Russians’ motives for having a second home in Finland

The growing trend of Russian visits to Finland has been supplemented with second home ownership within the last decade. After abolition of restrictions in property ownership, foreigners have been able to buy second homes in Finland since 2000. This has resulted into growing purchases of second homes or dachas by Russians in Finland. Russians comprise about 80 % of the total foreign real estate business in Finland nowadays.

The focus of my research is on the reasons of Russian dacha owners for having second homes in Finland. I propose that foreign second home ownership differs from a domestic one as foreign cottage owners encounter foreign culture, language and legislation. Furthermore, state border between two countries require additional procedures for cottage visits. From the perspective of Russian second home ownership, foreign location and the Finnish-Russian state border are significant factors for choosing Finland. Based on interviews with 25 Russian second home owners summer 2010 I found out that the following reasons are important in choosing Finland as the second home destination.

First of all, Finland provides desirable safety, which doesn’t exist in Russia, and contrast to everyday life in Russian busy urban centers. Forest location of a cottage and absence of neighbours provides good possibilities for peace and quiet. Finns respect private life and do not disturb their neighbours. For Russians, safety means the freedom to rest in a cottage without additional security measures, and leave it unattended without any worries for a long time.

Secondly, a familiar place provides very good preconditions for relaxation. Russian second home owners appreciate the quietness and comfort offered by the cottage. Comfort is understood as calmness of environment, absence of disturbances i.e. personal comfort, as well as comfort in terms of working technical facilities, which will do house chores automatically. Most of the Russian dacha owners have all modern facilities at their cottages, which mean that they do not seek simplicity or getting “back to nature”. However, nature is an important motive for having a cottage in Finland. Russians are attracted by wild, virgin places, which Finland still has. Furthermore, nature is viewed from the perspective of similar climate, weather conditions and familiar landscape. Hence, beauty of nature is a strong motive for coming to Finland.
Thirdly, for many Russians their cottage has become an object of activities. They follow Finnish sport lifestyle, use skating, skiing and swimming facilities. Furthermore, their activities are influenced by surrounding nature: lakes are for fishing and boating; forest is for picking mushrooms, berries and walking. A lot of activities are linked to arrangements around the house and some construction work, which indicate rather recent second home ownership.

Fourthly, a dacha is an integral part of urban life for Russians. Russian dachas have a long history and they symbolize a common way of recreation. Thus, second home ownership in Finland is driven by a strong cultural motive supported with the desire to find lost Russian countryside in Finland, the countryside which is not available in Russia.

Fifthly, the particular location of a cottage is affected by distance, destination image, price and offers. According to distance second homes are divided into three categories: day zone (80-100 km), weekend zone (100-250/400 km) and vacation zone cottages (over 250/400 km). The critical point for second home ownership is 200 km with gradually loss of interest when the distance exceeds the upper limits of the weekend zone. All Russian cottages in Eastern Finland are located in the upper border of the weekend zone and in the vacation zone (270-1200 km) with travelling time stretching from four to eighteen hours. Frequency of visits is not significantly influenced by distance; many cottage owners visit their dachas year round for holidays and weekends. A particular reason for choosing Finland is an easy access by car in comparison to other European countries: no need to travel through other countries or fly. The Finnish-Russian border, which takes some extra time on the way to the cottage, is not considered as an obstacle. Since distance from the permanent residence to the border is static, a significant factor for Russian owners in choosing the cottage location is distance from the border to the cottage. However, Savonlinna region, which is 100-150 km from the border, got contradictory opinions and was estimated to be both a close and remote location.

Sixthly, frequency of visits depends on the image of the destination. This is completely proved by Russians’ visits to Finland, as they have an extremely positive image about Finland. The most common adjectives Russian owners used to describe Finland are kindness, hospitality, calmness, clean and well organized country. This image is supported by good experiences with Finns. Finns are perceived as very calm, kind, polite and very nice people, who are always smiling at you. Willingness to help has been highlighted by many owners. Positive image of Finland formed among Russian second home owners hasn’t change over time. On the contrary, it became stronger the longer the Russians had been coming to Finland.

Seventhly, Russians feel they don’t pay more for having better leisure conditions in Finland. Prices on second homes in Finland are much cheaper than in Russia. This is a very attractive reason to have a dacha in Finland. Almost all Russian owners said they had been to Finland and in the region of their cottage location before the cottage purchase, which influenced their choice. However, real estate agents also play a significant role especially in terms of foreign second home ownership, since they direct their clients to certain destinations. In Savonlinna region they have had an influence to the concentration of Russian second homes in particular areas.

In sum, key motives for Russians’ second home ownership are contrast to everyday life, relaxation, nature, activities as well as personal and cultural motives. Choice of the location and frequency of visits are not significantly influenced by the overall distance to the second home, but only the distance from the border matters. However, positive country image, lower prices and real estate agents’ offers are significant factors for choosing the cottage location inside Finland.

Written by: Olga Lipkina


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