The Hungarian Guide - Investing and retiring in Hungary

  • A stunning capital with unique setting A stunning capital with unique setting
  • walking and birdwatching paradise walking and birdwatching paradise
  • undisturbed nature rich in rare species undisturbed nature rich in rare species
  • enjoy the 144 mile lakeside cycle track enjoy the 144 mile lakeside cycle track
  • Teeming with History Teeming with History
  • over 300 Thermal Health Spas and warm lakes over 300 Thermal Health Spas and warm lakes
  • picturesque lakes with Carp weighing over 100 lb picturesque lakes with Carp weighing over 100 lb
  • Feast on delicious sunripened local fruit Feast on delicious sunripened local fruit
  • Lake Balaton gets as warm as the Caribbean in the summer Lake Balaton gets as warm as the Caribbean in the summer
  • Tranquil Lake Balaton Tranquil Lake Balaton
  • Lush rolling hills of western Hungary Lush rolling hills of western Hungary
  • buy a thatched cottage for under £30 000.. buy a thatched cottage for under £30 000..
  • horsemen and nature lovers paradise horsemen and nature lovers paradise
  • Europe's second largest freshwater lake Europe's second largest freshwater lake
  • A paradise for watersport enthusiasts A paradise for watersport enthusiasts
  • Tihany peninsula- a pearl of history and nature Tihany peninsula- a pearl of history and nature


Who can buy property in Hungary ?

Anybody can buy property in Hungary. The process is very simple if you are an EU national with no need to form a limited company and file annual accounts like some countries. Persons under the age of 18 years can also buy property in Hungary

How do I go about buying a property ?

I suggest you undertake a Viewing Trip and see for yourself what a beautiful country Hungary is. All you have to do is book flights and I will do the rest – airport pick up, book a nice B & B and then arrange for an estate agent to show you a selection of properties that meet your criteria.

If you see a property you like:

During the accompanied visits, if you see a property that you would like to buy, then please let the estate agent know so they can start to negotiate a price with the Hungarian owner.

Dr Martonicsik – the Hungarian solicitor

Dr Martonicsik – the Hungarian solicitor

 Dr Martonicsik – one of the Hungarian solicitors I recommend – all documents are prepared in English & Hungarian

If the offer is accepted then there is a formal process to follow and we recommend you use an English-speaking lawyer Dr Martonicsik who has acted for several hundred overseas owners over the last 15 years – here are the key stages.

  1. A ‘Reservation Agreement’ is issued for the full purchase price plus legal costs (typically £500 /€600 ) which you need to sign. A minimum deposit needs to be paid amounting to £2,500 / €3,000 for properties up to £25,000 / €30,000, and 10% of the purchase price thereafter.

    n.b. The above process reserves the property exclusively for you whilst the legal paperwork is prepared to prevent ‘Gazzumping’.  The deposit money is given to the solicitor for the  attention of the owner and therefore this is non-refundable should you not complete the purchase. If the owner receives a better offer from someone else he is obliged to pay the original buyer twice the agreed deposit amount. So ideally you should try and bring £500  /€600  in cash with you    (or at least that sort of money accessible through a bank card) as this acts as a deterrent to the seller to accept other offers until such time as you return to the UK and make arrangements with your bank to electronically transfer the balance of the deposit . If the solicitor finds issues with the property eg. not clean title or several mortgages in place and he advises against pursuing you will receive your deposit back.

  2. The deposit payment instigates the preparation, in Hungarian and English, of the legal sale contract and takes approximately 2 weeks to prepare.  You are required to give us the following details for the above to be prepared

a)    All named people in the purchase contract are required to have their Passports ‘Notarised’ by a Hungarian Notary, which is organised on your behalf.

b)    All named people in the purchase contract should provide the following information:

Full name, home address, nationality, passport number, place and date of birth and mother’s maiden name in full. If you intend buying the property on behalf of your children please ensure you bring their details and passports with you. Children under the age of 18 can buy property in Hungary

