Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rustavi: Checking Out the Joneses

In the U.S., it can be fun to look at the homes of neighbors – known and unknown - who’ve put their houses on the market.

Last week, I sat out in our yard with sisters Tia and Mari, plus some other women of the building. (If there are men also out, they sit in their own group, away from the women.) I asked about the flats inside the newly-constructed, medium-rise across our street. Ten floors or so high, the building is yellow, which is a departure from Rustavi’s usual Soviet Gray. (I would come up with some cheeky paint color name, such as Soviet Suicide Sunset, but sadly, I have heard of two individuals in Rustavi who actually did kill themselves by jumping out of a Rustavi flat.)

I asked what the builders were asking for the new flats, and I was told they were very expensive. How expensive? About $24,000. Well, how much would one of the flats in “our” old building go for? About $21,000. Gee, the new ones have two balconies each. And new surfaces, and kitchens and such. How much space are we talking? For just $3,000 more, a new flat might be a bargain. ....Mmmm. ... balconies.

So I said, “Hey, let’s go look at the new flats next week!”

Yesterday was the day. Tia, a practical woman, had confabbed with a building representative in the morning, and got the green light for our little group – me, Nino, Mari, and Tia – to satisfy our curiosity.

The building rep was more than solicitous; I think we looked at about five flats in various stages of completion, ranging from one with a floor that was no more than rubble, to one where the inhabitants kindly let us look at their place!

I was interested in several things:
  1. Generally, how do modern Rustavi flats differ from the 1970s/80s “commie flats”?
  2. Do the modern flats presume the presence of a washing machine, and if no, do they build in a good design for hand laundering and clothes drying? (Hand laundering is a system that consumes a considerable amount of muscle, time, space, containers, and water management for Georgian women.)
  3. Is there good air flow in the new flats to accommodate the hot, non-air-conditioned Rustavi summers?
  4. Is there good space usage in the new flats?

What I found:

Certainly, the bathrooms are modern – hot water, shower, and western toilet. One completed bathroom we saw had no tub, just the shower. Two other bathrooms we saw had what might be called a “garden tub."

The new flats are plumbed with the assumption the new owners will install a washing machine. I’m still unclear if the typical Georgian machine also serves as a dryer. If no, a design flaw in the new flats is the lack of an installed hang-dry system either inside or outside the flats. This likely means the default is to clutter the balconies with one’s laundry. (By the way, if I understand correctly, a washing machine in Georgia is about 400 lari, which translates to $244 USD. This is more than what many Georgians earn in a month.)

There were nice touches in the new flats, such as tray ceilings, crown molding in one case, and pretty windows. (I don’t remember now if there were screens on the windows, a major plus in Rustavi during grasshoppers-flying-in-the-windows season.)

Here are the photos of a completed, two-bedroom flat that I think may have a buyer who's not yet moved in. The yellow bathroom above also goes with this flat.

Rustavi flat, new construction, living room

Rustavi flat, new construction, living room

Rustavi flat, new construction, kitchen - open space for washing machine

Rustavi flat, new construction, bedroom

If I understood it correctly, the above flat went for $30,000 USD plus an additional $17,000 for the finishing (floors, kitchen, bathroom, wallpaper). So that is pricey.

Below is a flat that has inhabitants. The little family is still moving new stuff in, and they were so nice to show us around.

Rustavi flat, new construction,

Rustavi flat, new construction,

Rustavi flat, new construction,

Rustavi flat, new construction, new lamp @ 200 lari

Rustavi flat, new construction,

Rustavi flat, new construction,

Georgians have good doors in their flats and houses, whether old or new. They are solid wood doors, with tasteful character. The doors on the new flats were not an exception. Pretty nice. 

I think most of the new flats have an air flow problem - that is; in most of the flats we looked at, I don't think it will be easy for air to find its way into one window and out another in the flat.

There seemed to be a fair amount of dead space in the flats that could have been used to create larger bedrooms, a study niche, or an efficient laundry-handling area (e.g. counter for folding, ironing, hanging, storing).

    Nino was dismayed to discover there is no convenient trash disposal system like there is in our old building. At each landing in our building, there is a trash chute where you drop in your trash to a trash room on the ground level.

    So, a rather fun little adventure. 

    Today's Building Behind Me:

    Building Behind Me 081711


    Anonymous said...

    Living Rootless
    Sold my house, Got rid of my stuff and now looking at flats....

    Mzuri said...

    Yeah, it's kind of crazy. There are some incredible investment opportunities here for entrepreneurs. I remind myself that I don't care how inexpensively I could buy a beautiful house in the mountains here, I'm, like, rootless.