The Ryland Group announced yesterday that it plans to export factory-built homes to Moscow through a joint venture with two Russian partners.
Ryland, which through its trading company already has an agreement to sell the prefabricated homes in St. Petersburg, hopes eventually to have homebuilding factories in several Russian cities.
Officials of the Columbia-based company, one of the country's biggest homebuilding and mortgage-finance companies, said the profit potential of such ventures remains unclear.
"My market goal is a very, very sloppy one because market research in Moscow is very strange," said Thurman W. Bretz, president of Ryland Trading Ltd., a unit of the homebuilder that was created in January 1991 to market Ryland's building technology worldwide.
Mr. Bretz said it was impossible to estimate accurately the cost of homes that Ryland would build in Moscow, what features the homes would have or how large they would be. Details cannot be spelled out until government officials in Moscow review and clear Ryland's plans, Mr. Bretz said.
Homes initially would be sold to Russian citizens from models for hard currency, the company said.
By fall, Ryland plans to begin construction on models that would be used for its sales effort in Moscow. Models in St. Petersburg are expected to be constructed in late summer.
Although most residents of the Moscow area live in concrete high-rises, wooden houses were common in pre-revolutionary Russia.
"Russia is one of the few countries that is very used to wooden housing culturally. To give them a warm, comfortable wooden house would be well received," Mr. Bretz said.
Ryland's Moscow project is a joint venture with two Russian partners: Tuchkova Amalgamation, which makes high-rise homes as well as wooden windows and doors; and Armatech, which is expected to assist Ryland in its marketing efforts in Moscow.
Initially, Ryland would be building the Moscow homes with units constructed at several of its U.S. plants on the East Coast. It hopes that demand would become sufficient to operate such plants in Russia.