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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Region Land Prices Plunge

MTA Moscow region billboard saying, "Save yourself from the crisis! Buy land!"
Panorama Estate acquired a chunk of land along Novorizhskoye Shosse in Moscow's western outskirts for $33,000 per 100 square meters a few months before the crisis.

Now, the Moscow-based real estate company is pushing hard to sell the plots for $5,000 apiece.

"We would be glad to sell it at a 70 percent discount," said Omar Gazheyev, managing partner at Panorama Estate.

"We are being forced to sell at huge discounts because undeveloped land is a burden for landowners in times of crisis," he said.

Sky-high prices for land in several prestigious areas of the Moscow region have come crashing down as banks stop offering loans and developers are forced to cut back on their investment plans. Offers for land along the Rublyovo-Uspenskoye, Novorizhskoye and Dmitrovskoye shosses have doubled over the past month, but few people are buying, industry players said.

"All of the big developers are now experiencing the credit crunch, and selling off undeveloped land is the easiest way for most to raise money," said Boris Derevyagin, deputy director of Real Estate Market Indicators, a research center.

The developers fear that the crisis might get worse and want to sell at a profit while they still can, Derevyagin said.

Before the crisis, a 100-square-meter plot of land on Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, west of Moscow, fetched $55,000 to $65,000, while a similarly- sized plot on Novorizhskoye Shosse cost $12,000 and on Dmitrovskoye Shosse, northwest of Moscow, plots cost $10,000, according to figures from Konti Group, a real-estate firm.

Now, developers such as Panorama Estate, Mashtab and RDI Group are offering many of those plots at steep discounts. RDI Group, which controls 29,000 hectares in the Moscow region, has placed 1,000 hectares on sale with discounts ranging from 25 percent to 70 percent, RBK Daily reported.

RDI Group did not respond to a written request for comment this week. Mashtab officials declined to comment, saying it would be improper to comment on ongoing transactions.

Vladimir Yakhontov, managing partner at MIEL-Group, said most of the plots on offer were overpriced before the crisis and the discounts did not necessarily amount to bargains. As an example, he said, a 100-square-meter piece of land in the elite Barvikha neighborhood near Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse cost $130,000 before the crisis, compared to $15,000 two years earlier. A 70 percent discount on $130,000 would put the price at $39,000.

"If developers build on such plots, the cost of the houses will be $4.5 million each instead of $1.5 million. The market cannot swallow such prices," Yakhontov said.

However, Yury Sinyayev, marketing director for Konti Group, noted that an unidentified investor paid a record $420,000 for a 100-square-meter piece of land in Barvikha in September, just as the global crisis reached Russia. "This tells me that the financial crisis won't dampen the will to acquire land in these prestigious places," he said. "Only overpriced land is being sold at huge discounts."

Andrei Timashov, a land consultant with Penny Lane Reality, said the lower prices would be temporary because the prestigious areas provided a level of quality unrivaled in the country. "All our oligarchs live there, and there are good roads, clean water reservoirs, golf clubs and tennis courts — all of which make those places attractive to investors," he said.

Timashov said investors would be wise to seize the opportunity to buy discounted land for future resale, predicting a reversal of fortunes within a year or two.

But investors appear to be in no hurry to buy. "The fact is that no one is drawing up new projects," said Yakhontov of MIEL-Group. "While it is true that some investors are still buying land plots at 50 percent discounts, the market is overheated and there wouldn't be an increase in demand."

Derevyagin said there is little demand because most of the potential buyers, which include investment companies and the Moscow regional government, cannot participate because of financial constraints linked to the lack of bank loans. Moscow City Hall, another big player, is not interested in the land because it is located in areas unsuitable for constructing apartment buildings for Muscovites, he said.

Before the crisis, investors commonly put down 30 percent of their own money and 70 percent in bank loans for land, but with credit facilities all but dried up investors now have to pay 100 percent of the money, Yakhontov said.

The only chance for a revival in the land market is the much-anticipated devaluation of the ruble, Yakhontov said. "In the future, if the ruble is devalued, people might try to buy land as a way to conserve money," he said. "This could increase demand for land by individuals and inevitably lead to an increase in land prices."

Gazheyev, who is selling the 100-square-meter plots on Novorizhskoye Shosse for $5,000, is pessimistic and said he feared that the land market had not bottomed out yet. "We expect a recession in the land market within the next two to three years," he said. "The market may regain its strength within the next three to five years."