  1. Once the ‘Sale Contract’ is prepared it is sent to you for signature, this should be returned as soon as possible and the balance of the funds owing should be transferred to the Lawyer acting on your behalf in Hungary, who is then is able to complete the transaction. Funds must be placed with the Lawyer no later than 4 to 5 weeks from the date of the signature on the ‘Reservation Agreement’
  1. The sale is completed when the owner signs the ‘Sale Contract’ transferring the ownership to you, and is done on the day he receives funds from your Hungarian Lawyer.
  1. The completed paperwork is then sent to the Hungarian Land Registry to register the transfer to you.  You then receive back the ‘Title’ document officially stamped. n.b. Please note this can take anything from 4 to 12 weeks to happen from the completion date, if you have not received the documentation by then please notify either the estate agent or myself but it does not stop you taking occupancy of your home.
  1. Should you require the Deeds (Tulajdoni lap) for your property, then there is an additional charge of £50 for this service. This can take up to 12 weeks after the HATÁROZAT (the official information about your ownership) has been sent from the Land Registry to you.

It is worth noting that in Hungary everything is freehold so you own both the land and the property. In effect you are buying from a Hungarian family using a Hungarian solicitor who acts on your behalf. At no stage are you transacting funds with property developers or buying off plan.

I have heard these type of Viewing Trips are high pressure occasions ?

Not my Viewing Trips – I believe the properties sell themselves so there is no need to apply pressure. People do not respond to pressure so this is something the estate agents do not do. It is more important you return home happy and had a good time and this way you tell others. Please check out the video clip of one of the Viewing Trips.

This way you can see for yourself what a Viewing Trip is like. If you decide to visit Hungary all we ask is you come with an open mind.

 “I was amazed how relaxed things were during the viewing trip –  I must admit I did expect some pressure to buy but everything was so very relaxed and we had a great time“

Steve & Jane Pape    Stoke on Trent

I am more than happy to provide you with the necessary references from people who live in your local area – not just the families that bought property but also names of people who for whatever the reason decided not to buy – just give them a call and check for yourself what they thought of the viewing trip.

I am concerned about the stories in the press about “land grab” issues and if I buy a property in Hungary do I face having the property taken away ?

The stories you hear about tend to be from Spain and Cyprus and usually involve property developers, crooked Mayors and construction companies building leasehold “off plan” developments.

In Hungary all the properties sold are Freehold. 99% of the properties sold are pre owned so you are not buying “off plan”. What you see is what you get. You are not relying on an artist’s impression of something that may or may not be built sometime in the future. The transaction is fairly quick – usually 8 weeks from leaving a deposit. A Hungarian solicitor acts  on your behalf and he ensures  the title is clean. He only completes the sale if he is happy everything is in order. My own research reveals that there has been no instances of “land grab” issues in Hungary.

All contracts are in English and Hungarian. Unlike other European countries when you buy in Hungary there is no need to form a limited company and file annual accounts.

How can I get finance to purchase a property ?

Most people obtain finance from their own country and most purchases are made by cash rather than by mortgages. Mortgage interest rates are high in Hungary – typically 8% so it is not normally beneficial to organise a Hungarian mortgage.  If necessary I have contact details of a specialist mortgage advisor in the UK who can advise regarding equity release against your main home. Ask for details

What extras are there to pay when you buy a property ?

The legal fees are typically £500 /  €600 which ensures your names are entered into the Hungarian land registry and you have full legal entitlement to both the land and the buildings. There is a small amount of Stamp Duty to pay -  4% of the purchase price.  However in most cases I suggest you ask the estate agency concerned to negotiate with the owner a lower property purchase price so in effect any extra costs are reduced to a minimum.

Where is the best place to buy a property and what can I expect to pay ?

