Town Houses Set New City Trend

The majority of Muscovites live in apartments that, to a large extent, owe their desirability to their location. A small number of the capital's more moneyed residents prefer the Western style of life and choose suburban properties. But there is a third category, which includes many expats, that opts for combining the advantages of a freestanding house with the city's infrastructure. These people buy or rent houses within the city limits.

Town-house building began in 1992 with the elite Setun settlement, said Sergei Yeliseyev marketing director with the Inkom-MTsBN agency. Setun is located at the intersection of Minskaya and Mosfilmovskaya ulitsas.

Specialists say virtually all the early settlements were built to be leased out.

"The cottage market as such only emerged last year. Prior to this, there was only the Godunovo settlement in 1998 on Karamyshevskaya Nabrezhnaya," said Yevgeny Ivanov, manager of the Usadba-Miel agency.

At Godunovo, two-floor town houses on 150- to 400-square-meter plots are sold for $2,150 to $2,500 per square meter or leased at $10,000 to $12,000 per month.

Real estate agents name the Chaika and Pokrovsky Hills projects, both in the Pokrovskoe Glebovo region, as well as the Kuskovo settlement close to the famous estate as the highest-profile rental offerings.

The first phase of Pokrovsky Hills was built in 1998. The Anglo-American School moved there and drew many parents with it. Now in its second phase, the cost of renting houses varies between $6,500 and $11,000 per month.

Prices at the Chaika settlement, which began life as a Soviet Central Committee sanatorium, are about the same at $5,000 to $15,000. At Kuskova, the housing is cheaper and can be leased for $3,500 to $4,000 per month.

Unlike the rental market, which is geared specifically toward customers with the highest incomes, town-house sales can be more reasonable.

Alfa Development pioneered in the area of affordable cottages with its 1994 Rozhdestveno project in the Mitino region. Its second phase is now under way, with 60 to 70 cottages being built for sale at $750 per square meter. Construction is due to be completed by the end of the year, said Alexander Dmitriyev, the company's manager.

The South Butovo settlement that Poligrafzhilstroi is developing offers affordable prices of $1,000 per square meter. This price includes European-style interiors. Most players on the construction market only sell unfinished cottages.

On the banks of the Moscow River, Serebryany Bor is the most prestigious region in the city's housing market. In terms of comfort and prestige, only Sokol can compare, and availability in both regions is extremely limited. Ivanov from Usadba-Miel said no more than seven to 10 properties are sold each year in Serebryany Bor.

"[Serebryany Bor] is the most respectable place in Moscow," he said. "If someone says he lives on Rublyovskoye Shosse, then he may live in the super-elite Zhukovo region or Buzayevo, which is much cheaper. But in Serebryany Bor everything is clear Ч there isn't a single property going for less than $850,000."

More expensive properties can come with a price tag of $3 million.