KyivPost

Drowning In Debt

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March 4, 2009, 9:47 p.m. | Ukraine — by Maryna Irkliyenko

Maryna Irkliyenko

Kyiv Post Staff Writer

More homeowners can’t keep up with mortgage payments during economic crisis. Vitaliy Chernyavskiy and his wife, Olena Tkacheva, moved to Kyiv from Zaporizhya four years ago to start a family in the city with big opportunities. Years of rapid economic growth convinced the family last year to buy the apartment they had been renting.

It looked like a safe bet then. The family was making $5,000 a month, comfortably middle class, and more than enough to cover the $1,800 mortgage payment.

Then everything went downhill fast.

When Ukraine’s economy took a dive, Chernyavskiy lost his job last year and his wife’s income barely covered the monthly payments. Last August, the bank raised the interest rate, bringing payments to $2,100 on the home loan. Combined with a 40 percent drop in the hryvnia since then, the married couple is now drowning in debt. Their salaries are paid in hryvnia, while their loan is repaid in dollars.

Today, they are one missed payment away from having their lender start foreclosure proceedings that could force them to surrender their home to the bank.

Sadly, they are not the only ones in Ukraine. Dreams are crashing all around as people slip from middle class to poverty. “Sometimes there are just two days left before the salary payment, and you have an empty fridge, so you can not afford to have children in these circumstances,” Vitaliy Chernyavskiy said.

The Chernyavskiys are among 10 million Ukrainians who took out loans in the last two years, with at least half of those credits denominated in dollars. Dollar loans came with lower interest rates. Currently there are 400,000 families owing mortgages of Hr 102 billion (or about $13 billion), “80 percent of which are in foreign currency and, under the current hryvnia rate, 20 — 30 percent [of borrowers] cannot meet their loan obligations,” said Andriy Nesteruk, analyst at Phoenix Capital.

Officially, some 2 percent of loans were classified as non-performing by February, but others believe the figure is much higher. As these unpaid debts pile up, banks are facing threats to their own solvency. “From the beginning, we should understand that the crisis creates difficulties both for clients and banks,” Greg Krasnov, the general director at Platinum Bank, said. When clients can't pay their loans and lose their homes, banks face bankruptcy.

Oleksandr Koksharov, partner at Best Credit Anti-Collection, notes that – as real estate prices drop by double-digit percentage points – buyers are finding themselves “under water.” In other words, they owe more than the home is now worth.

Also called being “upside-down,” the unhappy circumstance gives borrowers a powerful incentive to default on their debt obligations and walk away from their loans. “It would not make sense for people to continue repaying the loan whose value significantly exceeds the market value of the collateral,” Koksharov said.

The Chernyavskiys know well the temptation to default. Vitaliy has gotten a freelance job that brings in some income, but not enough: “The situation is very frustrating because I spend the larger part of my salary to pay off the mortgage. I can’t use money that I earn. Meanwhile, my debt is only growing, so I don’t see the point [of keeping up with payments].”

On the other hand, if the bank seizes their apartment and sells it via auction, the proceeds are likely to cover only half of the loan amount at current depressed prices, leaving the family on the hook for the remainder.

The bank is not much help in finding a way out, the Chernyavskiys said. Mortgage restructuring specialists offered the family an extension of the repayment period, from 15 to 25 years. That, however, would increase the cost of the apartment to $500,000, while decreasing monthly payments by just $100. The couple owes $2,500 in fines for late payments. They are currently paying what they can, but can’t keep up.

Despite this situation, banking experts say borrowers should promptly inform their lenders about financial problems in order to work out a plan to save their homes. Banks would rather have money, not apartments, cars and other items that they would most likely sell at a loss. Experts also advise borrowers to learn their rights instead of just accepting what banks say.

“As soon as they encounter financial problems, they need to notify their bank in order to find a mutual solution,” advised Platinum Bank’s Krasnov. “Both a client and a bank should work together to work out the best affordable solution.”

