For most of my life, I’ve been renting apartments. And I tell you, I get the overwhelming feeling that I’m just peeing into the wind. Wouldn’t buying be so much better? Outside of the bank's cut, you can probably make the majority of the money that you spend back, even after the maintenance and other unexpected costs that crop up. With renting, you get nothing back. And depending on what kind of landlords you get, you might still be paying for all that maintenance anyway. And also, as we’re not even going to be living in Tbilisi for a long period of time, it means we can rent out the place, and then come back and move back into our own house. So many points on the list that make buying such a better option. So we decided to buy.
But man, are there some issues when buying in another country, especially one like Georgia, where on the cultural spectrum of preferences towards organization, it tends to be on the extreme side of preferring to blow up in a wildfire of craziness against anything that might be considered to be a “plan”. The word itself is anathema in Georgian culture, likely to get you thrown out and fed to the jackals.
view from our balcony
We decided to come about three months before moving to Georgia to find a place. So we looked online and made a huge list of houses we’d like to see. Some helpful sites to those thinking of the move: www.saxli.ge, www.myhome.ge.
Of course, they’re not entirely that helpful, as we found out. Many of the current listings had been sold long before, and many of the realtors of listings that weren’t sold simply weren’t interested in working. We’d try to make appointments for when we were in town, and most of the time we’d just get the response, “Just call me on the day you can see the place and we’ll meet.” Then we’d call and they’d be busy, or simply not answer the phone, or always my favorite, the place would have already been sold.
It wasn’t going well.
Then finally, my wife’s mom knew a guy who was a realtor (most thing's in Georgia operate on the "I know a guy" basis). Let’s call him Aveji. Aveji showed us to this pretty nice place that was near a metro only a few stops from the Old Town. That sounded great. The place looked great, and perched up on the 9th floor as it was gave an amazing view of the surrounding cityscape. The apartment also came fully furnished, minus the dining room table and refrigerator, so it would be pretty easy to move in and we could make adjustments over time.
a view from our living room, Sameba on the left
We went for it. It wasn’t in the middle of the city, which I love to be in, but it was close enough, no big deal. Later when we are rich from my extravagant book sales (mom is going to have to buy a lot of my books) we can get something in the middle of the city (why we didn’t choose the center was fairly simple: most places are in various states of disrepair, and would take a lot of TLC to revive, and that consisted of both time and money we didn’t really have, and on top of that there's a whole slate of property speculation going on right now, with the in-flux of tourists, Airbnb, and so on).
There's also the huge privilege you get with being an American. As soon as they find out, they smell money. "I give you apartment for 30k, oh you American? I make good deal for you, 50k! No? 60k? It is best deal in city!" And folks, I'm po, so the whole American privilege thing really means nothing.
50k? In there? No thanks.
As for new buildings in the city... that is an option and we looked at them. But for the most part, new buildings look unfinished, unlandscaped, and already on the edge of falling apart before they're even completed. Soviet blocks, in many instances, are still in far better condition then these scam throw-ups. There are a few exceptions to this, as we found m2, Archi, and Maqro all offering good projects. They're just expensive. Like America prices. And frankly, I'm not sure how locals are affording those places.
The process in Georgia is that the bank then goes in and looks at the house, assesses the value, and then you can make an offer. So we made an offer, which was pretty generous, and they accepted it. But as we were in town for only a couple of weeks, that meant the wife’s family had to deal with the closing details. The previous owners then mentioned that they were going to take the washing machine too. Whatever.
looking another direction from the living room
After everything was said and signed, my wife’s brother went to the apartment to check on their progress moving out. Of all the things they said they’d leave, here were some of the things missing:
3. 2 couches
4. A wardrobe
And then the previous owner was saying that she was going to come and take the washing machine and a built-in wardrobe.
That was enough. We called her brother, “Change the locks. She’s had enough time.” Then with my wife’s help, I sent a stern message to the lady, telling her that we were going to keep those last two items, as she broke our trust taking some of the items that she said she was leaving.
She replied, “But that stove was a gift! It had sentimental value! Same with the couches!”
Sentimental value? A stove?!
In which, we basically but more politely responded, “Look lady, you should have mentioned that before. The reason we gave you the generous offer was that Aveji told us there’d be furniture in the place, and even at the signing you agreed to it.”
Then she texted my wife, “Tell your American husband how things work in Georgia. People let others take their things from their apartment.”
To which my wife replied, “He knows how things work, and that you’re trying to steal the things we agreed on. He likes and trusts Georgians, and we trusted you to keep your word.”
Though perhaps that lady meant that I shouldn’t be so trusting of Georgians, I’m not precisely sure. My brother-in-law swapped the locks, so at least we’ve got a working washing machine. That was one less thing we had to buy.
But dang, it would have been nice to have that piano.
Here's a quick tour of the place, if anything it gives you a nice feel what those Soviet block apartments look like on the inside:
our living room
the bench is pretty typical of Soviet kitchens
the kitchen has a nice view too
the balcony has an unexplainable, unopenable window installed
the creation station
the crown jewel of the apartment: the shower mural