Spring Rush Is On for Cottages

Each spring city residents scour the countryside to find dachas before warm weather arrives. Some are looking into rental agreements, while others want to buy.

Most of these house hunters wish to avoid the labor-intensive and expensive process of building their own house. Approximately 80 percent of buyers prefer finished housing, said Savelii Orbant, director of Miel Realty's suburban real estate department.

Buyers are prepared to pay up to $300,000 for cottages with complete infrastructure, said Andrei Morozov, suburban director of Inkom real estate agency.

But houses in the $125,000 range with 100-cubic-meter or greater plots of land are the most in demand.

More expensive cottages, selling for $700,000 to $900,000, are hard to sell regardless of the cost per square meter, he added.

Within a 50 kilometer radius of the Moscow Ring Road, there are nearly 300 cottage settlements, according to Penny Lane Realty.

The vast majority of suburban developments went up before the 1998 financial crisis. But work is beginning to pick up, the construction work grew by 30 percent to 40 percent in 2000 in comparison with 1999.

Most elite home buyers have trouble finding what they're looking for, said Alexei Kainov, the head consultant for Usadba. Upper-end clients want a 1,500-square-meter plot of land with a telephone in a secure settlement within 20 kilometers of Moscow for under $500,000, but such homes are practically nonexistent, he said.

"Those that do fit those criteria are significantly more expensive; their prices can go up to $1 million," Kainov said.

Buyers' demands in general have changed recently. While the cost of expensive housing is rising, the cheapest housing is falling in price.

The large brick houses built from 1993 to 1996 are no longer in fashion and their values will either remain the same or fall.

The rule is: "The more Western and the closer to Moscow — the more expensive," but, Orbant says, there are exceptions.

Land around villages is half the price found inside. Secondly, prices rise for land close to water. Plots of land that have an unobstructed path to the beach cost two to three times more than other housing. A third factor is proximity to forests. A hectare of wooded land in the Barvikha region costs $3,000 to $6,000, Orbant said.

The tradition of families spending summers at the dacha has not lost its relevance.

It's difficult to find a good winter dacha with indoor plumbing for around $30,000. Their prices range from $50,000 to $70,000. But a dacha in poor condition can be bought for $20,000.

"We expect the supply of mid-priced housing to practically disappear," said Morozov. "This has not happened yet, although comfortable dachas at moderate prices are becoming increasingly rare."