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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sharing the Rent Nightmare

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When Natalya Raznik moved into her one-room apartment near Tulskaya metro station in 2005, the monthly rental cost was only $400 -- then about 11,300 rubles. In a year, it went up to 12,000 rubles and continued to rise by 500 and 2,000 ruble increments.

When the landlady recently said she might raise the price to 22,000 rubles (about $880), Raznik realized that her days of having a place of her own might be over. Raznik, who works as an auditor, wrote a plea on the forum Redtape.ru asking for help in her housing search.

Moscow housing is quickly slipping out of reach of people earning average salaries. Alexei Kudryavtsev of Mian.ru real estate agency said apartment rental prices in Moscow had increased by 95 percent since 2000. The biggest price increases were in 2004 (20 percent) and 2007 (30 percent). According to the real estate analytical web site IRN.Ru, it is getting hard to find any apartment in Moscow below $1,000 a month. Such apartments make up less than 15 percent of the rental market. To rent a place for a sum below $700, you would have to go to the Moscow region.

The inevitable outcome is renting just part of an apartment, rather than shelling out about 50 percent of one's monthly income for a studio in the outskirts. A quick look at some postings on even the most popular rental web sites, like Cian.ru, however, can be quite depressing: "A place in a closet room. You will not be sharing it with anyone;" "A bed in the hallway. 3,500 rub., women only."

Not surprisingly, rental web sites that incorporate social networking become instant hits -- even in Russia, where co-housing is generally associated with Soviet communal apartments.

The subheading of RentMate.ru is "rent without a middleman." Free registration allows you to look at a few offers posted by other users, mostly outdated. The majority of the 5,000 users are looking for, rather than offering, housing.

"Very few owners who want to let a room or apartment spend their time creating profiles on a web site, since they can use any rental agency for free," said RentMate.ru representative Andrei Sadovin. "Our web site is to help people find each other before they look for a place together, or to help owners look at potential renters," he added.

RentMate.ru also offers additional paid services. For $1 you can move your listing to the top or highlight the listing so that it's more visible. It is also possible to access contact information for rental listings that RentMate.ru purchases nonexclusively from a Moscow rental database. This costs $19 for weeklong access. Sadovin said the offers were refreshed at least once a day -- but the same information is seen by hundreds of real estate agents across the city, so chances that a room will be available may not be in your favor.


Igor Tabakov / MT
Rental prices in Moscow are said to have almost doubled since 2000, and it's hard to find anything below $1,000 a month.
Such a setup of part-free, part-paid information access is similar to that of similar web sites in other countries, such as France's Colocation.fr. Rental cost pressures and desperation in the Parisian rental market have made this a popular resource since its founding in 2000. It claims to provide 100,000 housing postings every week and has branched out to other countries.

A U.S. project that has been operating since 1999, EasyRoommate.com, opened a Russian branch in the summer of this year. Although the web site is far from perfect in terms of usability, it already has about 1,000 active members. With a setup similar to RentMate's, it also suffers from an unbalanced supply and demand ratio of 1:20.

Olesya Laplaud, a representative of EasyRoommate's Russian branch, said the service would be free in Russia. She said it planned to establish partnerships with other web sites in order to attract people who are interested in renting out their apartments.

"There is definitely potential in Russia for this type of service," Laplaud said.

Zhivem.ru, a social networking portal that helps people find each other for carpooling and vacationing, branched into the accommodation sphere in September when it opened its Sosedi subproject. Sosedi helps people link up for renting collectively.

"Searching for neighbors to split the rent became relevant only recently, when prices began to max out," said Ruslan Sadekov, head of the project SosediZhivem!ru.

Sadekov said 700 listings were created in the first month and that about 100 people made contact through the web site every day.

"There are five times more people looking for housing than offering housing," Sadekov said.

Sosedi allows users to search for a neighbor by gender, metro station, availability of a room, and rental price range. Many are willing to share a room to cut costs.

"My maximum is 4,000 rubles per month, I leave every morning and come in late, and go home on the weekends," one student wrote on the site.

"Will split my room with a woman. Need to create appearance of a family," wrote one man.

Sadekov said the personal details provided were enough to distinguish a valid rental listing from an agent in disguise but added that the resource was planning to create a system to monitor the listings for abuse. After all, most people use the web site precisely to avoid agents, who frequently take one month's rent for their services.

Despite the availability of these resources, some people still prefer the old-fashioned method of asking friends. Reznik said, "I would not feel safe posting my information on any of these web sites, while chances are greater that on the [Redtape] forum I will know the potential neighbor personally or at least know someone who does."

Online Rental Resources

Cian.ru: Hundreds of housing offers are posted on this text-only web site every hour. This resource is often used by real estate agents.

Delim.ru: Beta version exists since September. No contact information is available on the web site.

Moscowapt.com: A free English-language site with a very small number of apartment and roommate ads.

RentMate.ru: A project created by U.S.-based firm PilotGroup. Beta version exists since January. 5,000 users.

Ru.easyroommate.com: U.S.-based company that has branches in many European and some Latin American countries. The Russian version exists since July, with 1,000 active members.

Sosed.zhivem.ru: Running since September. Part of zhivem.ru, which has 22,000 users (including other projects).