Budapest – there is hardly any other European metropolis offering such quality living and cultural diversity along with recreational opportunities, and all set against a backdrop of such architectural masterpieces. Whether you prefer gothic, renaissance, classicism or art nouveau – you will find everything here. Who wouldn’t want to live in one of these beautiful old buildings with floorboards, stuccos, winged doors and a well-kept courtyard? In this article we summarise everything you need to know about the Budapest housing market before you begin actively searching, and all the things you should definitely pay attention to so that your housing dreams won’t be followed by a rude awakening.
Changes on the Budapest housing market
Budapest – yes, a great city. We agree on that. So do the three million tourists who visit each year. Looking for an affordable and central apartment nowadays is just like looking for a needle in a haystack. The growing number of visitors has led to the phenomenon in the past few years that more and more private apartments were bought by investors, primarily with the aim of transforming the rental apartment into designer dream-homes for tourists – there are 7000 of them in Budapest by now.
These apartments, mainly advertised through the Airbnb portal, are missing from the Budapest housing market, of course. Another factor is that in Hungary it’s traditional to own your own apartment.
After the political turn, when the era of rentals supervised by the state was over, the state allowed many tenants to buy their rented apartment at a fraction of the current market price. So the remaining apartments, which are not owner occupied or rented to tourists, are desperately wanted.
The demand is so great that it’s even reflected in the real estate prices, which are climbing up to 20% each year. However, with a little luck, much patience and the necessary knowledge you are guaranteed to find a beautiful apartment.
Searching needs good organisation
The Belgian Louis is sitting in a Budapest café with his laptop, phone and notebook, and he calls the agents who advertised a two-room apartment downtown this morning. It’s late summer and the new semester at the Budapest universities has begun.
At this time of year the demand for rentals increases to an immeasurable extent. Louis has noticed this, and he is searching through the offers on the large real estate portals each day and calling the agent or landlord straight away.
However, it happens quite often that the advertised apartment is “gone” within a few hours of posting the ad. You have to be a quick dealer in this business. If you take too long to contact the agent or the landlord you are likely to miss the chance of getting your dream apartment.
But even if you encounter an older advertisement you should still give it a try. In many cases the situation is that the landlord could not make an agreement with the tenants yet, or they prefer to wait for the one who is the most suitable.
So the first rule for searching an apartment to rent in Budapest is: don’t give up too quickly. If you organise your search well, behave in a self-confident way and stay true, you will surely impress the Hungarian landlords, who prefer to have their apartments in good and reliable hands.
Tell me who you are, and I`ll tell you if the landlord wants you
Up until now the short phone conversations Louis has had with the agents have been limited to questions about his profession, marital status and the minimum length of residence. The first question might be usual in other countries as well, since every owner prefers to have a tenant with a stable income.
The one about marital status, however, is a bit trickier. When Louis says that he does not have a girlfriend, but claims to have a cat instead, he often gets a clear “no” as an answer.
Hungarian landlords prefer to have two tenants, living together in the constellation of husband and wife. If you own pets, you have to count with serious limitations to your living options.
No landlord likes to risk scratches on the beautiful floorboards or a constantly barking dog. If you do have pets, pay attention to the data in the advertisement and make sure you clarify this question right at the beginning. Pets don’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage; there are whole districts in Budapest that are full of pets. (Note: the author of this article is living in the dog-friendly District XIII along with her four-legged companion.)
Louis also thinks that the questions about the minimum length of rental are quite disturbing. Often they are talking about 24 months. It’s more and more frequent that landlords don’t want to let their apartment for less than 12 months; no chance for discussion, since the demand is large enough.
If you decide to move out before the deadline, you often end up losing your security deposit paid in the beginning. So pay close attention to what you negotiate at the beginning and what you are going to include in the contract.
Be careful with prepayments, fees and security deposits
Louis also experiences some strange things about prepayments. Some real estate agents demand that he should deposit a certain amount in order to pre-reserve the apartment – even without having been able to see it first.
He does not comply with this demand but he also meets a landlord on one apartment visit who suggests he pay the rent for the first month right away, so the apartment would be reserved for him. In general, you should not agree to make any kind of such prepayments, which are often described as a security deposit to be paid in advance – neither by a real estate agent nor by a private landlord.
As regards paying fees to agencies you should not be concerned either, since in Hungary it’s customary that the landlord pays the commission to the agency after the successful contract, and not the tenant.
So the first payment should happen at signing the contract and upon handing over the keys. Be careful when agreeing on the amount of security deposit, which should not be more than two months’ rent, so long as the quality of the rented apartment or the value of the included furniture is so high that the landlord would like to safeguard it.
The conditions about paying back the security deposit should be negotiated fairly and in accordance with the property – a scratch on the door frame in an apartment that has not been renovated for years should not cost half of the deposit.
Look and listen before signing a contract
If you have made it this far and you are just about to sign your rental contract, you should definitely pay attention to the following things:
– Make a list of furniture in the apartment and document any existing damage
– Ask for an English (or whatever) version of the rental contract so that you make sure you really understand everything in it
– Agree which party should pay the utilities (for example at the post office) and always make sure that you get a monthly bill
– Agree about how the payment of the rent should happen each month – if the payment has to be made in cash it often signals that the apartment is not rented officially.
In this case you have to clarify two things:
1.) Name on the mailbox
2.) Approval for registering your address card
So now that you know what you should be paying attention to, here`s wishing you success with your search for an apartment!