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5 Tips for Living in Budapest

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Most expats love living in Budapest for it's beauty and culture. There's something for everyone in Budapest. Yes, you'll have to deal with lots of bureaucracy, but people are friendly and helpful. Once you get past the red tape, life in Budapest is rewarding.

Expats in Budapest - 5 Tips for Living in Budapest

An expat in Budapest described life there saying, "expats love it here. There is a richness of stimuli of every sort, which just isn't in the US. This city both gorgeous and is ALIVE. However, winters are pretty cold and can be dreary past New year. You should have a warmer spot (with palm trees) to go to, from January until beginning-to-middle of April. (Suggest Southern Spain - if want to stay in Europe)." Below are 5 tips for living in Budapest from expats living there.

Best Neighborhoods in Budapest

"Finding English-language real estate agents can be difficult but they do exist (I work for one) and it is worth it to find one. Families seeking residential settings should look for houses on the Buda (West) side of the city, in districts 1, 2, 2A (a bit far from the city center but home to the American School) and 12. Residential parks exist with detached homes and lots of yard space. Those looking to live in the center and close to embassies/businesses should live on the Pest (East) side in district 5, 6 or 7. For urban but residential surroundings look at districts 9, 13 and 14," advised an expat living in Budapest.

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Buying Property in Budapest

Budapest Hungary District One expat in Budapest shared information about buying a property there. He said, "if you buy, the real estate agent will help you through the legal maze. For a non-Hungarian citizen a permit is required to buy a residence (farmland is prohibited), but nowadays it's just a formality. A 4% tax will be imposed on the purchase price (bill comes from the NAV in about 4-5 mos payable in a matter of days - you better not be traveling). Closing costs are 100K for the lawyer and title registration - the lawyer does it. You have to settle utilities, but no other tacked-on charges like title search, title insurance, county, state, city fees, real estate taxes, tax stamps, etc. Try to buy a lien-free property, on those the settlement is done in an hour. The agent's fee is paid by the seller, but you, the buyer, must bring that portion in cash plus the lawyer's fee in cash as well, to the settlement. Some caveats: There are no disclosure laws, no home inspection contingencies, no automatic conveyances (no fridge, stove, washing machine or even attached light fixtures.) Be ready, that there'll be no staging, decluttering or even cleaning of the properties you'll be shown. Transferring of utilities is a major pain, and must be done in person at the utilities' office(s) together with the previous owner. Don't worry - they are motivated to go with you, because until they transfer it to you, they're stuck with the bill. Here is the beauty though, no real estate taxes. Condo fees are a fraction of those in the US, and they often include the water. In Budapest some districts have some kind of tax, but it's a truly nominal amount - like $100/year, and they'll not evict you and auction off your property even if you're a year or more late."

Renting in Budapest

Budapest Rent "As far as the crazy rents go for non-Hungarians, it is a massive racket, to rip-off non-Hungarians - like you. It's operated by a particular group (ethnicity) people, who bought-up apartments by the thousands - during this real estate crisis/collapse with money coming from outside of Hungary; did some nominal renovation and now they're renting them for ridiculous amounts to foreign students and expats who don't know any better. Remember if you rent, the rental agreement/contract MUST be validated by a Notary Public (Kozjegyzo) so YOU are properly protected from the landlord's whims and antics. (It's not a law, but a prudent precaution). A plain signed agreement (without the Notary) is enforceable, but that has to go through the court system at your expense and TIME). A Notarized agreement is immediately enforceable (sans Court), like I explained in another post of mine elsewhere; a Hungarian Notary Public is a lawyer/attorney with special executive powers. The landlord WILL vehemently be against Notarization (it has a tax effect on him plus he cannot ignore the provisions of the contract at his whim) but you must insist on this no matter what his/her objections are. If he/she raises the rent as a condition, for Notarization, don't merely walk, but run. If you accept, you'll be sorry."

Meeting People in Budapest

Budapest Expat Organization If you're new to Budapest, don't wait for people to invite you to things. Join several of the many expat organizations in Budapest and start to grow your expat network. It's the best way feel less homesick. One expat shared a list of great expat organizations in Budapest, "Budapest Melting Pot, Budapest Toastmasters, Budapest groups on Meetup.com, Budapest International Women's Club, British Women's Association of Budapest, Budapest Accueil (French), Dutch Club Hungary, Expat Hungary, North American Women's Association of Budapest, Professional Women's Association of Budapest, Institut français de Budapest, Instituto Cervantes de Budapest, Xpatloop.com, Baby Blue Banana (Expat Events), Concerts and bookreadings at TreeHugger Dan's bookshop (there are many branches), Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Hungary, Buda Juniors Football (Soccer) League (for children), Bat and Ball Junior Cricket Club (for children)."

Bureaucracy in Budapest

"The beurocracy is amazingly bad and everything takes time and effort (plus considerable fees). Nothing seems ot be computerized and there is still a lot of stamping of papers etc. In many ways it is comical if you step back and enjoy it for the experience. Try getting a car imported or a driver's license or even license plates. Even getting a visa for relatives is a huge hassle requiring a recent copy of ownership title to our house (less than 90 days and of course expensive from city hall), written and notorized permission from your spouse etc. Nothing is easy, simple, or cheap and nearly everything requires multiple visits to various different offices with different requirments all subject to the whims of whatever petty bureaucrat is in charge. It really is amazing how messed up it is. It even extends to the stores. Buying something which comes with a warranty is also going to take a while for stamping etc. and always at a different counter and usually requires the manager to do it," explained one expat in Budapest.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

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Comments about this Article

Oct 15, 2014 02:27

"As far as the crazy rents go for non-Hungarians, it is a massive racket, to rip-off non-Hungarians,,," this does not encourage me to make the attempt, even after a wonderful visit to the city. Could more helpful information be found elsewhere?

Nov 2, 2014 09:28

I agree with icebrenda. I recently visited and truly one of the best vacations ever. That said, Hungary is still crawling out from under the soviet occupation and there is no telling how long that will take. Great place to visit though and extremely easy to get around there.

First Published: Oct 07, 2014

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