Recently, the Justice Ministry announced that banks have the right to seize people’s homes without a court decision if borrowers miss payments for more than 90 days. A few days later, Justice Minister Mykola Onischuk explained that the new law applies only to mortgages issued after Jan. 14, and then only if this condition was specified in the mortgage contract.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the government and National Bank of Ukraine, specifically, to develop programs to help families like Vitaliy Chernyavskiy and Olena Tkacheva. The central bank has started selling foreign currency to select banks at the below-the-market rate of Hr 7.8/$1 so that their mortgage clients could take advantage of lower installment payments. On Feb. 27, the NBU sold the first portion of $34.5 million to 12 banks.

Petro Poroshenko, deputy head of the NBU, suggested that the loan burden should be divided equally among the borrowers, banks and government. Appearing on the “Shuster Live” TV show, Poroshenko said that “33 percent must be paid by the borrower, and the government should provide incentive for the borrowers to do so. The next third should be borne by the lender by means of decreasing the interest rate, and the remainder of the loan should be paid by the government.” Poroshenko said ministries should step in.

But with government and banks in tough financial shape, little help may be forthcoming to borrowers, many of whom may end up defaulting on their obligations and losing their homes.
The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
Anonymous March 5, 2009, 3:04 a.m.    

Dear Readers,

Please make the effort to find and watch the movie 'The Soviet Story'.

It is absolutely essential viewing for anyone interested in the state of Europe and her neighbours.

Good luck!

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 9:14 a.m.    

Why should anyone feel sympathy for those people that have gambled thier future stability borrowing money. There is no such thing as a safe bet, and nothing patriotic in betting in forign currency. Are the people without loans now going to be asked to help out these borrowers with goverment aid, and if so will they themselves be given a cash bonus to swell their savings and bring their dream of better things, without credit, a little sooner? Just like gambling in a casino or even on the lottery you place your bet and accept the results.

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 10:47 a.m.    

These people were not speculators, the mortgage payments were well within appropriate limits of income when the apartment was purchased. The currency had been stable for a number of years to the USD.

They were not gambling their future stability, they like most people who buy homes were trying to ensure their financial stability . The decision that the made based on their circumstances at the time was a reasonable one.

Unfortunately, circumstances changed suddenly with a combination of currency devaluation and losing employment due to the economic recession, one of which could have been coped with but the combination of both being too much of a burden.

It happens, but they do deserve sympathy as the acted with the best of intentions, not as casino gamblers. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.

I don't believe there should be government aid, but the losses should be shared between the lenders and the borrowers as both are responsible.

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 8:56 p.m.    

u r very right; some assholes would take advantage ;

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 2:12 a.m.    

It sounds like you are a bankrupt idiot to us. Sour grapes sown from your greed.

Back to the bread line for free handouts for you!

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 10:40 a.m.    

Well, I can only partly agree.

I have a number of ukrainian friends that run/ran into the same issue. Myself and other friends (that live or often stay in Ukraine) warned them often and just earned laughter.

Their decision a few years ago was based on an illusion that real estate prices will continue to rise and that the Hyrivna will be stable against dollar/euro.

I'm sorry but every person that was around in russia/ukraine and western-europe, compares quality/prices of real estate saw instantly that it was just a bubble (< much bigger than in US/UK). The prices were just ridiculous. You got rotten holes for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The same counts for the stability of the currency that mainly reflects the actual and prospected competiveness of a economy. If people believe(d) that Ukraine can compete ie with the EU-zone the next 10-15 years (= stability of the currency vs euro) then I cannot help them.

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 6:44 p.m.    

Likewise, I too know of people in the Ukraine who had no understanding of what was really happening.

My now ex and I bought a property mid-boom and (she) managed to buy and sell several times until such time as she owned her property outright and also had some parcels of land to boot.

Sadly she did not know when to quit and borrowed substantial sums on said properties (to give to a local Ponzi scheme run by the now infamous Mr Fletcher).

Having visited Ukraine many times over the last 8 years, and having witnessed the boom and bust cycle first-hand ( I can remember the airport filling with more and more foreign company representatives on each visit!), it is clear that by and large, the people lacked any financial nous whatsoever, despite a significant number of the populace graduating, or at least studying Economics!

