Let the virtual house hunt begin

No look and see? Not a real problem, says expat partner Solange Overeijnder, who is currently searching for accommodation in Moscow.

Saving time and energy

As a result of the pandemic, complicated quarantine restrictions and not having a visa yet, Solange and her husband could not do a ‘real live look and see’ before moving to Russia. Nonetheless they were keen to arrange an apartment so they would have a home on arrival. “Often expats will move to a serviced apartment first, and then begin a search for something more permanent. But we don’t really want to move again after a few months,” says Solange. “If we have a place already arranged, we will save a lot of time and energy. We will also be able to start getting to know our local community straightaway.”

Which neighbourhood?

“A local (relocation) agent, provided by the employer, has been very helpful in arranging virtual tours of apartments. But before that process began, we concentrated on identifying the best neighbourhoods for our expat lives. As our son is starting university in Amsterdam, it’s just us, so we decided we would like to be quite central. To begin with, our main hobby will be exploring Moscow and seeing cultural attractions,” adds Solange.

Zooming in with Google

“We have been using Google Street View to have a closer look at the neighbourhoods. You can answer a lot of questions this way, such as: Where is the nearest supermarket? Are there many parks? How close is the subway?  It’s really nice to take a ‘virtual walk’ and get a feel for an area. We have a dog, so we can even visualise exactly what route we would take when taking him for a walk.”

Down to a shortlist

At the time of writing, Solange and her husband haven’t chosen an apartment but they have a shortlist. “Once we had some leading choices, the agent organised a virtual visit to each place. She would just walk us through the apartment, using FaceTime, so we could see it up close and ask questions along the way: Can you check if those windows open? Can you show us the view of the street?  Of course, there’s always a risk that there’s a surprise in store when you move in! But these virtual tours have been very helpful for us and hopefully we will be very happy with the apartment we choose.”

Photo: iStock

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