Today on House Hunters International, a lawyer leaves the desert of the Sonoran for the grind of the Gobi. Join us today for House Hunter’s International as we head to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan, the fearsome conqueror whose empire once controlled lands from Europe to Asia and the Middle East has transformed from a nomadic country into an emerging economy especially in the up and coming metropolis of its capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Ulaanbaatar (or is it Ulan Bator) is a the largest city in Mongolia, a country landlocked between Russia and China. This nation is home to some of the largest natural resource deposits in the world attracting investors like the ’49 Gold Rush in the United States. The economy has gone up and down for the past couple of years but is still lucrative for professionals looking to be a part of what may be the next great international skyline.
Today, we meet Alexander, an American lawyer mining for success in this ancient country.
Alex: I’ve grown quite used to living in the real sunshine state of Arizona but life has gotten to be a little bit dull here. Ironically, I’m moving to a place described as drab because it is the coldest and most polluted city in the world. Luckily, the work will be very interesting.
Alex has had to sell his Cadillac, get rid of his bbq, and rent out his place while simultaneously looking for an apartment in UB. He arrives on Friday with work beginning on Monday so he will have to move quickly in locating a place to live.
Alex: I’ve looked at Google Maps and have some idea where my office is. For me, the most important thing is proximity to work. I’m used to the luxuries of home but will give it up to avoid freezing to death.
Alex’s flight path to Mongolia was a little bit complicated. After flying from New York to Finland, Alex visited Sweden by way of boat, Latvia and Turkey before his business class flight to Seoul on Turkish Airlines, onto Beijing and finally to Mongolia- all on points.
Alex found a real estate agent to assist him in the search and listed his requirements:
Alex: Money isn’t the issue, proximity to work is. All I need is strong Wi-Fi, a comfortable bed, and a hot shower. I’d even settle for a studio apartment if it was connected to the office!
Agent: And what is your budget?
Alex: I’m thinking around $500 a month…
Agent: Oh, that’s quite low. Ulaanbaatar is not as cheap you would expect. The nicer properties go for thousands of dollars a month, especially if you want to be in the city.
Alex: . . . Well maybe money is an issue.
Agent: But, I’ll do my best of showing you a range of properties.
Option 1: The Blue Sky Building
Agent: The first property I’m showing Alex is the Blue Sky building located on Peace Avenue. This architectural marvel isn’t quite the achievement that its engineers thought it would be. It was supposed to represent the modernization of UB and introduce a new level of luxury to the city. Instead, the building was plagued with construction delays and the reviews have been mixed. I’m showing Alex this property but it is for sale, not rent. The real estate market has taken a hit since 2012 so the prices are much more affordable
Alex: Initially, I liked the Blue Sky building because it reminded me of my days in Dubai and it is really close to work and the Choijin Lama Temple Museum. The price, in the millions of dollars, not Mongolian Tugrik, is a bit out of my budget.
The Agent sensing that Alex’s talk of not wanting amenities was indeed just talk shifted the focus away from the city center to an area south of the city where many of the expats live. While Alex would not be walking distance to work, the complex provides all the amenities of living in Scottsdale and has bluer sky views than the Blue Sky building which becomes barely visible due to smog in the winter.
Option 2: Bella Vista Apartments
Agent: I showed Alex the Bella Vista apartments that have everything from a pool to grocery store located on the premises. I could tell he was impressed. The price was out of his initial budget as most apartments go for a couple of grand a month, but he seemed to be intrigued by living in a place that was so much like home.
Alex: Wow, I really like this apartment complex. It is more like living in a points hotel, like a Park Hyatt. The budget is a little off but there is a gym on site. That may be too hard to pass up. I don’t know how to get to work because there’s no way I’m driving in this traffic. Even taking a taxi seems like it would be an inconvenience given the language barrier.
Moving onto option #3, the Agent does a complete 180 as she shows Alex his final choice. It is located right in the city center, only five minutes to work, right next to a gym and grocery store, and most importantly next to two pubs: Grand Khaan Irish Bar and MB Beer Plus that also is a brewery.
Option 3: Nearby Livin’
Agent: Now I’m going to have warn you, the outside of the building isn’t exactly beautiful. It was built in the 60’s in typical Soviet design. Furthermore, the apartment is located on the 5th floor and there is no elevator. It does include Wi-Fi and satellite TV for that has HBO and CNN International for watching dreamy AC360. Also, the rent is only $570 a month.
Alex: Let’s take a look.
Agent: Well here we are.
Alex: Well, the building and the front door sure have character.
Agent: Here’s the bedroom that comes with this interesting rug and a bed that is as hard as the concrete infrastructure of the building itself. The bathroom has a hot shower but in Ulaanbaatar the hot water is sporadically cut off during the summer like rolling blackouts in San Francisco. But, come look, you can see your work from the window.
Alex: If there’s one thing Ulaanbaatar has, it’s common parts. How’s the Wi-Fi?
Agent: It’s pretty reliable. Please decide as soon as possible. The availability of all these places even with the economic downturn dries up quite quickly.
Walking around the city, Alex goes to Suhktbaatar Square to look at the impressive statue of Ghenghis Khaan. Running out of time, he has to make a decision on where to live. Will it be option 1, the Blue Sky of Dubai, for the luxury lifestyle? Will it be option 2, the style of Scottsdale, outside the city center? Or, option 3, Flinttown, Mongolia?
Alex: Well, first I have to start by eliminating one option. That seems obvious. Option 1. It’s too early to buy a property and especially in a building that has such terrible reviews. The gym in the complex is smaller than the one in my parents’ house and it costs $100 a month to enroll. There is a nightclub attached to it called Vegas, but nobody goes there.
Option 1 is out.
Alex: Now, it’s between option 2 and option 3. When I started this search I did say that proximity was important so long as I had a comfortable bed, a hot shower, and great Wi-Fi. Option 2 has all the features I’m looking for in an apartment but it is pretty far away. Option 3 does have Wi-Fi but the bed is made out of bricks and intermittent hot water? I mean, I know the summer is coming to an end any day now but that would mean I would have to move again next summer or learn to enjoy cold showers from time to time.
So which one will it be?
Alex: ThePointsOflife has allowed me to travel the world and stay at the best hotels and fly on the best airlines for next to nothing. I’ve been pampered more than I deserve and have grown accustom to a champagne lifestyle. But, I really enjoyed my days in Anytown, USA when I was sleeping in the great outdoors in my upgraded tent. I guess I could get use to the hard bed. And for $570 a month all in and I’m right next to work, I think I’ve made my decision:
Option 3 it is!
We caught up with Alex a week after he has settled into his new apartment. The shower is running hot and the bed has enough padding to trick him into believing he is staying at his former home, the W Hotel Scottsdale.
Alex: I love my apartment. I walk to work, to the gym, and most importantly to the bar, come rain or cold. With all the money I saved on rent, I can go to the nearby pubs as often as I like and buy as much locally crafted beer as my liver desires. For sure, I know I made the right decision. Thanks House Hunters International.