Renting and finding a flat here in Moscow, is an experience like no other unless you are lucky enough to have it done for you and/or to have your company pay for the rent. We did it ourselves and we had to email many agencies here in Moscow and most of them laughed at our budget or sent us unsuitable flats to view. The tenant (you dear reader) is not the boss or the client, the landlord and flat owner is the boss.
You will often be shown flats where: the building is awful and damp and the flat nice or the building is nice and the flat is awful, there is no lift, it looks out onto one of the many 8 lane roads and you will breath in more exhaust fumes than a catalytic converter, or you will be on the 9th floor. You will have to do a lot of leg work and calling to find a flat that meets your "Western" standards, as the Russians call it. Some flats we visited, you had to pass through the kitchen to get to the bathroom or the flat had a great living room, modern kitchen but Protected content style bathroom. Many of the bathrooms have mirrors on the ceilings or bath Jacuzzis from the late Protected content and are quite awful in taste and style. Also Russians, let their flats as they would like them to live in and so are often with vulgar wallpaper rather than in neutral colours for people to rent.
Rent contracts are another jungle to hack through and watch out for, why? because they are meaningless here. Often, landlords will just increase the rent when they like and they will never (except if you are paying a very high rent) fix it for longer than a year. When you visit flats, you may have the agent (yours) that found you the flat, the agent that belongs to the landlord and the landlord. All of which work for the landlord. Your agent gets one months rent from you, the agent of the landlord gets one months rent from the landlord. The agents want as a high a rent as possible so they get as much money as possible. Prices are still crazy here Protected content rents have not fallen very much.
The thing to do is to find a good landlord, if you have bad feelings or doubts about him or her walk away. Your gut feeling could save you a lot of big problems later. Be very careful and the more money you have the better. Start to look early, before you set up home in Moscow and if you have any Russian friends, take them with you to look at flats. Many of the agents speak excellent English and will show you flats any day and at night, they will also drive you to see them. Good luck and be strong.