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Residential real estate in Hungary set to grow

Hungary is a popular location among small companies and international corporations who want a base in Central Europe. The country has a strong labour base, and salaries are low compared to most European Union (EU) countries. According to Statista, the average annual wage in Hungary is just €6,700, or about four times less than France or Germany. IBM, Morgan Stanley and EPAM are among the companies that have offices in Budapest. Additionally, property in Hungary is cheap. According to Statista, as of February 2018, prices average €2,500/m² compared to €4,300/m² in Germany, €11,600/m² in Austria and €12,800/m2 in France.

Investors believe that Hungary’s property market is a good investment and expect local residential property prices to continue rising for at least a decade. According to Hungarian media outlet Origo, every fifth property transaction in the country involves foreign buyers, who are mainly from China, Russia and Ukraine.

Growing prices, especially in central districts

The 2008 global economic crisis had a negative effect on Hungarian property prices. According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal), between 2007 and 2013, when prices bottomed out, prices of existing residential property fell by 22%, while prices of new-builds fell by 4%. However, prices in 2017 have already exceeded pre-crisis levels by 4% among existing properties and by 30% among new-builds.

Property in Hungary

Property prices vary across Hungary. The country is divided into 19 counties forming seven regions, with Central Hungary being the most expensive, with an average price of €1,140/m². Local property prices grew the most during the first three quarters of 2017 — by 15% from 2016. In the rest of the regions, residential property is twice or thrice cheaper, despite prices increasing by 8–10%.

Property in Hungary

According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, property prices in the administrative centres of Hungary are growing twice faster than in small localities. The price per square metre is growing 25% faster in new builds than in the existing property market.

Residential property prices
across various types of communities in Hungary, Q1–Q3 2017

Source: Hungarian Central Statistical Office
New-builds Existing residential
property
Price, €/m² Price increase
since 2016, %
Price, €/m² Price increase
since 2016, %
Budapest 1,620 10.2 1,310 13.6
Administrative centres 1,000 15.1 650 11.5
Other cities 960 7.6 460 5.1
Villages 800 5.9 240 2.8
Nationwide
average
1,160 11.1 660 8.4

Construction and sales volume recovery

The crisis affected the construction sector more severely. According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, in 2008, about 17,400 residential facilities were built, compared to 3,100 in 2015. Construction volumes began recovering as late as in 2016. According to the latest data, during the first three quarters of 2017, 4,100 newly built residential facilities were listed for sale.

Property in Hungary

The volume of sales for existing property in Hungary is dozens of times more than for new-builds. During the first three quarters of 2017 92,400 residential facilities were sold in the existing property market, compared to 2,900 new-build. Over the past decade, more new-builds have been entering the Hungarian property market than have been sold, except for 2015, when 3,100 units were built and 3,400 were sold. According to the latest data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, in 2017, 38,000 construction units were issued, which is 20% more than in 2016, 14,600 of them in Budapest.

Incentives for market development

Temporary VAT cut

Since January 1, 2016, a reduced VAT rate of 5% instead of 27% has been applied to new-build property sales. This has encouraged the demand for newly built residential property. In 2016, 44% more newly built residential units were sold compared to 2015. This, in turn, partly maintains price growth – new-builds were 7.6% more expensive in 2016 year-on-year and have risen in price by another 7.8% over the first three quarters of 2017. However, cutting VAT is just a temporary measure. The Hungarian government plans on returning to the old rate of 27% on January 1, 2020. Analysts believe this would lead to a price increase of at least 20%.

Cheap mortgages

According to Laszlo Balogh, the leading expert from Hungarian property website ingatlan.com, property prices are growing faster than locals can afford, which is causing the demand for loans and cheap property to grow. According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the total amount of residential loans issued in H1 2017 was €930 million, one-third larger than during the same period in 2016. Moreover, every two of three home loans are used to buy existing property. The average interest rate for home loans as of Q2 2017 in Hungary is, according to Statista, 3.44%, whereas in 2013 it exceeded 11%. According to Mr Balogh, cheap mortgages are also stimulating price growth.

Family Housing Support Programme (CSOK)

Since 2015, Hungary has been running the CSOK housing support programme for families with children. Families with three or more children planning to buy newly built residential properties receive the most benefits under this programme – they get a €32,000 grant and a loan of the same amount on concessional terms. In H1 2017, 12,800 families received grants, which exceeded the 2016 figure by two-thirds. According to the Budapest Business Journal, in March 2018, the Hungarian government will expand the scheme to include families that have been previously living abroad and those who already own property but plan on buying another resale property (such a possibility has earlier existed for the new-build real estate market only).

Rising construction costs

The Hungarian government is raising energy performance requirements for buildings, making construction more expensive for developers. According to Hungarian web portal Portfolio, in 2017, the amount developers spent on construction was 1.5 times higher than in 2015, and by 2020 costs will rise by another 40%. In contrast, construction expenses rose by 5.2% in comparison to 2016, according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office.

Rental property investments

Hungarian apartments may be an attractive investment for those who plan to rent them out. Although the number of Hungarians renting residential property is small, it is growing gradually (from 3.6% to 5.2% between 2011 and 2017) as inhabitants of small localities move to cities in search of employment. In particular, the growing number of international students in the country is raising the demand for rental property. According to Daily News Hungary, this number was 28,000 in 2017 and is expected to increase to 40,000 by 2023. At the same time, Hungary’s popularity among tourists is growing. In Q3 2017 the Hungarian Central Statistical Office recorded 18.7 million international arrivals, which is 5% more than during the same period 2016.

It is relatively easy for a foreign national to buy Hungarian property. The payment is done in stages. First, the buyer puts down a deposit of about 1% of the property price, proving the seriousness of his/her intention. The buyer pays another 10–15% during the execution of the sales agreement. The local municipal authority must approve the purchase, which takes 6 to 8 weeks. After that the remaining amount must be paid. Buying expenses constitute 5-6%, which includes the legal service charge (1–1.5%) and the purchase tax. After this is paid, the transaction is registered with the Land Registry. In Hungary, sellers pay the realtor's fee.

Inna Opalyuk Inna Opalyuk Real Estate Sales Manager for Hungary and Slovenia

Olga Anisimova, real estate writer and content strategist at Tranio.com

Tranio’s managers offer advice on buying real estate in Hungary
Svetlana Larionova
Svetlana Larionova
Real Estate Expert Tranio in Hungary
+44 20 3608 1267
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