Prices range from less than £10,000 / €12,000  in the south of Hungary to well over £300,000 /€360,000 for properties with views over Lake Balaton. The nearer you are to Lake Balaton, Budapest and Austria the more you will pay. Generally the more land you have the more expensive the property. The average purchase price for British buyers is approx. £25,000 /€30,000 and for that you will buy a 2 bedroom farmhouse with 0.5 acre of land plus an outbuilding situated 20 mins drive south of Lake Balaton. The house would need some modernisation eg new bathroom suite, kitchen, redecorating. Total price £30,000/ €36,000  Properties not needing any modernisation work or with larger land plots would typically cost between £30,000 to £40,000 ( €36,000 to €48,000 )

Wherever you decide to buy around Lake Balaton you are ideally positioned to visit neighbouring countries –

Vienna – 120 miles  / 190 km 2hrs 15min drive

Croatia – 39 miles / 62 km 40 min drive

Adriatic coast – 180 miles / 288 km 3 hr drive

Austrian alpine ski resorts – 2 hrs drive

Ljubljana & Lake Bled in Slovenia  – 158 miles / 250 km – 2hrs 30min

Italian border 218 miles and Venice 314 miles / 550 km which is a 5 hr drive away


What is the current property market like in Hungary ?

Property prices in Hungary are probably one of the lowest in Europe. In the last 5 years prices have risen modestly in the rural areas. More dramatic growth in central Budapest up to 2010 but since then prices have flat lined at best. Compared with neighbouring countries – the same property is probably 3 times more expensive in Croatia than it is in Hungary. When the world economy recovers property prices are expected to increase more in Hungary than in neighbouring countries that already experienced a price boom in the period 1995 to 2008.

What if I need to get repairs done?

I can provide you with contacts with several builder, plumbers, electricians etc who will be happy to provide you with quotes. Many of these contractors have worked on British owners properties so you can check for yourself. Labour rates are very competitive when compared with other Eu member states. Typical unskilled labour rate is approx. £15 /  €18 per day

There are several major DIY chains – OBI, Praktiker etc where you can purchase materials yourself.

Do the properties have central heating?

Most properties will have some form of heating although this tends to be wood burners – these are more economical to run in a country where wood supplies are cheap and plentiful.  Some properties will have gas central heating whilst other properties may have a gas supply in the street and connection is necessary.

My advice would be to use wood burners if you only intend to use your property as a holiday home. Many wood burners are capable of producing 10 kW of heat and if not already fitted they are available from local suppliers for a few hundred pounds.  I have contacts with local builders who will fit the woodburners if you do not want to undertake the work yourself.

How much are the utility bills?

Electric is approx £0.11 /  €0.13 per kW which is slightly less than the UK and Ireland.

In January 2013 the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban unveiled an initiative to reduce the cost of electricity to the consumer, stating “its not appropriate for anyone to make money on such services”. He stated his intentions to reduce gas and electricity fees by 10%.

If you are using the property as a holiday home and you have wood burners, operating costs are insignificant.

Petrol and Diesel prices are particularly inexpensive – approx. £1.10 per litre  or €1.32 per litre as of March 2014

How safe is it and can I get my property looked after when I’m not there?

Yes there will be no shortage of friendly neighbours happy to help out for a small return. I can help in this regard.

There are several British families who have semi retired and live in Hungary all year and they would welcome some part time work.

Crime levels are very low but if in doubt have a security system installed but most owners do not bother.

Do I have to pay any local taxes?

There is a small tax to pay when you first buy the property. This “stamp duty“ typically amounts to a few hundred pounds / Euros–  currently 4% of the purchase price.

Thereafter an annual  local Council Tax has to be paid – typically £50 or  €60 / annum  if away from the tourist areas.

Most families operate a holiday home for approx. £200 /  €240 per annum – council tax plus approx £100/ €120 house insurance and then utility bills

Should you decide to sell your property within 5 years then there is small tax to pay on any gain. Typically 16% of the gain in year one reducing 4% each year to zero in year 5.

Some couples purchase their Hungarian property in their children’s name and thereby mitigating Inheritance Tax (IHT)  back home. The Hungarian property belongs to the children so at the time of death the asset is deemed to be outside the estate of the deceased and therefore not subject to IHT – In the UK this is currently 40% on anything above £325,000. In Ireland the latest rates can be found here

What are the planning laws like for extending my property

This is down to the local Mayor (Polgármester) who is responsible for the well being and presentation of his village. Normally the builder would draw up sketches and for the avoidance of doubt speak to the Polgermeister prior to work commencing. Most people modernise existing outbuildings and no special permission is normally required.

