little pricier than some of the other suburban areas, but is still a bargain compared to the center. We found a very nice one-room apartment there last year for only $300.
The Svyatoshyn-Nyvkiy district is located west of the center, running for miles along Prosp. Peremohy. This area is primarily residential—it has the most highly concentrated population of residences in all of Kyiv. There is nothing of particular tourist interest here. However, Kyiv's zoo is just off the Politekhnichnyi Institute metro stop, and Pl. Peremohy, situated in between Politekhnichnyi Institute and Universytet metros, is host to the circus, a modest shopping mall, Odessa Kino cinema, which is known for showing a movie in English each week and a bowling alley. The farther from the center, the more removed you are from the action of the city, but still, if you are looking for cheaper accommodations, you may find some here, where it is still possible to rent for $250 to $300 per month (or maybe less if you search hard).
Darnitsya & Poznyaky
While transportation is less convenient on the Dnipro's east side due to the fact that you have to cross the river to go to most destinations, comfortable and affordable apartments are easier to find. Some neighborhoods also have a suburban feel, and by this we mean that they have their own convenient centers with a plethora of shopping, restaurants, gyms, grocery stores, entertainment centers, etc. While we were searching for apartments in this area last month, we found several two-and-three room options that were affordable and well decorated, for $500 to $600 per month.
Real-estate agencies in Kiev
The Kyiv Post lists four agencies that, I assume, can accommodate English speakers.
Key Realty, 278-27-76
Capital Real Estate, 486-86-15
Real Estate & Service, 270-68-95
Kiev City Real Estate, 270-57-18
In addition, TryUkraine.com partner Gela Turabelidze provides rental services to expats in Kiev and helps you get those local rates that foreigners have such a hard time getting — for both short-term and long-term rent.