Estate sector

In Estonia, predicting the crash of the estate business and claiming the impossibility thereof has become a popular pastime — during the last decade the estate prices have skyrocketed and many Estonians still consider a little plot of land, preferably somewhere by the sea, on an island or simply amidst picturesque scenery, to be the best investment.

Privatisation gave the majority of residential buildings to their inhabitants who became the owners — there are very few municipal houses in Estonia. Housing associations were formed in apartment buildings after privatisation, which often fail to administer the house. At the same time the process is offering ample opportunities for business-minded people. The last few years have seen the emergence of companies that take care of apartment buildings and keep an eye on the bookkeeping of the housing association.

Construction work has had a proper start only during the recent years — people had no money and taking a loan was expensive and complicated. But presently new flats and houses are being built not only around Tallinn but in other bigger towns as well. An average Estonian city-dweller dreams of a life in the countryside near the town, in a private house or a semi-detached house, therefore cities tend to expand in volume despite the decrease in the number of inhabitants. Still, quite a lot of money is being spent on the renovation and rebuilding of older houses. Good loan possibilities have encouraged Estonians to buy new furniture and interior design products, to spend on gardening and repairing summer cottages.

Prices of immovable property vary a lot — the highest prices are in Tallinn city centre, reasonably high at the seashore around Tallinn and Pärnu. At the same time, some regions in Estonia offer residential space for a sum equal to a month's pension or even for free. There are instances when large apartment blocks have become empty and will be pulled down.

There is no doubt that this is one of the fastest-developed areas in Estonia during the last decade. Quick growth has taken Estonia among the leaders in the world or in Europe as the user of some telecommunications services. Internet and computer prices have fallen during the recent years due to vigorous competition – the first are now the lowest in Europe. This encourages people to buy computers.

Estonians quite quickly took up the mobile phones — by now the percentage of the users has risen over 84%, and many use several numbers. This explains the growth of various mobile services — e.g. parking fees, m-banking. The popularity of the mobile phones has caused a decline of land line phones — during 2000-2004 the number of phones at home decreased more than 21%.

About 35% of the Estonian families has internet at home and reputedly about 90% of the population has access to internet. Young people are naturally the most active users — studies have shown that 81% of those under 20 used the internet, whereas the percentage among people over 30 is below 50% (data of 2002). Home usage of the internet grows fast, although the best access is usually at the workplace, at school or university or in public net places. In spite of the quite modest level of home internet connections, Estonia is among the 15 countries where the percentage of permanent net connections is the highest (6.6%, the percentage is highest in Korea with 21.3%, 6.5% in the USA – data from 2002), thus leaving behind, for example, the Netherlands, Italy and Great Britain.

As mentioned above, the use of internet-based and other electronic services has experienced a quick rise. Internet is quite widespread in government services — e.g. submitting the tax return, obtaining information or acquiring official forms from various institutions. According to a study, 36% of Estonian adults use governmental internet services (2003, TNS Intersearch); the level is considerably lower than in Denmark, Norway and Finland but higher than in Germany, Ireland, Japan and other Central and Eastern European countries.

Computers have invaded almost all companies and accounting is entirely computer-based. Government sessions take place electronically — paper documents are replaced by computer screens. At the same time internet shopping is not very popular among Estonians — according to a survey, the percentage was only 7 in 2002 (31% in Korea, who is the leader in the world, 23% in Finland).

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