- 15 Jun 2015 9:00 AM
Decide where you want to live
Budapest is two cities divided by a river. Buda and Pest. And for the purposes of expat life the city can be roughly divided into three areas. The whole of the Buda side has a life of it’s own, while on the Pest side you’ve got the area inside the loop of the 4/6 tram line which can be considered ‘downtown’ and then everything outside this which stretches into the outskirts of the city.
Downtown encompasses districts 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Most of the cities’ popular bars and restaurants can be found here as well as university campuses and some of the major companies. Living here will keep you close to the action but it will also cost you more, especially around Kiraly, Wesselenyi and Kazinczy utca.
Outside of downtown flats get a lot cheaper and you’ll have more choice, especially if you’re looking for cheap one room studio apartments. Public transport in Budapest is good so it’s still possible to keep your commute to a minimum even living outside the centre.
Buda is more relaxed and great for those that want to avoid the tourists hotspots.and late night bars. There is a real mix of both expensive and more affordable neighborhoods and it’s not completely ‘posh’ as some people like to describe it. Being over the river you’ll be more cut off, but there is a good bus network and the 4/6 tram runs 24 hours a day into the north and south ends of Buda.
Know where to look for a flat
Most people search for a place to live online. If you’re a student or a short term expat looking to rent a room in a shared flat for 1 year or less, a quick search on Facebook will reveal plenty of groups with regularly posted listings. Keep in mind that some landlords have become wise to the fact that foreigners want to find somewhere quickly and don’t know what they should be paying for a room - and as such landlords have been known to inflate prices accordingly.
If you’re looking for something more permanent, and want to avoid inflated prices, Alberlet is a great website. It’s mostly in Hungarian so find a local to help you pick out places and keep them around when you come to contacting landlords, as some might not be used to dealing with foreigners. And of course there are plenty of letting agencies big and small that can help with you find an apartment that matches your budget. Some have a better reputation than others so ask for recommendations.
Things to consider when picking a place
Shop around a bit. Check public transport options and find out what the nightlife is like as many flats will still have old wooden framed windows that will do a bad job of keeping noise out. If you drive check whether you can get a parking permit for your street and finally, remember that flats on the lower floors of courtyard buildings don’t always get much sunlight.
When it comes to viewing a place, check that every appliance works and that everything looks in order. If the place is already occupied, find out what furniture is staying and what you’ll need to bring with you.
You should also ask about the arrangements for utilities and internet. If you’re dealing with an agency or an experienced landlord then the chances are that they will take care of the account and bill payments and you’ll pay alongside your rent each month per your usage. If you need to set them up yourself you need a residents/registration card, your address card and possibly a copy of your tenancy agreement. Finally remember to factor in common costs which are due each month for the upkeep of the building your flat is in.
Signing a contract
Take care when it comes to contracts. For starters, make sure you’ll get one. If it’s a student sublet then you may not - the landlord might not even know you’ll be there. This does have some advantages in terms of flexibility but also has plenty of risks. At very least you should avoid giving any type of deposit if you’re not getting something to sign.
If you’re renting directly from a landlord, you might find some less honest ones prefer a ‘handshake’ agreement. These arrangements help them avoid paying tax and should be avoided as you’ll have no protection if things go wrong.
As for agency contracts, read them carefully and check for overly onerous terms when it comes to responsibility for damage and cleaning. Don’t be afraid to negotiate changes.
Things to remember once you’ve moved in
As soon as you arrive take a full inventory with the landlord/agent/other tenants, mutually acknowledge any damage and check that all appliances are still working. Next do a meter reading together, taking photos of the current readings. Finally, when handing over your deposit and rent, make sure you get a receipt so there are no problems when you move out..
By Andrew Davison for XpatLoop.com