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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Besides timing your property renovation in terms of having double glazing and radiators fitted for example, which could be done in stages at various times (i.e. left until later), I would strongly recommend making a plan straight after, if not before, property purchase in order to avoid wasted time, energy and money in the long run.
Although I had a plan in mind when I purchased my apartment in Szeged, which I carried out as much as I could, unforeseen and avoidable problems still hindered that plan. Hence why below, with hindsight, I have given you an insight into what can be avoided.
On paper renovating a property should not really need a plan as it should be a straight forward process. However, there is always something that interferes with your plan. Below is the initial, straight forward, plan I wanted to carry out. A plan I thought would be simple and easy to follow. How wrong was I to expect that!
In Reality: I had to chop up the cupboards myself, hire a skip from my own expenses and then pay some local people to remove those heavy household objects, old floor and wall tiles, and pieces of heavy wood; as well as carry strong black bags, OBI strong bags and cardboard boxes full of rubbish downstairs to the outside dustbin.
Comments: The local builders wanted to dump their own rubbish in the domestic dustbins outside my apartment instead of hiring a skip or taking it to a waste ground, which could of got me into trouble as you are not supposed to put builder's waste inside the domestic bins.
In Reality: I could of paid the tiler to remove those tiles, but that would of meant an extra charge of around £100. With a little muscle power, mallet and brick chisel I managed, after two days, to remove all the tiles myself; which were a bitch to remove and very noisy to remove.
Comments: Consider the pros and cons. You can save money but the neighbours might not appreciate the noise, especially if you are renovating an apartment. In which case, put a big sign of apology on the entrance/exit doors of the apartment building explaining there will be noise over the coming weeks and months.
In Reality: This was just a cosmetic repair whereby sanding down the affected (sun-dried out) ceiling/wall areas took care of the problem. For added protection and reassurance I also treated the affected areas with the relevant chemicals and anti-mold paints.
Comments: When viewing a property do not be afraid to peel off flaking paint in order to investigate potential problems. More importantly, do not be afraid to ask the estate agent and/or current owner about any known problems, the property's history in terms of its previous owners and the building itself. Their testimonies can be valuable insights. In my case the previous owners bought the property from an auction as the previous previous owner was jobless and lived like a squatter in the apartment. Hence its rundown condition and lack of electricity meter (due to being in debt) leading to 'force of sale'.
In Reality: If you are renovating on a grand scale, such as having the property rewired, you will need to ask the neighbours for some electricity. Even though you can work long hours in the sunlight of summertime, drilling holes with a battery powered drill for example, battery powered tools still need electricity to charge them!
Comments: In my case I paid the neighbours the equivalent of one month's electricity, 5,000 HUF (£13.33), for supplying me with about 12 hours of electricity stretching over a few days; for the important drilling jobs when no power tools were available. They did not want to take the money, but I insisted. Afterall, an appreciated favour such as being able to use someone's electricity in an emergency is worth much more than money of course.
In Reality: If your new property is outside of Budapest you may have to wait longer for your Double Glazing to be manufactured and fitted. This is because many double glazing agents and shops order windows and doors from Budapest; probably because it is cheaper to do so and/or because the manufacturer is in Budapest?
Comments: While waiting for your double glazing it is also worth looking into shutters and blinds, usually from the same agent or shop you ordered your double glazing from, as they might also need to order the required stock and make an appointment with you to drill holes into the windows for air ventilation. 1 shutter of 2m x 1½ can cost £100+ and 1 air vent slot with movable switch/slider can cost £50+.
In Reality: With many types of property, but especially with apartments, you will find ugly pipework everywhere; a bit like in UK council flats. You can hide such ugliness with fake panelling and by creating fake ceilings to hide light bulb/switch wiring.
Comments: In the UK the pipework normally goes around the walls at ceiling level and floor level, with nasty plastic channels covering the wiring. In Hungary they tend to put pipework at ceiling level. This isn't too bad as it means you can create nicer fake ceilings, partitions and borders using plasterboard and plaster as opposed to plastic channels. And if you want to get to the wiring and/or pipework in the future you could have a metal frame built whereby you would just need to remove a small section of plasterboard to get to them, thus less damage/work later.
In Reality: Make sure you know what you are getting. In the UK pink plaster is applied to wall and ceiling plasterboard in ½cm, 1cm or even 2cm layers. In Hungary white glet, which has a creamier (plaster of paris/polyfilla) texture, is applied to wall and ceiling plasterboard (as well as bare concrete) in 3mm or 5mm layers; therefore it acts as a skimmer.
Comments: I think Hungarian builders think by layering plasterboards together, to create a thicker plasterboard wall for example, they only need to skim. Either way, tell them EXACTLY what YOUR requirements are. Glet normally dries within one day, depending on the humidity of the room and what area size was covered of course.
In Reality: Huge savings can be had if you wait for the sales and discounts. You need to keep an eye on the exchange rates though to get a really good deal. And sods law will dictate that you will be in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Comments: Buy forints in bulk if you can, obviously when the exchange rates are in your favour, to bring costs down further. It sounds obvious to point this out, but you will be surprised how many people exchange 'at the time' "because it is more convenient".
With the above plan I tried to get the jobs of rubbish disposal and rewiring out of the way first, but at the same time wanted to get the windows measured for their new double-glazing as well as shop around for carpet prices, tile prices, etc in preparation for their jobs. The order of jobs looks okay, but in reality many of those jobs were delayed, switched around and/or done in an entirely different way; making the whole renovation process time consuming, if not irritating!
Below Tünde has kindly written an apology letter, for the noise caused by renovation, for other apartment owners/tenants within your apartment block; if you have or are going to buy an apartment of course.