A good place to start looking for a property online is on the Real Estate Hungary site.
That is where Tünde found our apartment. The website is very good at filtering searches.
I opened a bank account with UniCredit for both immigration and renovation purposes.
It's easier to pay D.I.Y Shops, Supermarkets, etc with a UniCredit Debit Card rather than exchange GBP into HUF all the time.
The Correct Change Bureau De Change, located at Tisza Lajos Körút 57 (Szeged city centre), has excellent exchange rates. They have branches in Budapest too.
It's worth taking a tram/bus into the city centre because you will still receive more money than outside the city centre.
The Land Registry WebsiteLand Registry in Budapest is the office where you can order a copy of your property Title Deeds.
You can also order documents about other properties, just as you can with the UK land registry.
OFFI Hungarian TranslatorsOFFI is the official Hungarian agency that deals with Hungarian/English translation/interpreter work.
OFFI offer voice-over services as well as written document work.
Assuming you have found a property (offline or online via an estate agent), found a Hungarian property lawyer (perhaps recommended by an estate agent), maybe a Hungarian interpreter/translator, and a way to transfer money from the UK into Hungary, you are now ready to put everything into practise and purchase a property in Hungary.
The first step in the property purchase process is to communicate with the seller of the property you wish to purchase, which is normally done via a phone call and/or visit to the estate agent dealing with that property sale, but not normally with the seller directly.
NOTE - Seller does not mean Owner. It is quite normal in Hungary for a seller to be a representative of the actual property owner (APO), in that the APO could be a UK Citizen selling the property or a Limited Company selling the apartment whereby the seller is authorised to sign any paperwork (pre-contact or final contract) on behalf of the APO. Either way, it is the lawyer's job and to some degree the estate agent's job to make sure the APO’s Title Deeds and ‘Right To Sell’ are legitimate.
If you cannot speak Hungarian or the estate agent and/or seller(s) cannot speak English you will need a language interpreter/translator. You could bring along your own, whom you found on the Internet for example, or you could ask the estate agent or your lawyer to hire one. Professionals such as estate agents and lawyers normally know of, and use, a language interpreter/translator; so it should not be too difficult a problem.
When you first speak to the estate agent dealing with the property sale you make an appointment to view the property, with or without the seller(s) being present, whereby you then have time (days/weeks) after that viewing to make a decision about the property. The time usually depends on how fast the estate sells property, how many people are interested in a property and the terms and conditions of the seller(s).
If you are interested in the property, you ask the estate agent to put a reasonable offer to the seller(s). So if a property has a asking price of 19 Million HUF, the estate might offer 17 Million to the seller(s) whereby the seller(s) might then say "18 Million is the best selling price" they can offer you. This process of negotiating the selling price can take days or weeks, but very rarely months.
When a selling price has been agreed you then visit the estate agent again, with the seller(s) present, to negotiate the terms and conditions of the pre-contract.
When viewing the property with the estate agent, perhaps with the seller(s) present, you should be very observant, ask questions and take notes. A perfect example of this was when I bought my apartment in Szeged.
At that time it was a recently renovated apartment block whereby all the apartments within the apartment block had double glazing except my apartment. Upon asking why this was, the estate agent told me it was because the previous previous owner was in debt with the housing association whereby they did not install any double glazing. On top of this, there was no working gas, electricity (no fuse box) or central heating (no radiators connected). And the door was so old it needed replacing.
When negotiating the terms and conditions of sale, I made it a point that a new door needed to be included in the price. Although the final selling price included a new door, which I had to pay for, the labor costs were covered within the final selling price.
The point here is that you must foresee what is going to cause you a headache later. In my case it was getting the electricity connected and a new fuse box installed. Without electricity I could not get renovation work done. Without a fuse box or meter I had no meter reading to give to the electricity company (EDF), making the account setup process longer. With no double glazing I could not have plaster work done. I even had to borrow electricity off the neighbours.
After negotiating the terms and conditions with the owner/seller(s) the next step is to pay a deposit (down payment) for the property. This is normally around 5.9% (258,000 HUF / £688) for a property sale price of 5 Million HUF or less.
With all the negotiations finished, and agreed to, the estate agent will write out a pre-contract with the gist of your terms and conditions inside it. At this point there is no need for a property lawyer because the purpose of any pre-contract is to act as a statement of 'potential property sale' only, as opposed to being a fully fledged terms and conditions final contract.