The lessons to be learned from Capitalism and it's cyclical nature, sadly, will probably NOT be learned. We have shown that in the West.

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Anonymous March 9, 2009, 6:20 a.m.    

Capitalism isn't the problem... It's the reckless printing of money which throws off the natural balance of supply and demand, until they eventually catch up with each other, which they inevitably do. That's why it's called the LAW of supply and demand. I mean, come on...people were driving up demand (and hence price), with no money down and no way to pay for it in the long run. It was unsustainable. Blame the fiat currencies and the policy of perpetual growth for this, not capitalism...

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 9:26 a.m.    

OK, so how does one go about bidding on real estate or autobiles in Ukraine that are up

for auction due to foreclosure / repossession? Rick Walker rickthewalker@yahoo.com

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 10 a.m.    

Dear Rick great question ! glade you have the cash to cash in on peoples lost dreams !!!

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 5:28 p.m.    

Cashing in Lost Dreams? I came to this country thirteen years ago out of alturistic motives. So, when I arrived my university students had laptop computers and my desktop was so outdaged that one student asked me, "what is that on your desk?" Since that time many of my students have gone on to be successful, and in many cases VERY sucessful businessmen. I watch them drive SUVs while I still rely on public transportation. They own apartments (that is plural) and lands and take month long European vacations. So, now if items are up for sale, how am I cashing in on other people's lost dreams? If an item if for sale becaue it has been repossesed or foreclosed, am I really cashing in on lost dreams? or am I simply purchasing an item for sale at the current market rate? If there were not a crisis, would I be "cashing in on lost dreams" if I purchased a repossessed car from a bank? Or, a house which has been repossessed? I don't think so.

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 8:54 p.m.    

u r so so so wrong; cheating remains cheating no matter how you defend; you can convince yourself but one day you will pay big price ; and people did not gamble, and this is not for ukraine specific, it happened everywhere, u r lucky that you have cash, and if you have little courtesy, then buy homes at realistic discount price not at 70% discount, this will be help and not cheating;

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 2:18 a.m.    

Another sour grape story. Take the easy way out ... get a rope and go find a tree.

You have no future!

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Yulia Blindyuk March 6, 2009, 1:29 p.m.    

please feel free to express your opinion with respect to your opponents and other readers. all comments with obscene language and/or direct insults will be deleted, no matter whose side the writer chooses.

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 4:40 p.m.    

Historically, it is not those who have had little when an economic crisis comes that "get a rope and find a tree." Historically, it has been those who were relying on their wealth for happiness and security, only to find out that it has eluded them.

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 11:05 a.m.    

Well, if you can't pay your mortage and have to sell your apartment, post me ))) I buy at realistic prices: cash-se4as@yandex.ru

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 4:35 p.m.    

Dear Readers,

i`ve got the same story as this young family has. and the true is that we, borrowers, have a responsibility to pay credit according to course (hrivna to foreign currency) that was agreed on the moment the credit contract concluded. the Goverment (which we are voting) is responsible to provide with the laws to maintain the stability. otherwise the Goverment pays.

why should borrowers take responsibility for the bad job of government?

that`s the point.

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 5:22 p.m.    

Why the central bank in Kyiv ended four years of fixed rates for the hryvna in May 2008, letting the market set the rate? Who made this? Who signed this decision to end the fixed rates for the hryvna?? The President of Ukraine? That's a VERY BIG but VERY IMPORTANT question for me??? It was very stupid to ended four years of fixed rates for the hryvna in May 2008, so letting the market set the rate!!! Only (EU, US) countries with a strong currency can letting the market set the rate, like the EUR. or USD. The hryvna was not a strong currency in May 2008, so again very stupid, letting the market set the rate!!! The economic crisis was not so bad in Ukraine, if the hryvna had fixed rates in 2008 and in 2009,... http://www.kyiv-capital.com.ua

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 11:33 a.m.    

