A good place to start looking for a property online is on the Real Estate HungaryReal Estate Hungary website.
That is where Tünde found our apartment. The website is very good at filtering searches.
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Before looking for a property to buy in Budapest, or anywhere in Hungary, you should know what you are buying into in terms of the housing situation and financial system in Hungary. It really does pay to do your homework first.
Over the sections in this Property category I will be explaining how to prepare yourself for property purchase in Hungary together with the buying process and renovation process. More precisely I will be using an apartment for the explanations, even though the rules and regulations apply to any property in general. Meaning, the buying process (rules, regulations and requirements) is easier and more straight forward when buying a city apartment or small city house versus buying a farmhouse or really large property in a village where there may be additional, local council, rules and regulations to follow.
Below I have explained housing in general whilst focusing on matters relating to apartment blocks, such as housing associations and maintenance fees, simply because in reality people with a buying budget of up to £30,000 (11,250,000 HUF) will only be able to afford a city apartment; but not a newly renovated large detached or semi-detached house in a village for example.
Hungarian housing is generally a mixture of apartment blocks, medium and large sized detached and semi-detached houses, farmhouses and luxury houses whereby apartment blocks tend to be in the city. Studio flats also exist but are not that common. Either way, a Hungarian property is NOT measured or classed as '1 Bedroom apartment', '2 Bedroom house', 'Mansion' and so on like in the UK. It is measured by the Square Meter and classed by the minimum number of rooms within it.
On a property website you might see Property #1 - 35 m2 and 1+ and Property #2 - 65 m2 and 3+. This would mean the entire floor space of property one is 35 Square Meters and the entire floor space of property two is 65 Square Meters. The 1+ means property one has at least one room within it and property two has at least three rooms within it.
In reality both properties would have at least 1 bedroom, 1 lounge, 1 kitchen and 1 toilet. The only difference would be the size of each room within each property. Meaning, they might both have the same bedroom size but not the same bathroom and kitchen size for example; especially if both properties were classed as 1+.
While apartments tend to be between 35 and 70 Square Meters and studio flats tend to be 25 Square Meters, the size of a detached or semi-detached house is only limited by your wallet size! In general though, 25 Square Meters would get you a studio flat or large bedsit, 48 Square Meters would get you a comfortable 1 bedroom flat for a single person or couple, and 65 Square Meters would get you a comfortable 2 bedroom flat. Anything after that would be a comfortable large 3 or 4 bedroom flat, if not a mansion for a single person, couple or family.
Many apartment blocks in Hungary will not have been renovated for years, both externally and internally, which can mean higher monthly fuel bills if the apartment you are going to buy has no double glazing and/or high ceilings that have not been lowered with insulated fake ceilings. And if the apartment block itself has not been renovated, its entrance, hallway and staircase areas might not have adequate heating (radiators) for the winter months.
You can tell when an apartment block has been renovated because its exterior walls will have been stonewashed, claded and/or painted in orange and/or green (normally with randomly spaced stripes). Its entrance, hallway and staircase windows will have been double glazed too and its roof will have been repaired with tiles and/or tarmac. And if you are really lucky it will have solar panels on its roof too, to cut down on electricity costs.
An unrenovated apartment block will have none of these renovation improvements and still have its grey concrete wall look. Be aware that many unrenovated apartment blocks will have exposed external walls and/or roofs that let water in, causing damp and other types of water damage. So inspect the external walls (i.e. cladding) and internal walls, ceilings, attics, roofs and floors, before buying.
The Apartment - Although apartment blocks in Hungary look like UK council estates, they are NOT. People living in apartment blocks in Hungary will usually be a mixture of poor individuals (young and just surviving), poor families (working, but just surviving), working-class individuals/families and middle-class individuals/families.
As welfare benefits and unemployment are not really encouraged in Hungary, most apartment tenants will either be living off a pension, have a job and/or be receiving financial help from family members working abroad in order to pay their rent or mortgage; if they do not own their apartment of course.
Hungarians are usually in an apartment block because they were born there, have inherited the apartment, could only get a mortgage for an apartment, or had a low buying budget (such as an expat) whereby they class themselves as "on the property ladder".
The Village House - Hungarians who inherit an apartment or already have a mortgage on an apartment tend to sell their apartment at some point, usually due to financial reasons and/or because they have since got married and/or had children, in order to buy/upgrade to a village house; usually because it has a big garden, more rooms and/or bigger rooms. Hungarians might also inherit a village house of course.
A village house will normally be bought buy someone on a budget/mortgage of between 11,625,000 HUF (£31,000) and 20,625,000 HUF (£55,000).
The Semi/Detached House - People with a budget/mortgage above 20,625,000 (£55,000) tend to be financially well-off or at least have a really well paid job (i.e. 375,000+ HUF / £1,000+ per month).
The vast majority of apartment blocks in Hungary, around 80%, are owned and run by private companies (housing associations) and not the government. So as the freeholder they are responsible for the building’s overall cleanliness and maintenance (hallway, stairwell, roof, heating pipes, etc).
They must heat the hallway and stairwell in winter for example, provide hot and cold water throughout the year to each apartment via pipes that run throughout the building and into each apartment, clean the hallway and stairwell, fix building light bulbs, etc.
The heating, cleanliness and maintenance costs are shared among and paid for by each apartment owner, but as each apartment has its own hot and cold water meters/supply and usage that cost becomes an individual cost to that particular apartment owner. This means each apartment owner has a monthly Maintenance Fee that includes the cleanliness and maintenance of the building plus their own apartment’s bills.
Under certain government subsidies many housing associations opt to renovate an apartment block, which normally includes a new roof, new double-glazed windows and a painted exterior. They can only do this with the consent of all apartment owners, but once agreed the renovation costs are shared amongst and paid for by each apartment owner as an added cost to their monthly Maintenance Fee.
This could mean a standard Maintenance Fee of £32 (12,000 HUF) per month becoming £64 (24,000 HUF) per month, which does not sound bad until you realise that could continue for the next eight years due to the renovation being so recent and expensive. This is something to consider, and discuss with the estate agent, when searching for a property.
On the downside, buying an apartment in an unrenovated apartment block could mean waiting years for a renovation to happen. Years of bitterly cold winters. You could pay for your own double glazing (£1,000+ / 375,000+ HUF) in the meantime with a design of your own, but if you are on a tight budget it might be better to pay a monthly fee towards an apartment block that is about to be renovated or an apartment block that has recently been renovated.
With your monthly electric bill, phone bill and so on, your apartment could easily cost you £96 (36,000 HUF) per month for example without food bills. The reverse side of this scenario is no renovation costs, but high heating bills in the winter due to no double-glazed windows and Hungary being bitterly cold.