How I Bought an Apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia

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Let me share with you the process and the story behind buying an apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia. So you know more about real estate in emerging markets.

Before looking for an apartment, it’s good to know what you want. So I started with a checklist of requirements. The apartment should be in a clean neighborhood and a new building. It should have space for a home office, kitchen, and exercise area, be close to some-kind-of nature, have a good view from the balcony, be close to the gym, and finally, be in a location with price appreciation. It doesn’t mean it should match everything exactly. I ended up with an apartment in an OK neighborhood, but not on the cleanest street.

After that, I went over Tbilisi’s neighborhoods and picked just a few near the center areas with some parks or hills. Then I went to the most popular real estate marketplace in Georgia and set up filters like size, price, and neighborhoods.

I’ve been checking the website from time to time, but after seeing two solid apartments sold just in a few hours, I realized it’s better to jump on a new opportunity as soon as it arrives. At the same time, I didn’t want to check the marketplace every hour, so I wrote a simple telegram bot monitoring the marketplace and sending me new apartments.

Usually, I would get notifications with overpriced units nobody buys. But after a week, I received a message about a pretty good apartment, and I called the agent to see it as soon as possible.

I was confused about the role of the real estate agent. They take a cut from the deal and walk away with thousands of dollars. The owner still has to show the apartment to a potential owner and go to the public hall to sell it. The agent would post an ad with bad vertical pictures and pick up the phone to complicate the scheduling process. Maybe there are more steps behind the process, but it looks shady to me, and it could be a potential for a business to remove the middleman.

The apartment needed quite some work to start living there, but I liked it and took the deal on the spot. The next day we met in the bank. The idea was to pay the mortgage in cash, transfer the rest of the money to the owner and then go to the public hall to change the ownership. It meant I should trust the owner won’t run away with my money.

Buying an apartment in Georgia is not a trustless operation. Someone should start by trusting another party by giving them money or ownership. I wasn’t that person, so we agreed to make me an owner first by going to a public hall. Since I don’t know Georgian, the government requires you to sign a contract in your language. To get the translation, we approached the hustlers outside the public hall. They take 30 dollars to provide a generic template with your name and apartment price written with a pen and sign the document as a translator.

To not pay the tax for selling property, people write the selling price less than the actual price. The government doesn’t check it, and people usually buy smaller real estate in cash. Finally, I had to pay the previous owner’s mortgage in cash because transfer between banks takes at least one day, and then I would end up with a mortgage in my name. The rest of the money I sent via transfer.

The operation took 6 hours between public hall and banks, and it’s extra stressful when you don’t know the language. Now I will embark on the renovation of the apartment. We’ll see how it will go!

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