A country can only keep an exchange rate fixed as long as it has enough foreign currency to support it.

Why not just fix the rate at 2 hryvnya/dollars? ... all ukrainians will be super rich overnight!

For someone calling himself "Kyiv Capital Management" I'm pretty surprised .....

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 10:50 a.m.    

Another thing to do, in the mid-to-longer run, is to set higher interest rates by shortening the money supply. But this is not to recommend in a situation, where the economy is said to contract by almost 10% this year, leading to even higher credit payments and all the consequences it has.

The main mistake of monetary policy in Ukraine was that 1.) the exchange-rate was kept relativley weak, leading to stronger inflation (as Ukraine is a net-importer), 2.) this crisis was not anticpated - but well, this is not a mistake in this sense.

As the capital flew out of the Hryvnia, meaning that foreign investors changed Hyrvnias to Dollars, leading to a higher demand for Dollars (and therefore to a oversupply of Hryvnias), therfore weaking the currency further. Nationalbank tried and is still trying to intervene, meaning to sell dollars and therefore to buy Hryvnias, which makes the demand for Hryvnias higher and therefore strengthens the currency.

But as already stated here, this is not a

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 10:53 a.m.    

This is not a free lunch and the Nationalbank needs to have enough Dollar reserves for that. But reseves are steadily declining and we can see how much the currency will depreciate. The probleme with such a controlled decline is that speculators can anticipate this and therefore make profits on such monetary interactions, buy short selling dollars (buying dollars now and selling them later back).

The only thing to do is: Ukraine needs to have a strong political leading, agreeing on IMF terms and hoping, that it is not too much sucked.

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 10:43 a.m.    

Oh oh.. you should visit some standard introductory macroeconomic classes :) This is definatley rubbish what you tell. To understand what is going on, you have just to know supply and demand relations and a bit more.

Please check for a more scientific update: ukraineeconomy.blogspot.com

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Anonymous March 8, 2009, 8:59 a.m.    

Hi,

I admit I oversimplified things for the thread-opener but supply/demand or what lead to the actual situation is not the question here asked by "Kyiv Capital Management". I take it as an economic date ... and this date doesn't permit the NBU to keep the exchange rate fixed around 5:1. They'll run out of money in no time.

Btw, I have a master degree in economics and surely did not buy it as some of my business-men-collegues.

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Yulia Blindyuk March 8, 2009, 10:59 a.m.    

please avoid being rude and stop promoting the site

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 8:06 p.m.    

"The family was making $5,000 a month, comfortably middle class...

"

Ok , $5,000 per month was middle class in Ukraine? That sounds middle class to me, in California, for one person. Ok wait, it must refer to both husband and wife, not a single salary. Still, $5,000 per month?

I read that at the peak some months ago the highest average salary was in Kyiv at about UAH 3,074 DEC 2008. At that time the exchange was 4.5 to one USD so we're talking about USD $683. This couple make almost 10 times as much. Doesn't sound middle class to me.

http://www.kyivpost.com/nation/34078

The working class, except for speculators, is innocent. Don't be fooled people, a depreciating currency is the tool of the capitalist elites to increase profits by increasing their exports.

It was also a condition for the IMF loan and part of the "austerity measures", sad to say. Capitalism is now in its openly "brutal" depression phase in Ukraine and the people should be helped as much as possible.

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 10:42 a.m.    

You are right, but there is not such a term of highest average income :) I mean you can look at different classes of income and take there the average, but for that you have to have the data...

Ok, this is surley and definatley an exaggeration to talk here of "comfortable" middle class. If there is already a middle class in Ukraine, is questionable, and secondly, if there would be such a big middle class as the author states, Ukraine's GDP would be "slightly" higher than just 100 Bio. USD a year, still much less in terms of GDP per capita compared with Russia.

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Anonymous March 9, 2009, 8:01 p.m.    

1. First, read carefully before commenting. $5000 per month is a middle class for Kyiv, not Ukraine, that is a big difference here.

