You have arrived in the city, and you are pretty sure where you are now, and you need a place to get some sleep. This is your ultimate guide to getting home in Budapest.
An average, basic 1-bedroom-flat in the center of Budapest costs 400-600 USD per month. Renting prices are low and much cheaper compared to other European cities. The housing quality however varies; you should expect to pay more to a decent flat in a good location. Airbnb is available and experienced a boom in offers in recent years as landlords are targeting the new arrivals of foreigners. Short-term let outside Airbnb, however, is not a common thing, landlords are expecting at least 2-months deposit and an annual contract. As in every city, location is key, and flats in prime locations cost more to rent and even more to borrow them on short-term. But in the end, Budapest is still a much cheaper alternative to live in compared to other European cities.
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Airbnb, hotels, and Couchsurfing
Airbnb is widely accessible in Budapest. Flats furbished and tailored for Airbnb users usually offer higher living standards and better interior qualities than apartments for locals. Prices may vary, but they tend to get cheaper than similar flats in other European cities. Also, if you have the chance to speak to the landlord directly, there’s usually an option to negotiate on the price if you stay there for longer terms. On location, the bottom line is that you need to stay inside the Grand Boulevard. If you prefer to party all the night, pick the 6th or 7th districts. If you want to stay relaxed, pick anything else or choose Buda but expect slightly longer commute down from the Buda Hills to the center.
Hotels are universally accessible. International brands are available. You can rent out short-term apartments outside of Airbnb as well. However, staying in an Airbnb is advised as it’s usually cheaper and you have the chance to get to know the city and the locals more when living in a usual flat than in a standardized hotel or apartment. Hostels for backpackers are also available.
Couchsurfing is becoming more and more popular in Budapest. Locals are happy to share their rooms with foreigners but don’t plan for long-term stays.
Renting for longer terms
Realestatehungary.hu is the primary site to find your ideal home (comes with an English database as well). Unfortunately, short-term letting is not popular as landlords want to maximize their profits. For short, you have the option to check-in to an Airbnb or hotel/hostel. If you rent out your own flat, usually you need to sign a 1-year contract with 1 or maybe 2 months of deposit. As you’re a foreigner, expect higher amounts of deposits as landlords think you’ll leave before your contract expires. Also, expect slightly higher prices on rents offered to you as a foreigner, but that’s not universally true.
I’m a landlord myself, and I let my flat only for annual contracts but the price is the same for everyone, and I usually charge extra month of deposit for foreigners. You’ll get your deposit back if there’s no damage done to the flat.
For foreigners, a letting agency is recommended as they can take care of the paperwork and help you find flats and negotiate with the landlords. Most of the landlords are older people so expect some language difficulties, but the letting agent will help you come to an agreement. Check the rent prices on the internet so you won’t walk into a trap and pay double the amount of the usual rates for a flat like that. The general rule applies here too: stay inside the Grand Boulevard. Renting prices are higher there, but you’ll feel more comfortable.
The central letting agencies are Duna House and Otthoncentrum. Feel free to contact them with your needs.
Flats are coming with heating (circulated or convectors, almost all of them runs on gas), electricity and water. Ask for the internet and the bandwidth as it’s not the same everywhere. If you come with your pet, ask whether it is allowed in the flat (unfortunately they are not always welcome).
A traditional residential building has a circle alley corridor with multiple floors and a typical yard in the center. Individual flats are accessible through the common hallway and as the buildings have 4 to 6 or more levels and some of the apartments have windows looking only to the central yard, aim for the higher floors to get a sunny apartment. There are newly built buildings as well with individual balconies.
Rent prices do not include utility costs which are the gas, electricity, water and small extra fees for trash removal and ordinary expenses for the whole building. Usually, the utility costs are 20% of the rent prices, but this might vary and as all utilities have individual meters and it depends on how much you’ll use up. Internet / TV and cleaning are not standard. Every building has a common representative whom you can call up if there’s a problem, for foreigners it might be the landlord directly or the letting agency. There should be no shortcuts in any utilities unless something is under construction in the vicinity of the building. Some buildings come with closed garages and bicycle racks.
Most of the flats have 3ms tall, spacious spaces, wooden windows, and separate kitchens. Sizes are not based on the number of bedrooms but on the square meters, check floorplans for the number of rooms if available. Not all flats come fully furbished for long-term rents since Hungarians love to bring their own stuff into their rented apartments.
For long-term rents prices are always, and I still mean negotiable. Don’t ever take the first offer – always negotiate. Hungarians love to bargain, and they respect those who also do but don’t get too cocky, prices can be lowered only by 10% to 20%.
Buying a flat
I wanted to cover this issue as well because the Hungarian real estate market is super cheap and has a high return on investment if the property is rented out. You can achieve 10% or higher ROI in a flat, without the nominal growth of the capital which is now going up 5-8% annually. Buying a flat for a non-Hungarian citizen is possible, and it is not even as complicated as you might imagine, though for the current legislative issues, please consult a local lawyer. For those who plan to stay more than a year or just to look for a high return value investment, buying a flat in Budapest is a great option. Letting agencies can help you manage your investment while you’re away.
Tips on getting a home in Budapest
1. When renting a flat, ask for an English contract to fully know the terms
2. If you see "2 rooms" in a flat-for-rent ad that means the place has one living room and one bedroom. Hungarian ads will give you the total number of rooms, including the living room and a “half-room,” refers to a tiny bedroom
3. Avoid hostels that are promoted on airports, railway stations or by cab drivers; they are usually poor quality on high prices
4. If the bike rack in your building can’t be locked, store your bike in your flat
5. While Budapest is a big party place, homes are respected and usually stay quiet all night – before you want to throw a house party, ask the neighbors or expect routine police check up
6. Tap water is drinkable as Budapest sits on the world’s largest medicinal and thermal water cave system
7. Most buildings have selective trash collectors, use them
8. An address usually consists of the postal code, the street name, the building number, the flat number, and doorbell/buzzer number; ask for the full address if you want to receive courier services
9. Convector heaters in older flats work totally fine and even have their individual thermometer
10. Emergency repairs are available city-wide, but prices are higher than usual services
11. If you consider Buda as a location for its relaxing atmosphere, check the public transportation first as it tends to be slower than the Pest side