As an example: In my case the new front door was mentioned in the pre-contract but the sorting out of the electricity problems were verbal (taken as said/promised, in front of witnesses). The reason why the pre-contract is not that important is because the owner/seller(s) could back out of the sale, as could you. This is why the deposit IS SO IMPORTANT to both parties. It works as follows:
You pay a deposit of 10 Percent for example whereby if the owner/seller(s) backs out of the sale they have to repay you double the deposit (20 Percent). Great for you on one hand because you made some quick money, but not so good if you really really wanted that property. On the flip side: If you back out they get to keep your deposit, but they cannot ask more money from you. This is why the deposit is normally high enough for the one backing out to be the loser.
Once the deposit has been paid and the pre-contract signed, each person gets a copy of that pre-contract. You, the owner/seller(s) and the estate agent. A copy will also be sent to each person’s lawyer. The pre-contract will contain an agreed date/time of when the rest of the money is to be paid. Normally with 31 Days, but this can be negotiated.
Although you could just buy the property outright, in one payment, sometimes it is better to use the 'deposit and pre-contract' method just in case you do need to back out for some reason(s), or just need time to reflect on the idea of 'buying a property abroad' and possibly changing your future.
Once you have the remaining amount of money for the agreed property sale price, within the agreed time period, the next step is to make an appointment with everyone involved and to meet in your property lawyer's office so that that remaining money can be counted in front of everyone and the final (actual) property ownership contract can be signed. If you do not have your own lawyer you can use the estate agent’s lawyer or the owner's/seller(s)' lawyer and then meet up at their lawyer’s office instead. This boils down to who you trust.
The ﬁnal contract does NOT necessarily mean you get possession of the keys straight away. One of the Terms & Conditions I negotiated was that the apartment had to be cleared of all rubbish simply because I did not want the responsibility and expense of clearing it. There was a very old, dirty, washing machine, sink, toilet and heavy metal bath to dispose of as well as the old front door and frame; once the new door had been ﬁtted of course. Hence why the owner/seller(s) still needed the keys.
In the end the owner/seller(s) had me sign for the new door keys, which was an informal way of saying "The apartment is now ofﬁcially yours". The paper I signed came in handy when I needed to prove I was the new owner and more importantly that I had possession of the keys.
Within the final contract it is normally stated and agreed, in the small print, that the previous owner/seller(s) has a certain date in which to hand over the keys to the property and leave the property. This is just to give them time to leave, even though you have paid for the property, perhaps because they are in a chain property sale or genuinely need extra time to move into their next property.
After getting possession of the keys notify your lawyer of the fact, if the keys were not given to you straight away for whatever reason(s), because the lawyer can then begin the land registry process which can take up to one month.
Do not delay on this because the lawyer only has one month, by law, in which to register you as the new owner of the property. If one month passes without the land registry being notified the property might not be yours any longer!
Your lawyer will either visit the land registry office in person with your personal details (i.e. Passport Number, UK Address and Mother's Maiden name) or regster your personal details via an online application form so that a new Title Deed can be made for your property, with you registered as the new owner. The land registry then has one month to create the certificate (title deed), which you can collect from your lawyer's office.
In Hungary they have this process, which is almost like a law within its own right, whereby official documents can only be issued upon stating your mother's maiden name. Ironically, I have never been asked to produce evidence of my mother's maiden name even though the Pre-Contract, Final (Property Ownership) Contract, Residency Permit and Address Card required it written on their paperwork. A mother's maiden name is used to distinguish people with the same name in Hungary.
If you have a previous name, because you have since married or changed your name by deed-poll for example, you will need evidence of the change; especially a deed-poll change. Saying this, I changed my name by deed-poll in 2010 but was never asked for evidence of the change by the estate agent, lawyer or immigration even though I did write down and declare the fact on all necessary paperwork.
I was told it could be because my old self (old name) is technically dead! and they are not interested in who you were but who you are now. Either way, I played safe and had my deed-poll document notarised in London (UK) to make it an officially recognised legal document in Hungary and the rest of Europe. It was expensive too. £250.
Just in case you are curious: There will be no mention of your previous name(s) in any official documents (i.e. Residency Permit or Address Card) or service documents (i.e. Telephone Bill or Electricity Bill). They will be kept on paper/computer record by, and for the use of, those government officials and service companies only.