I remember how stressful it was to rent an apartment when I had just moved to Kiev five years ago. I had a lot of questions and concerns. Not only I didn’t know where to look, but I was also worried about my money. Would I get ripped off? Would I get my deposit back? Would the owner of the apartment honor their side of the contract?
Fortunately, in the last several years I had a lot of experience renting different apartments all over the city and would be more happy to share with you what I learned.
I’m going to divide this guide into two sections: short-term and long-term renting. Short-term renting is anything below ten days, such as when someone is coming for a quick trip. Long-term renting is when someone wants to make this place home and doesn’t mind signing a six-month or year contract.
If you’re in Kiev for only a week or so (or less), then the obvious choice is Airbnb. Try to book an apartment with lots of positive reviews while avoiding the apartments that don’t have any. Even for a short stay, what you want is a vetted apartment because people can “embellish” the picture and make the apartment seem better than it really is.
There are also local sites where you can book short-term accommodation directly from owners. In this case, you need to call them directly and ask if the apartments are available on your chosen dates. Keep in mind that most owners will not speak English, so you would need a local who would do that for you. There are two sites you can try out: dobovo.com and doba.com.
For long-term accommodation, things get a little trickier. One quick option is to book via Airbnb. While I don’t recommend booking for several months out, it’s completely reasonable to book for the month and then extend it as you see fit. You can always go private with the owner and negotiate with them directly.
A more common option is either sign a one-year lease either directly with an owner or through an agent. Both are viable options, just keep in mind that when you sign with an agent, you will have to forfeit half a month’s rent. Even if you don’t have an agent yourself, but the apartment owner does, you will still have to pay half a month’s rent as a commission. The only times you wouldn’t have to pay any commission is if you’re dealing with the owner directly.
In Ukraine, one-year leases are the norm. When you sign the lease, you need to pay the first month, deposit (equal to month’s rent) and a, if necessary, a commission (half of the month’s rent). Essentially, that means your move-in costs are equal to 2.5 month’s rent. Should you need to break the lease and leave earlier, all you need to do is give the owner one-month notice and then they should be able to refund your security deposit.
A popular site where you can find apartments directly from the owner or through an agent is OLX.ua. It’s sort of like Ukraine’s craigslist.org, a site where you can buy, rent or sell anything from used kitchenware to luxury apartments. On that site, you can search apartment listings in any city in the country, in any neighborhood, and in any price range. On each listing, you will also see if the apartment is being rented by the owner directly or through an agent. If it’s the latter, the listing won’t have the exact address and will have the agent’s number instead of the owner’s.
Here are some typical prices for apartments in Kiev.
Apartments in Kiev generally range anywhere from 5,000 UAH on the outskirts of Kiev to 20,000 UAH and more for a nice apartment in the center. (At this writing, $1 = 28 UAH)
30 sq. mt apartment not in the center: 5,000-8,000 UAH
30 sqm met apartment in the center: 8,000-10,000 UAH
60 sqm met apartment not in the center: 10,000-13,000 UAH
60 sqm apartment in the center: 16,000-18,000 UAH
90 sqm apartment in the center: 20,000 UAH and up
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend spending anything below 13,000 UAH per month unless you want to live far from the center in a not so nice apartment. If you’re willing to pay at least that amount, you will find something decent in a decent area.
Those prices also don’t include utilities (water, electricity, heating) which are typically another 2,000-3,000 UAH per month.
When I first moved to Kiev in 2014, I paid around 8,000 UAH per month for a small studio in the center of the city. In 2016, I moved to a much bigger apartment which wasn’t in the center that I rented for 12,000 UAH. In 2018, I moved back to the center to a mid-size apartment that I’m renting for 15,000 UAH per month.
Types of apartments
One of the things you should take into account is the kind of apartment you’ll be living in. This is important because some apartment types are nicer and more pleasant to live in than others.
Like any other former Soviet Union city, Kiev is littered with non-descript Soviet Union-era buildings. They usually have five or nine floors and are very common outside the center area (although there plenty in the center, too).
Next, are the “Stalinka” buildings named for the famous 20th-century dictator, Joseph Stalin. These buildings are also typically five floors but have tall ceilings and more spacious than the buildings afterward.
My favorite type of buildings are the ones that were built before the Russian Revolution, either in the early 20th century or in the 19th century. They’re usually much more picturesque and apartments are blessed with tall ceilings.
Finally, there’s the new construction that was built after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine became an independent country. These obviously vary, but they’re usually tall buildings, giving a great view of the city.
Since Ukraine is in Eastern Europe, it has its share of scams. For the most part, you shouldn’t have a problem renting an apartment, but there a few things to keep your eyes out for.
First of all, be aware that there’s plenty of fake listings on rental sites that are loaded with beautiful pictures for very low prices. Typically, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So, if you notice an apartment that has amazing (and expensive) furniture, professionally-looking pictures, and a price point that seems extremely low, you should be careful. The way the scam works is that the person on the other side asks for some kind of money up front to be sent to their bank account. Once you send the money, you’ll never see it again.
Another type of scam is the so-called “apartment rental agencies” that promise you a listing of apartments in exchange for some kind of fee. These differ from the regular agents in the sense that they aren’t representing any apartment owner currently, but simply sell “lists.” While I haven’t used their services, I heard they are better to be avoided.
Apart from that, just be vigilant. When signing a lease, make sure the owner can prove that they’re the owner of the apartment via ownership papers (title). Get a copy of their passport for good measure, too.
I have rented plenty of apartments and signed plenty of leases, but have never had much of a problem.
So, there you have it. Now, armed with this information, you’re even one step closer to making Kiev your new home.