It looks today like the best times in the Moscow real estate market are in the past, when there was no way to go but up – prices were lower and the center of Moscow was still unadulterated by Luzhkov-era redevelopment. If you ask Anastasia Mogilatova, however, you will hear that people have always said that.

“When I was taking a course in 1997 to learn the basics of the business, and we were told that the golden age of Moscow real estate had passed, that we were late,” said Mogilatova, the general director of the Welhome real estate consulting company. Once the privatizations of the early 1990s had come and gone and the market had risen, she was told, decline set in.

Mogilatova does not agree.

“The market will always be there,” she said. “There are ups and downs, but it is important to work in any market, whether it’s rising or falling—the worst thing is when it is static.”

A seaside childhood

Born in the small resort town of Gelendzhik, in the Krasnodar region, Mogilatova said that for her parents – who grew up in the Far East and Novosibirsk – moving to the shores of the Black Sea was a romantic adventure.

“My father, who was and still is a talented scientist, could have stayed in Novosibirsk and done a PhD,” she said, “but their friends were sent to work in Gelendzhik, and my parents decided to go there, too. They were fascinated by the idea of living by the sea, as it was impossible to visit foreign resorts.”

Returning to Novosibirsk while still a child, Mogilatova attended university there, where she studied economics. She worked for the local edition of the Kommersant newspaper for a while, and thought she would continue with journalism in Moscow. But after moving to the capital in at the end of 1996, that plan did not work out, and she started to rethink what she wanted.

Starting out in real estate

© Photo / Courtesy of Welhome
A part of the new Moskva-City business complex in Moscow

Without registration in Moscow, Mogilatova was finding it difficult to get a job in an established company. Since she had always had an interest in real estate, she found work at realtors Yugo-Zapad and Inkom-realty, the daughter company of Inkom bank, negotiating with residents of communal apartments and older buildings in the city center, to rehouse them and buy their flats while converting the flats into highend housing.

After stints with two other agencies, on the suggestion of one of her clients, she struck out on her own, establishing Welhome in 2004. Starting her own company was not her aim at first, since, as she said, a real estate career is horizontal rather than vertical, with success dependent more on clients and connections than progress up a ladder. She had few of either at such an early stage, but one of her clients, a banker who wanted to invest in real estate development, offered his support.

“It was rather difficult in the beginning because I was all alone,” Mogilatova admitted, but she accepted the challenge because she values independence and creativity in her work above all. It helped her to develop a special system of hiring people, sometimes without experience in the field or even in work, but with qualities that make a good broker.

The sky clouds over

Welhome had just widened its niche in the luxury residential market and started branching out into commercial and foreign real estate, as well as consulting, when the financial crisis hit in 2008.

“It was a very difficult period for the company, with growing pessimism,” Mogilatova said. “I had just had a baby, and my maternity leave lasted for one week – I was taken to the hospital from work after distributing salary payments and was back seven days later.”

Uncertainty in the market reduced investment, which added to the company’s woes, but due to the team’s efforts, it survived and is ready to expand again.

Other hurdles

Apart from the usual challenges of business anywhere, Mogilatova admits that there are many obstacles in real estate peculiar to Russia, the most significant being corruption, which she blames for the lack of foreign investors. Uncertainty over tax laws brings inspectors to their doors, she said, and she longs for the time when laws will be transparent and followed in Russia, and it will be possible to avoid bureaucratic complications. In her opinion, Britain currently has the most favorable business environment, with balanced tax laws and fruitful opportunities.

Despite the occasional pitfalls of business in Russia, however, Mogilatova counts herself lucky, as she fell into a career she loves and lives. Leaving everything and escaping is not an option for her, she said: “My work is my life.”