2. Second, don’t be misled by stereotypes or official information that you could have interpreted wrong. Realities of Kyiv life are exactly as written in the article. The family has higher education and some years of working experience, so working as IT specialists they did manage (or used to) to get the mentioned income. $600 is about a salary of a cashier at a supermarket in Kyiv (again in reality).

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Anonymous March 5, 2009, 9:32 p.m.    

Unfortunately tough lessons are being learned here. Ukraine is new to credit and the banking system has no good way of monitoring credit... We know TRW, Transwestern, Experian who track everyone's credit and provide a report for any borrower to see, even to rent an apartment. One Ukraine friend was simply taking his same request for money to all banks to build a house... house is built, they have traveled the world, have a nanny and housekeeper... of course Land Cruiser, New Mitsubishi 4x4 truck, Mercedes Van and several businesses that don't really produce. In the West we say robbing from Peter to pay Paul. They just went through a fictitious divorce where everything goes to the wife and kids... courts will now sort this out probably over the next 5 years... credit became too easy.. these folks don't even know who they really are anymore... but it was great while it lasted.

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 2:02 p.m.    

How can a local get $5,000 salary in Kiev, the only explanation is that it was borrowed money by the employer, everything was based on debt cause it was thought that prices of assets will keep rising and the profits of companies will increase at a rate that it can cover debts, that myth has been shattered. So they now are paying the price for their miscalculations. The Central Bank should not bail them out because its bailing out the pseudo middleclass at the expense of the poor.

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Anonymous March 6, 2009, 8:25 p.m.    

Making $5000 in Ukraine?? Are you serious. I thought Ukraine was a poverty stricken third world country!! That is almost 50% of what I make in CANADA. These people must have been super rich by Ukrainian standards. Or else, may be they were all part of a Pyramid scheme (more likely).

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 10:39 a.m.    

Average GDP per capita in Ukraine is about 3000 USD a year, maybe for Kiev 12000. But to earn in terms of income about 60000, resp. 30000 a person, this is much, very much for Kiev.

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Anonymous March 10, 2009, 2:25 p.m.    

Have you been to Ukraine? Where did you come to this notion that it was a poverty stricken third world country.

These salaries were considered quite normal in middle class Kiev.

You have to ask yourself why would educated, english speaking Ukrainians work in Ukraine for a fraction of what they could earn in the west when up until recently the west had a skills shortage, the answer is they wouldn't.

Therefore salaries had to be reasonably competitive to keep those professions here.

Of course its a different story for those Ukrainian whose skills aren't transferable accross borders, these people do receive the small salaries, especially in the regions.

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 12:10 a.m.    

It's a failure of Government to protect its citizens from sharp lenders. Ukraine should pass Law to force mortgage loans in dollars to be converted on the day of closing to hryvnia, with payments thereafter in hryvnia. For this very reason. The Government of Ukraine is failing its citizens in a thousand different ways.

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 9:24 a.m.    

5000USD a month.. come on there must be some mistake!.. this is Ukraine.. no one makes that unless is in a criminal enterprise or high level government official.. maybe the writer wanted to enhance the story a bit.. this story is off the charts.. time for truth..

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Anonymous March 8, 2009, 12:15 a.m.    

Well, maybe you do not know Kyiv. I do pay my employees above US$ 2000 per month. And this is nothing special in the LEGAL software and electronics business

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Anonymous March 10, 2009, 2:18 p.m.    

Plenty of companies were paying more than $2,500 per month for qualified staff, I know many finance managers who were internationally qualified that were making $5,000+ per month.

You have to remember that it the globalised world internationally qualified people who are fluent in English have to be paid a comparable rate to what they could achieve in Western countries or they would leave, due to the large shortages in those Western countries of qualified people.

However now that the world economy has fallen off a cliff this will change as it becomes more difficult for visas, these professionals will be forced to stay in Ukraine which will drive down salaries to a Ukrainian level rather than a global one.

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Anonymous March 16, 2009, 3:40 p.m.    

I used to earn $4000 a month working for a Ukrainian bank in Kiev last year and a colleague was on $6000 ... others were on much more.