What if I become ill and what is the health care like ?

If you are from another Eu member and can produce your EHIC card then health care including hospital treatment is provided free of charge. Otherwise health care is chargeable so it may be worth obtaining health insurance if you are a resident from outside the Eu. Most villages will have a doctor’s surgery with no costs to see a Doctor.

In Hungary there are twice as many hospital beds and twice as many doctors  per person than the UK.

Please contact me for the Health Care information sheet which has more details.

How do I keep my flight costs to a minimum and are there periods when flight schedules are withdrawn you cannot travel to Hungary ?

Low cost budget airlines operate all year round.

     Here are a few general hints and tips in order to keep flight costs to a minimum :-

  • book as far in advance as possible – generally speaking the earlier you book the cheaper it is
  • try and avoid school holidays & weekend flights – the Friday out flight and the Sunday return flights tend to be more expensive as these flights are popular with city break tourists
  • try not to take too much luggage – hand luggage up to 10Kg is normally free but the size of the hand luggage varies from airline to airline – please check – do not assume any small flight case will comply.
  • pay by debit card rather than credit card as the charges tend to be a little less.
  • avoid optional charges eg. reserving seats / priority boarding / taking the airlines insurance option / carbon emissions offsetting charge / priority boarding etc etc
  • opt to check in on line a few days prior to departure rather than check in at the airport

Please note for the viewing trips avoid booking mid Dec to mid Jan as this is generally when the estate agents take their holidays

When I buy my property what normally happens when I make my first return trip ?

I normally make arrangements for the estate agent concerned to collect you at the airport and thereafter organise meter readings, utility transfers, help you open a bank account and organise house insurance.

If I need further help after buying over and above what is provided free will this be provided ?

Yes for a small charge to cover the time and petrol expense the estate agency can help eg. personalised shopping etc.

Be rest assured there are normally a few other English speaking owners who have bought properties in the area and I would be more than happy to help introduce yourselves . This way you can share experiences.

Can I drive to Hungary ?

Hungary is accessible from most other European countries and has a good central location with excellent motorways and roads. If you plan to drive from the French channel ports then please contact me and I will send you a couple of suggested routes – one quick the other slower but very scenic. Approx 1000 miles from the Channel ports most people stay one night in Germany and use the motorways with road tolls costing approx £15 /  €18 ( vehicles < 3.5 Tonne ).

Is it easy to drive in Hungary ?

Yes. You drive on the right. Roads are generally well signposted and the road surfaces on A roads and motorways is good. The Hungarian drivers tend not to be aggressive like some of the southern  Mediterranean countries eg  Italy

Suggest you buy a Sat Nav with European maps.

I have a Motorhome could I leave it at my property in Hungary ?

Hungary’s location makes it a perfect base to explore central Europe. Use the low cost airlines to fly back and forth and save diesel and ferry costs. Many properties have outbuildings which make perfect garage facilities With very low crime rates the risks are probably lower than leaving it and paying for storage back at home.

How far is Lake Balaton from the airports ?

The  main airports are :-

 Budapest  - 1 hour drive to Eastern shore

 Bratislava – 2hrs 15 min – to Northern shore

Vienna – 2 hour drive – to Northern shore

Zagreb – 1hr 45 min to Southern shore

How much is car hire and is it worth buying a car to leave in Hungary ?

At Budapest airport expect to pay approx £21 / €25 per day for a 4 door family car for a short hire period. For 2 weeks and over expect to pay as little as £15 / €18 per day.  Ask for details of specially negotiated rates.

If you plan to spend longer periods over in Hungary then buying a car and keeping it there makes more sense. Expect to pay similar to what you would in the UK and Ireland for a second hand car. You need to register as a resident to buy a car – a simple process which I can help you with – takes a few hours.

Will my mobile phone work in Hungary ?

Yes it should do. T Mobile and Vodafone operate services. Always best to contact your mobile phone provider before you travel to let them know to lift any overseas calling restrictions. If you plan to spend more time in Hungary I recommend you buy a Hungarian mobile phone thereby minimising roaming charges.

