Is It Hard For Foreigner To Renovate an Apartment in Tbilisi?

December 3, 2022

4 min read

Is It Hard For Foreigner To Renovate an Apartment in Tbilisi?
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After three and half months of renovation, I finally moved to my new apartment. Let me share my experience going through renovation in Georgia as a foreigner so that you know better if it is worth buying an apartment that is not ready for living in a foreign country.

I bought it half-renovated: there were doors, floors, and painted walls, but after some time, it was clear that the previous owner made the apartment just good enough to sell. Every room had a poor color choice, there were two pink rooms, and others had gray walls that didn't combine with brown floors. We found a painter on a Facebook group, and at first, I didn't want to spend money changing every room, but after seeing improvement, we ended up repainting three rooms. I wasn't sure about recoloring the last room, and the painter made the price for the final room more than double cheaper. I overpaid the painter, and the lesson is to know the prices and try to lower the cost before making a deal. Also, the guy left a lot of paint on the floor, which is still here, and it's a norm in Georgia because workers often are sloppy.

After that, we continued with lights, bought a bunch of chandeliers, and gave them to the brother of the painter guy. You see, two rooms in the apartment didn't have light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, and we didn't put much thought into it. But once we had chandeliers in every room, it was clear there was no electricity in the two rooms. The previous owner knew about it and successfully hide it from a naive buyer. It's better to check everything and try to lover the prices based on flows in the place.

To fix the electricity, we had to find the guy who did it. He didn't have any tools to check the electricity lines in the wall, but sad: "I think the problem is here, but we'll need to break a huge part of the wall." I knew that was a bad idea, but I said, fuck it, let's do it. Of course, the problem wasn't there, and I ended up with a destroyed wall and plastic cable going all over the apartment.

We got a recommendation for the kitchen guy from the same painter guy. He came to take sizes and draw a rough design on paper. Without appliances, we paid a bit less than 3000 USD. While interacting with any renovation worker, we didn't sign any documents and paid for everything in cash. Most likely, they operate as solo proprietors or individuals without doing taxes.

The hardest part was bringing gas into the apartment. There is no shared setup, and owners have to do all the work inside and then request to bring gas to their front door. Again, the brother of the painter guy set up the boiler and radiator, but this time we managed to lower the price.

To buy basic furniture, we went to the most popular place Saba. It has a bunch of predesigned furniture, where you can order things with preferences and custom sizes. Small things like lights or rugs could be cheaper to order from neighboring Turkey.

Renovation takes time, and time is money here. Every month you are not renting the place, you lose money. Also, it takes a lot of time and energy to manage the renovation, and it might be better to put those resources into making money. My new apartment is two buildings away from my old place, and if it were in another part of the city, that would've been way more time-consuming. You can go far in Georgia speaking Russian, but there were also a lot of situations where workers only spoke their native language, hopefully, I have a Georgian girlfriend. Moving forward, I would prefer to buy a fully renovated apartment or work with someone trustworthy who can manage the process end-to-end.