About a year ago, my husband and I began discussing purchasing a home in Estonia….. it seemed like a nice compromise for us both, as I expressed an interest in living in Russia in the future, and he preferred the more “Western” countries. Estonia is very close to the Russian border – a little over two hours from Saint Petersburg – but has more Western amenities. We began researching the process and rules for purchasing a home in Estonia while searching through adorable little dachas on Estonian real estate websites, many of which were a fraction of the cost of a home in the States. The process for purchasing is quite simple if you are paying cash, more complicated if you want to get a mortgage (which requires residency). So we decided we would work on saving the cash to be able to purchase a home in the future….. but then my husband found our affordable little dacha in a small, predominantly Russian, community in Aseri, Estonia, located on the Baltic Sea. When we planned our trip to Saint Petersburg for this past June, we decided we should go and take a look at a couple of the homes we were interested in and see what might come of it. Well….. it ended up that we bought a tiny little dacha on a lovely little piece of property, but 500 meters walk from the sea.
Here is how everything took place…..
My husband found a few homes on this website and we emailed the realtor. Surprisingly, Julia responded to my email immediately (we did not have such luck with all the other realtors I had emailed in the past). We made arrangements for a date while we were in Saint Petersburg to come see the homes and Julia was so helpful! She provided us with bus schedule links, accommodation recommendations and picked us up at the bus stop in Aseri so she could drive us to the homes. We ended up taking the bus from Saint Petersburg to Jõhvi very early in the morning, and transferring from there to a bus to Aseri. We each had our minds made up on the drive to Aseri that we wanted to buy a property – the views along the drive were so beautiful, we were already attached.
For those of you not familiar with the dacha, during Soviet times, it was usually a second and/or summer home where people from the city could find respite during the summer months. In Russia, many families still own dachas (or have friends who own dachas, whom they may visit) and spend many weekends (or months) there during the long days of summer. They often keep a garden at the dacha and enjoy country living, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Estonia, having been part of the Soviet Union for almost 50 years, also has little dacha properties scattered across the landscape. In Aseri, much of the population is actually Russian and many properties there are rapidly being purchased by people from Saint Petersburg.
The family that owned the dacha we purchased were Russian. They were not often at the dacha and had allowed a nearby neighbor (who I now refer to as our babushka) to plant her garden on the property. As a result, we chose this dacha because the grounds were well kept and were much more appealing to look at. The women who had planted her garden there proudly showed me all her hard work and explained to me that she had planted cucumbers, potatoes, garlic, spring onions, tomatoes, peppers and there were also cherry, pear and apple trees on the property. The other property we looked at, though in a more attractive area, had not the same garden appeal of the one we chose – and it was more expensive. Below are photos of the property we purchased, and the interior of the other one we looked at. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the interior of our house because I was so tired from all the bus travel when we got there, that photographing the interior slipped my mind, until seeing house number two. But they have similar interiors (please continue scrolling down for the rest of the article).
When we decided we wanted to go ahead and purchase the above dacha (the first one), the process was quite simple. I sent our passport scans to the realtor, who then had the paperwork prepared – it took about 7 business days and we were assigned a date to come back to Johvi, Estonia and go through the notarization process. Julia had hired an English translator to prepare a copy of the paperwork for us in English and translate the Estonian/Russian legal process. We then handed them the correct amount of Euro, in cash (which we had withdrawn/exchanged from a variety of ATM’s and money exchanges in different Russian cities during the week of travel prior), and signed the documents. Our deed was delivered to us electronically a few weeks later.
The hardest thing about the whole process was actually the bus travel and border crossings between Narva, Estonia and Ivangorod, Russia (which seemingly took forever). Otherwise, it was quite simple. During the process, we were asked if the woman who had planted her garden on the property could continue to do so, since we would not often be there. Of course we said yes – her work had been a large part of the appeal of the property! In fact, I’m hoping that when we spend time there next spring/summer (which is our current plan) that I can improve my Russian in speaking with her, and maybe learn a thing or two about gardening (I seem to have a black thumb…..) My husband also plans to build another larger house on the property in the future, but that will be a whole other process, which will hopefully begin in 2014.
So that’s pretty much how we ended up buying our little dacha. It was striking in the end when we were getting copies of the keys made and we were talking to the woman who sold us the property (along with her brother) – she told me that they had played there as children….. and yet, they chose to sell it for such a small price (in our minds, considering what empty land costs in many places here in the US), that I was trying to imagine why they needed the money that much that they were willing to give up a place so seemingly dear to their hearts…..
Now it will be our summer home and I very much look forward to spending time there in the future and hopefully, learning how to assimilate with the locals. I also hope to be able to write some interesting articles about life/culture in Aseri, Estonia the future. For the time being, please enjoy a glimpse at the lands of Ida-Viru county, on the border of Russia and running along the Baltic Sea.