Does Hungary have Internet connections ?

Yes. Land line and wireless. You will also find many Internet Cafes and Wi Fi Hot Spots. A FACT SHEET is available

Can I take my dog to Hungary ?

 Pets must have health and vaccination certificates. Pet Passports are recognised so no quarantine is necessary

Read here for further details.

What is the public transport like ?

Very good with inexpensive bus and rail service. For example it costs approx £6.50 /  €7.80 from Lake Balaton to Budapest and takes approx 90 mins

Free to people aged over 65 years of age.

For train timetables use this website. For coaches use VOLANBUSZ. For Budapest public transport visit the BKV website.

Is there any way of crossing  Lake Balaton without having to drive all the way around ?

Yes, a car and passenger ferry operates at the lake’s narrowest point and links Szántód on the south shore to Tihany on the north shore. It costs approx £5 /  €6 for a car and £1.50 / €1.80 for foot passengers.

Is the food nice and are the menus difficult to understand ?

The food is excellent – fresh and normally grown locally. The water is safe to drink. Most menus are multi lingual, and special diets like gluten free, diabetic or vegetarian are catered for.

What can I expect to pay for certain things in Hungary ?

One of the big attractions is value for money. A meal for two with drinks typically less than £10 /  €12. A litre of local wine £0.80 /  €1.00

Petrol and Diesel are normally one of the cheapest in Europe. A 20 minute neck shoulder and back massage less than £5 / €6.

What is the quality of life like in Hungary ?

From a material point of view the Hungarians do not have the disposable income that we enjoy. However that apart it could be argued the Hungarians are better off than we are in the UK – less stress, better climate, lower crime, nicer food and wine and a general slower pace of life. Check out the Quality of Life Index Hungary scored higher than UK, Ireland, Portugal, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.

What is the Currency and where is the best place to change money ?

Hungary is not a member of the Euro. The currency is the Forint. ( HUF ).The best place to change small amounts of currency is at the foreign exchange booths eg inside Tesco or at the  banks over in Hungary. For larger amounts ( £1000 + ) please contact me for details where you can obtain better exchange rates and have the money transferred over to Hungary free of charge.

Your bank debit card should work in the ATM’s situated outside most banks but probably best notifying your bank before you travel so they do not block your withdrawls.

The exchange rate as at March 2014 is 370 HUF to £1 or 310 HUF to 1 Euro.

Can you use credit cards in Hungary?

Yes but not all restaurants , especially the smaller ones, accept them so also bring cash.

Can I open an Hungarian bank account?

As a property owner yes and I can help you do this. Simply take your passport and house deeds to the bank and request a bank card and internet banking. The 2 main banks are OTP and K & H. Generous saving deposit rates can be obtained

 Like other EU countries including the UK savers are protected up to €100,000 / £85,000 should the bank go under.

Could I retire early and live in Hungary and what about my UK pension ?

The average net wage in Hungary is £100 /  €120 per week or £5,200 /  €6240 per year. A couple from the UK or Ireland with life savings behind them and with some of this invested in a higher yielding Hungarian saving accounts they could live a very comfortable lifestyle. In comparison if they remained in the UK where the average annual wage is £18,180  ( Ireland’s average wage is approx. 5% higher than the UK ) with a much higher cost of living, they would struggle to survive.

Even without significant savings and relying on Pension income it is far cheaper to live in Hungary than the UK or Ireland. This enables people to made choices – carry on working in the UK or Ireland until they are 67, 68 or whatever age you are told to or alternatively take early retirement and go and live in Hungary.

Check out the story of one family who moved to Hungary in 2012 and are living the dream Facebook page

If we decided to move out to Hungary and live there all the time would I be able to find some part time work?

Depending on your skill set quite possible. The language barrier would hold you back working for Hungarians but several ex pats undertake gardening, carpentry and general DIY work for fellow ex pats. The rate of pay is less than at home but the cost of living is similarly lower.

Do I have to learn Hungarian ?

