Welcome Visitor:

Is it expensive to live there?

2002: Not at all. The real estate market is really soft, and apartments can be rented for as little as $200 or $300 per month (although you really don't want one of those). All utilities, such as phone, electricity, and heat combined rarely run over $25 per month unless you're calling internationally. Most restaurants, unless they cater to Westerners specifically, are usually quite cheap, and it's possible to get a good meal for two with drinks for about $10. In particular there's a local beer that's not bad and costs about 95 tenge per bottle, which is about $0.75 US.

2007: So much changes in five years. The price of apartments has skyrocketed. While still a bit low compared to other major cities in the world, the increases are still significant. The same apartment that rented for a few hundred dollars five years ago now routinely goes for nearly two thousand. Apartments that were bought for $10,000 back in 1999 now routinely go for more than ten times that amount. New construction, shell and core only, in new buildings is anywhere between one and four thousand dollars per square meters, depending on location, who is doing the construction, and other factors.

The national currency, the tenge, has spent most of the past seven years appreciating, but has since slacked off a bit from the recent high, which was around 121 to the dollar.

Utilities and other basic expenses are about the same. Restaurants have gotten a lot pricier, and cater less to expatriates than to the burgeoning upper middle class locals. Dozens of new supermarkets with a staggering array of imported goods have sprung up all over.

Almaty is no longer uniformly inexpensive, but there is a lot more choice than there once was, ranging all over the spectrum.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2007: It is now widely acknowledged that property values are seriously inflated. Transactions have slowed to a trickle, major residential construction projects have been halted. The subprime mortgage crisis in the US has had an effect. The government has already extended $1B of credit to overextended local banks, and has set up a $4B fund to continue to do the same.

Essentially, Almaty is overbuilt, awash in far more premium and luxury apartments than it conceivably could have residents for in the near future. Most were built, sold and bought to be investments, rather than residences. The building we live in now seems to be no more than 20% occupied. Many apartments are being decorated (the building was built and apartments sold as shell and core) but about a quarter sit vacant and untouched.

Comments

Of course, that was 2002. Now (2006) the real estate market has hardened up quite a bit. The housing market runs about 30% higher than Washington, DC--I know people renting one-bedroom apartments for $1000. And although food remains cheap, imported goods are mostly very expensive and often of low quality.

Yes, there is a lot in this FAQ that is out of date.

The construction of new luxury apartments, selling for anywhere between $1500 and $5000 for shell and core and anywhere between $3000 and $10000 per square meter when renovated, has fueled an upsurge in the sale and rent price of old apartments, whether renovated or unrenovated.

The New Square apartment I lived in four years ago (90m2 for $250 a month) was a great deal then and is now completely unthinkable. Smaller apartments in much less prestigious locations now routinely go for $1200 or more and are in great demand, although more as offices than as apartments, as there is a shortage of 'B' class office space with the rush to build ever more 'A' class office space.