Don't make that much any more

Joe

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Anonymous March 7, 2009, 10:38 a.m.    

Ukraine's GDP per capita is roughly about 3000 USD a year. For Kiev, surley much higher, do we say about 10000 USD.

Before the crisis, young people with university degree could make about around 1000 USD a month, leading to an income of 12000 a year. If this guy earned 2500 a month, as well as his wife, summing up to 5000 USD a month, this is much more than anyone average earned in Kiev. Flats were cheap some years ago, so a lot of people could afford it.

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Anonymous March 8, 2009, 3:04 a.m.    

EU Guest, u pay a salary of $2000 cause u charge high prices for services, now it is no more as your maket has shrinked or been shattered by financial crisis, your clients are on the verge of bankruptcy as they have borrowed heavily, are u still paying $2000, I doubt it. In any case the correction on the house prices is long overdue, as it was fuelled by debt and irresponsible lending. people have only their salary as gurantee that they can repay. It was a house of cards and with nothing substantial that justify such high prices, greed has come to bite the people of Kiev and they should learn the lesson.

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Anonymous March 8, 2009, 4:49 p.m.    

Agreed.

$5,000/month ($2,500 per spouse x2) - is atypical in Kiev, to say the least.

Yes, salaries did top $1,000. But those salaries were bloated as it was - based on too much European and Russian capital chasing too few fundamnetally good investment opportunities in Ukraine. The reality is, Ukraine just isn't that productive. Beyond agriculture, it doesn't have much of a competitive advantage over any other country. Except in small niches (targetted software firms taking advantage of cheap, highly educated labor), this isn't going to change.

The bulk of the Ukrainian bank deposits that were used to fund mortgage loans did NOT come from Ukrainian depositors - they came from European banks that channeled funds to Ukraine in search of high yields (even US dollar denominated mortgage loans were over 10% interest/year).

Default rates will soar. The reported 2% default rate is total hogwash.

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Anonymous March 8, 2009, 4:54 p.m.    

In recent years, the bulk of foreign capital investment into Ukraine, and the subsequent increases in employment and wages, was mainly focused on the consumption side of the economy.

Some investment was made in development of agriculture - and those investments will fare well. But much more was invested in developing distribution and sales networks of imported goods and services, as well as financial services in order to fund the increased consumption.

It doesn't take a nobel-prize winning economist to see that an economy which has increasing levels of debt, increasing levels of consumption, and stagnant production is doomed to collapse.

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Anonymous March 9, 2009, 12:23 a.m.    

I don't know where you are from, if you have ever been to Ukraine. I know many companies, including my company, which are still paying approx. US$ 2000 per month. Our customers are not bancrupt because they are not from the US but from Europe. But I even do know US comapnies, especially software companies, which are paying far above US$ 2000 per month. US has put the world in a crisis due to consuming far above their real values. But we go on, our industry, even we do have the worst politicians in the world, doesn't die like the US car makers. So maybe Ukraine is in shit, but not in deep shit as the US.

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Anonymous March 10, 2009, 2:01 p.m.    

Some Ukrainian individuals, and some Ukrainian companies, will no doubt continue to do well. Certainly, those companies which profit from the extremely highly educated science based Ukrainian employees, who work for much lower salaries than their counterparts in the West. will do well.

That said - its a pretty limited industry in Ukraine. The bulk of Ukraine is in much worse shape than the US.

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Anonymous March 11, 2009, 8:27 p.m.    

Always blame the US. Ukraine's currency/debt problem is caused by the greed of EUROPEAN bankers, so stop sounding like Putin.

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Anonymous March 8, 2009, 8:06 p.m.    

If you can not pay your mortgage/debt anymore, I buy apartments cash, good location inside Kyiv, up to US$ 200.000,00 - cash and fast. If you want to sell: cash-se4as@yandex.ru

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Anonymous March 9, 2009, 8:17 a.m.    

In any case I will pay 20 % more than he

Real-estate-king@mail.ru

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