No. The Hungarian language is difficult to learn. Children learn English at school from an early age. English is spoken by many Hungarian people.

The Viewing Trip at 3 nights is not long enough and I would like to extend my stay and maybe visit Budapest before travelling home is this possible ?

 Yes. Should you wish to extend your stay at the same B & B to fit in with your flight schedule then this will cost £15 /  €18 per person per  night for people sharing a double room or £20 /  €24 for a single room. The estate agent will still take you back to the airport at the end of your extended stay. Alternatively spend  a night or two in Budapest city.

 On your last day with the estate agent they will take you up to your hotel in Budapest. From there you make your own way back to the airport – typical cost for a taxi £18 /  €22  – city centre to airport. Contact me for suggested hotels in the centre and a Budapest info pack.

Can I travel freely to Hungary without restriction ?

If you are an EU national yes no problem. You can even apply for residency which enables you to buy a car. This is a simple process. Ask me for details. If you are a non Eu national then you must observe the Visa restrictions which are normally maximum 90 days at a time.

What do the local Hungarian people think of foreigners buying property in their village?

The local Hungarians are very welcoming and consider it an honour that you have selected their village as opposed to a neighbouring village. They are happy to help out and unlike much of rural Britain / Ireland there is no resentment about you buying properties in the countryside.

Can I rent my property out ?

Yes there are no restrictions but you may have to pay tax to the Hungarian Tax authorities on any declared income.

Some owners have renovated their outbuildings and opened a B & B to generate some incremental income. Others rent their entire holiday home out and depending on location achieve £300 /  €360 to £400 /  €480 per week – sleeps 4-6.

Could I open a camp site ?

Planning laws are very liberal. Caravans and Motorhomes are not considered to be permanent structures so providing you have the space available, up to 10 hard standing pitches can be constructed without special planning permission. There are numerous inexpensive camp sites on the shores of Lake Balaton with prices of approx. £15 /  €18 per night inc electric.

I have several outdoor pursuits I enjoy and also I would like more information about Hungary

 I have put together general FACT SHEETS – these include :-

Just drop me an email and request a copy.

Can I receive TV programmes from home?

Yes I have contacts with a few satellite installation companies and happy to provide details. You can view BBC, ITV etc along with all the SKY programmes ( with SKY Box ). You can also stream TV programmes from home using the Internet

Never be in a position to miss your favourite soaps and sports. A FACT SHEET is available

I understand the winters are every cold is this a problem?

Hungary like most of central Europe can have cold winters with temperatures as low as minus 10 to 20 deg C. Usually this is for short periods of less than a week. Snow does fall but tends to be short lived. Lake Balaton freezes over during winter which is a sight in itself – great for ice skating.  Most home owners who visit during the summer months will drain off their properties before the winter months. The climate is a lot drier than western Europe and has low humidity levels. The climate from March through to early November is ideal for most people – not too hot but not cold either – typically 20 deg C day time temperatures  in Spring and Autumn and 28 deg C in summer.

Overall the arguments to own in Hungary seem too good to be true – there must be a catch otherwise foreign ownership would be higher than it actually is.

There are no catches. Probably the biggest negative is the language in that Hungarian is a difficult language to learn and understand but English is widely spoken. The fact Hungary has no coastline has probably restricted the number of tourists. Hungary is rarely featured on holiday and travel programmes and the preconception of Hungary as being dark and grey is upheld.

During the 1970’s the Germans stated to invest in the Lake Balaton area as it was easily accessible by road and it was one of the few places both the East and West Germans could visit and meet together. The richer western Germans built holiday homes around the lake whilst the eastern Germans used the camp sites.

When communism ended in 1989 the area fell out of favour as unification took place in Germany the people from the eastern bloc started to travel to places around the Med. Over the last 10 years low cost airlines have started to open up routes to the region and visitor numbers have started to increase attracted by the beautiful scenery and outstanding value for money. It is only over the last few years with the onset of the world economic downturn that people are now searching  for properties which provide better value for their investment. Since the marketing hype from off plan property developments in the likes of Spain and Portugal has subsided, people are now seeing for the first time what little Hungary has to offer.