Apartment Prices Jump 9% in 2008

Moscow apartment prices are continuing to break records, with the average price per square meter jumping more than 9 percent since New Year's, according to data released Monday.

The average price per square meter was $4,438 on Jan. 1, and the figure reached $4,850 -- 9.3 percent higher -- on Feb. 25, according to data from IRN.ru. The prices quoted exclude certain types of high-end real estate that would considerably raise the average price, the web site said.

The growth is happening across all segments, although older five- and 9-story panel buildings are leading the way, with 2.1 percent and 2.2 percent spikes, respectively, in prices over the last week alone, according to IRN.ru data.

Vedomosti cited several realtors last week saying that one-room apartments had been hit the hardest, with prices rising as much as 20 percent. A 35-square-meter one-room apartment, which on average cost $160,000 on Jan. 1, is now selling for as much as $190,000, the newspaper reported.

Experts cited everything from growing demand to the mortgage crisis, which is forcing some buyers to take credit more quickly than they might have planned, Vedomosti reported. Investors fleeing from the recent stock market turbulence are also turning to real estate, driving up prices, Agent 002 realtor Olga Pobedinskaya said, the newspaper reported.

n Moscow is planning to eliminate 371 five-story buildings this year, the city building agency said on its web site, RIA-Novosti reported Monday.

"Last year 382 five-story buildings were taken down, and this year we are planning on removing 371," Viktor Aistov, deputy head of the agency's building, development and reconstruction department, said in a statement. He added that while the city would be removing fewer buildings, they comprised a larger total number of square meters.

The city is looking to eliminate some 3 million square meters of living space in 2008 in five-story houses and find new apartments for those displaced, Aistov said, RIA-Novosti reported. "It's a really massive task, which can only be handled with a comprehensive approach."