February 28, 2023
6 min read
After two months of apartment searching in Tbilisi, I gave up and bought a place in Batumi. Tbilisi is the capital and would arguably be a better long-term investment, yet I haven't found reasonable buying opportunities.
Georgia gives a one-year tourist visa on arrival. There are pretty much no other countries that are that open. Expats stay here for years. All they need to do is visit another country for a few hours every 365 days. Combine it with the war in the neighboring countries, and you get a ridiculous immigrant situation in Georgia. These people need a place to live, so they drive demand for apartments, making the rent more expensive, and therefore landlords are less likely to sell since they want to continue making good returns from their units.
I understood the situation, but I had hoped there might be an opportunity, so I launched the bot that monitors new apartments and notifies me on Telegram. Yet there was nothing reasonable. Everything under 2k per squire meter would be either in a poor location, have a strange floorplan, or have no good view from windows. At the same time, I couldn't afford an apartment with a 3k per squire meter price, and even if I could, I don't believe Tbilisi proved itself enough to be worth that much. Yes, the city has potential, but it also has significant problems. The biggest one for me is air quality.
Tbilisi is in a valley between mountain ranges. It's hard to expand the city into the mountains, so there are more and more buildings inside of limited flat areas of Tbilisi, creating a dense population and significant traffic. You often find yourself waking between cars and constantly smelling disgusting cars exhaust. I don't see how it could improve if they continue filling every free space with real estate. Combine it with limited air ventilation because of the surrounding mountains, and you have a high chance of having significant health problems because of breathing toxins all the time. There are areas with clean air, for example, Nutsibudze near Lisi lake, but when I checked it last time, it was a depressing neighborhood with old soviet buildings and a mood of hopelessness.
Most often, leaving an apartment in Tbilisi doesn't worth it. If you go somewhere by taxi, you will spend a lot of time commuting, and walking isn't pleasant, since you are always breathing dirty air, often there are no sidewalks, so you are always concerned about being hit by a car. And the city became dirtier, the most disgusting part is that dogshit is everywhere. Every morning I would go to the coffee shop, and I would need to walk down a narrow corridor that connects Mtskheta and Abashidze streets, once I saw there a big dog with an owner that left a pile of shit in the middle of these stairs, no one picked it up for weeks.
Being a bit tired of Tbilisi and not having investing opportunities, I've decided to take a train to Batumi to acquire an apartment there. It took me one week to buy and move into a new flat. During that time, I checked five newly renovated apartments, with an average price of 1600$ per squire meter, but none felt like a good deal. Yes, it is good to have a brand-new place, but I didn't want to sacrifice the distance to the sea and the view from the windows. So I ended up choosing an older apartment in a building that is maybe ten years old. The flat has flows: it's an 18-floor building with a single elevator, so you might spend quite a time getting to 13 floor where my apartment is. It has two bedrooms, but they are so small you will hardly fit a single bed there, there is poor sound isolation, and the renovation is cheap and old. However there are also good things about the flat, you can see part of the sea from the windows, the apartment is bright inside, and you can walk to the sea in five minutes. But it's Batumi, and they can always build a skyscraper in front of you, and some pros could disappear with time.
I paid 85000$ for 78 squire meter apartment, but the caveat here is three large balconies are included in that area, so without them, it would be maybe 65 square meters of living space. Of course, it was a cash deal, so I had to withdraw dollars from the ATM and pay the fee to get the rest of the paper money from the bank. While other deals were a one-day process of going to the public hall with a stack of cash, this one was a bit more stressful, and I could've lost all my money.
On the first day, we met at the public hall, made an application for ownership transfer, and I gave all the money to the owner. Usually, there are no problems with the process, and after an hour or so, you should receive an SMS that you are a new owner. But this time, after a few hours, I received a notification about a problem, there was a missing scan from the previous owner's side. Hopefully, the seller came, and we resolved the issue, but he could've departed with the money, and I would've left with nothing. Yes, some things are fast and easy in Georgia, but the people working in government are often incompetent, so you should be careful, especially when it comes to big money.
It was just three weeks of me living in Batumi, but I already prefer it over Tbilisi. The Seaside makes a difference, and having the option to walk to the sea any time gives peace of mind. Yes, it's usually windy in rainy in the winter, and not everyone would like going out into this weather, but there are also sunny days when you can have 15 degrees outside in February. For me, it's still early to make any conclusions about the city, and the place will change significantly in the summertime as lots of tourists will enter Batumi, making it quite crowded. So I'm looking forward to warm months to learn more and figure out optimal ways of living in Batumi.
In the long-term perspective, I don't think much of Batumi as a tourist destination, but more of a good place for remote workers to have a chill lifestyle, but only as long as the government keeps low taxes and a one-year tourist visa in place. Without these incentives, ex-pats will go to other countries.
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