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It’s been a few months now since we started looking for an office here in Moscow. We didn’t ask for much as we’re a startup. All we were looking for is some lousy 50 sq meter office not too far away from the center.
The story dates back to February when we decided to move out of our expensive 13 sq meter office in South Moscow. We were quite sure that we’ll be able to find a suitable place so we signed off the rental contract for two last months. What I had in mind was to walk around Moscow for a day or two and write down the numbers from the red adverts on buildings. This should have helped us avoid agents, thus saving us some money on commission fees. Unfortunately it was not as simple as I thought it would be.
Nearly half of those phone numbers belonged to real estate agencies, who just rented the spots on or next to office buildings. The other half offered offices staring at 200 sq m. After a few more unsuccessful phone calls, we finally decided to contact an agency and ask them to look for something that meets our requirements. The agency replied within, err. Actually they didn’t reply at all. We were confused and quite disappointed, as their website had some quite interesting offers. Perhaps they weren’t pleased with our size, maybe they’re used to work with larger clients?
Right. After contacting a few more agencies we found out that they’re not too keen on working with such tiny offices, even for quite a good commission. But can you imagine how many small companies are looking fur such deals? I spoke to a friend of mine who got a place in the Moscow City complex, which is sort of class A+ and consists of a few very good looking towers. He said that it took them over four months to stay in line until somebody moved out. Later on I found out that it wasn’t a place in the towers that he got, but one nearby. Okay, nice area and infrastructure, but is it worth the money? $ 1000 per sq m per year! Wha?
So the contract we signed with our previous office owners finally came to an end and they kicked us out. No place to work, no office, no metro. Freelance. “Hurray!” thought my employees. “What a nightmare!” thought I, hoping it wouln’t last for more than a couple of weeks. I was wrong.
During those two weeks I managed to come across quite a good real estate agency. I was surprised when I saw their website. It’s quite modern, and yes, they used Google Maps to point out their offers on a map. They didn’t miss out traditional features though, such as area and price filters. I was also surprised that they showed the exact locations on the map. Agencies don’t usually do that, and soon I figured out that all their offers were commission-free! After speaking to an employee from the agency I found out that they signed agreements with office bulding owners, and commission was payed by them, very smart!
I took a ride with the agent the next day. Been to a couple of buildings that I was interested in, but unfortunately none of them suited our budget. Unlucky! So we asked them to look for something else within our price range. The offers were not too good, and quite soon they figured out that they were spending too much time with us, and stopped answering my phone calls. Duh! I was almost ready to make my choice.
Next was an agency who are quite well known in Russia, Europe and the United States. They had around 5 class A buildings in Moscow and very flexible solutions, such as shared offices and certain cards that would let you into an office a limited number of days per month, providing you with one working space. Quite interesting, but then again, not within our budget.
We were quite disappointed with all the time that we have spent on such an easy task (we thought). So we decided to take one last shot at plan A – find a phone number and try to arrange a meeting. And guess what, it turned out a success! We managed to find one C class building, very close to the metro in South-Central Moscow. It was the best choice for a 50 sq m office meeting our budget, and we got a balcony too! ;)
That’s about it. Next steps are to get all our stuff in there, get some good furniture from Ikea and, well.. Convince our employees that working freelance is bad, especially since we’re a team.
Did you have such experience in other cities and countries? Did you come across any innovative ways of building real estate websites? Except for craigslist and housingmaps.com of course ;) Feel free to share your thoughts and experience in the comments. Cheers!