One of my favorite shows, The Americans, is in it’s last season.  It’s about 2 Russians sent to America to act as a happy family while being Russian spies during the Cold War of the 80’s.  The first episode this season fast forwarded a few years from last season and I’m assuming it’s 1991 when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic collapsed.  

In the USSR, the concept of owning a property was not an option.  So how did someone find a place to live? Basically, the company (which was owned by government) that someone worked for would supply them with (government) housing; similar to a depressing dorm room.  Often times high ranking government officials (1% of the population) were able to get better living quarters.

After the collapse in 1991, state owned property was sold through a voucher and loans for share program.  The vouchers, each corresponding to a share in the national wealth, were distributed equally among the population, including minors. They could be exchanged for shares in the enterprises to be privatized. Because most people were not well-informed about the nature of the program or were very poor, they were quick to sell their vouchers for money, unprepared or unwilling to invest.  This caused insiders or Russia mafia to own most of the properties.

Since the collapse, many Russians have dealt with the fact that they cannot afford mortgages, since housing prices are very high relative to incomes and interest rates stand at about 12 percent. And most Russians don’t want a mortgage even if they could qualify for one.  Few Russians are willing to take out mortgages because the risk of foreclosure is unacceptable, and because they view interest payments – which they call overpayments – as unfair.

Twenty-five years post collapse, property in Russia is sold similarly to how it is sold in the United States, but the fees in the sale of the property are very different.

  • Real Estate Agent’s Fee (all of the great stuff we do for our clients!!), 2-5%, paid by the buyer
  • Notary Fee (similar to title insurance), 0.7-1.5%, paid by the buyer
  • Registration Fee (filing the deed), 0.1-1%, paid by the buyer
  • Value Added Tax, 18%, paid by the seller.  
  • TOTAL TRANSACTION COSTS - 20.71-25.5%!!!

I’m very interested to see where the writers take the last season of The Americans.  The husband and wife are now divided; he likes the US and she is a servant of her home country.  Will they stay in the United States or will they head back to Russia? Stay tuned!