This week I begin my house hunt in Tbilisi. Rental properties here are plentiful and absurdly cheap as far as national capitals go, but quality varies wildly (hot water and private indoor bathrooms are not a given). One person can find a very classy, fully-furnished apartment in a good downtown neighborhood for between only $300 and $400 USD/mo. My standards are a bit lower so I’m aiming for the $250-$300 range.
It’s relatively easy to find apartments online, with sites like MyHome.ge and Makler.ge. But the majority are listed in newspapers and real estate magazines, like “სიტყვა და საქმე” (Word and Business), which is published weekly and widely available at Tbilisi’s many sidewalk periodical stands–but be sure to buy it on its first day out, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time calling for apartments that have already been taken.
Below is a list of the most helpful vocabulary while apartment-hunting in Georgia:
1-, 2-, 3-, 4-ოთახიანი #-rooms
იყიდება for sale
ქირავდება for rent
მეტროსთან ახლოს close to the metro
ცხელი წყალი hot water
ცენტრალური გათბობით central heating
კონდიციონერით air conditioning
საჭირო ავეჯით necessary (partially) furnished
ყველანაირი ავეჯითა fully furnished
ტექნიკით with technology (i.e., TV, internet, etc. included)
აივნით with balcony
ბუნებრივი აირი fireplace
ბინა რემონტით renovated
კეთილმოწყობილი comfortable; “with all the amenities”
კარგი პირობებით good condition
სარეცხის მანქანით with washing machine
24 საათიანი დაცვით 24-hour security
დიასახლისთან landlord in-house
ძველი გარემონტებული old but renovated
არასტანდარტული non-standard (room size, shape, etc.)
რკინის კარი iron door
იტალიური ეზო “Italian yard” (on a courtyard shared with neighbors)
იზოლირებული ბინა isolated (in-law) apartment
წინასწარ [ორი] თვის გადახდით must put down first  months’ rent
Make sure to be really thorough when checking out a potential apartment, because once again, certain things can’t be taken for granted. If you’re not sure how (or even if) the water heater, stove, or heater works, ask the landlord to demonstrate. Check for gas leaks (ex. if you turn on the stove at one end of the house, you may be able to smell a leak somewhere else–this can be dangerous in winter when your windows will be closed), cracks in the ceiling, or mold/water damage. Remember that everything is negotiable. If you don’t like something, you may be able to persuade your landlord to repair/replace it by offering to put down rent for an extra month or two (if you do this, it might be a good idea to make a contract so the amount you’ve paid so far is in writing). By paying four months’ rent up front, I was able to get a newer fridge and some repairs done, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Also, here is a quick rundown of the neighborhoods in Tbilisi where expats tend to gather (see map below):
1. Vake: home to the largest expat community, most notably the embassy workers and international businessmen. This district is known for its balance between historic housing and modern renovations. There is also a higher prevalence of high-end shops and restaurants (I hear Starbucks will be breaking ground there shortly), in addition to nicer public parks. Even so, it is still possible to find affordable 1- and 2-bedroom apartments here and there.
2. Vera: much like Vake, if somewhat less prestigious in the eyes of expat apartment-hunters. Although closer even to the center than Vake, it has a distinct local feel to it, with winding streets and lots of hills (great if you want a workout, but maybe not so much in winter, given the lack of proper snow and ice clearing). There are also many tiny markets, which means lots of people hanging around the stoops, chatting. It’s somewhat cheaper than Vake as well, so if you want to be in a nice, centrally-located neighborhood but still feel like a hipster, Vera might be your place.
3. Saburtalo: due to its cheap and modernized housing stock (only a short bus or metro commute from downtown), this is where you are likely to find a good deal of NGO-workers and expats on the somewhat lower end of the income scale. It is much less cramped than the other downtown areas, with their steep hills and winding streets, but not as “charming”–many of the buildings are “khrushchevki,” or mass-produced 1970s worker’s housing. It should be noted, however, that these intimidating exteriors conceal apartments just as livable as those in Vake or Vera, if not more so due to their more recently-updated heating and water systems. There are also tons of new buildings going up, many of which are basically Western European in quality.
4. Mtatsminda: probably the most convenient location to downtown (and with many of the buildings situated on the steep hillside, with some of the best views), it is becoming more and more difficult to find affordable housing here.
5. Sololaki: this is real Old Tbilisi, right downtown. While beautiful, some people may not find the antique housing up to their standards. Many of the buildings are only held together by accumulations of haphazard DIY repairs, and the “Italian courtyards” mean everyone is up in their neighbors’ business. So although it lags behind the other districts in terms of renovation, there is a slowly increasing stock of restored private apartments with more modern amenities. If you can get an updated apartment here, you will have easy access to the best downtown businesses and scenic areas.