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Is there a finer European city than Budapest? When it comes to classic good looks steeped in history and culture, Hungary's capital lays serious claim to the crown. From the neo-Gothic splendor of the Parliament building to the disorderly comfort of its legendary ruin bars, Budapest carries itself with effortless charm on every beautiful street corner. While the city's many thermal spas, not to mention restaurants serving hearty Hungarian fare, make it perfect in winter, warm summers see locals enjoy open air pools and leafy strolls on Margaret's Island in the middle of the majestic Danube. When it gets too warm, there are easy escapes to the fresh air and greenery of the Buda Hills via the cog railway or Zugliget chairlift.
A version of this article appears in print on June 20, 2014, in The International New York Times.
BUDAPEST — There has been a change in Joseph Town, the Eighth District of Budapest, which stretches from the ornate 19th-century palaces in the city’s center to the decaying dwellings and industrial sites of its eastern outskirts. For years, rundown streets and their low-income residents had colored opinions of the neighborhood. In 2004, a popular animated film called “Nyocker!” — as the district is known in local slang — showed it as a maze of neglected buildings and desolate parks, plagued by crime and poverty. A Budapest District Moves on From Its Bleak Past Today, thanks to private and public investment, some of that blight is gone and the area is becoming popular among new residents. “It is in its image that Joseph Town has made the biggest progress,” said Gyorgy Alfoldi, deputy head of the urban planning department at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. But, “it is not Kreuzberg yet — for that, a lot of time still has to pass,” he added, referring to one of Berlin’s gentrified areas, which some say would be a good model for Joseph Town. The Corvin Promenade, Hungary’s largest continuing development project, has had a lot to do with the change. Work started in 2006 on the site, then a derelict residential zone spread over 22 hectares, or 54 acres. The project was designed to include 2,300 apartments, mostly midrange units; 90,000 square meters, or nearly 970,000 square feet, of office space; and 49,000 square meters of retail space. The final development cost is expected to be 800 million euros, or $1.1 billion, paid with public and private money. About half of the apartments and the retailing space as well as two-thirds of the office space are completed. Construction is continuing on 227 apartments and 6,200 square meters of office space. According to Cordia, the developer and also the largest residential builder in Hungary, 92 percent of the finished apartments have been sold, with one in five going to foreign buyers interested in investments. (Cordia also offers rental and property management services.) Two furnished penthouse apartments were among the development’s higher-end sales. One, with 150 square meters of living space, was listed by the developer at €270,000, while the second, also 150 square meters, was €320,000. “Almost any of the Corvin Promenade flats are suitable for investment as they are easy to rent, well located and much more recent than the surrounding properties,” Attila Dery, an analyst at Otthon Centrum, a local real estate company, wrote in an email. Beyond the Corvin project, however, real estate sales in the district have continued to be flat — even in the traditionally prestigious part of Joseph Town known as Palotanegyed, or the Palace District, only a few blocks away. Unlike the rest of the Eighth District, the area is only a short walk from the heart of the city and is within the large crescent formed by the Grand Boulevard, which borders Budapest’s most prized neighborhoods. Most of the Palace District was built in the 19th century, after a major flood by the Danube ravaged what had been a garden neighborhood dotted with clay houses. In rebuilding the area, a grid of new streets was created and brick buildings with ornate facades were constructed for a wealthy population. (The district once was the site of Hungary’s Parliament and the national theater, and it still is home to the white, neo-Classical building of the national museum.) Over the last decade, the streets at the district’s center, around the Sacred Heart Church on Lorinc Pap Square, have undergone a complete refurbishment. Funding from the European Union and the Hungarian government has been used to improve them, while scaffolding has gone up on one classical building after the other. To Mr. Alfoldi, of the technology university, the area’s renewal is not a result of gentrification, because it always had been inhabited by the middle classes. There is, however, a kind of rebirth with new art galleries and sidewalk cafes. A 125-square-meter apartment with a garden view in an Art Nouveau building was listed for 59.9 million Hungarian forints, or $264,000, by the Otthon Centrum agency. The ceilings are just over 13 feet high, and the building has covered corridors along the interior courtyard, a common feature in Budapest. “There are beautiful buildings, that are in need of love and tender care,” said Zoltan Szemes, head of Capital Real Estate, an agency that specializes in properties in Budapest’s central districts. “If people are looking for bargains, the eighth is a bargain,” Mr. Szemes said. But he warned that the area was still developing, and that an investment should be considered a long-term prospect. In the Eighth District, buyers looking at units beyond the Corvin development can expect sale prices as low as €1,000 per square meter, and even €800, Mr. Szemes said. Rental yields in the district are also higher, he said, at up to 18 percent compared with 5 to 8 percent elsewhere in the city. A version of this article appears in print on June 20, 2014, in The International New York Times.
October 12/13, 2013 Financial Times
NEW GALLERIES AND INVESTMENT REJUVENATE BUDAPEST’S EIGHTH DISTRICT
By Troy McMullen
Rakoczi ut is one of the main streets running through Budapest’s Eighth district The cramped, cobblestone streets and busy boulevards that snake through Budapest’s Eighth district have long been considered one of the Hungarian capital’s worst pockets for property investment. Bombed heavily in the second world war and further damaged during the Hungarian revolution in the 1950s, this gritty, densely populated area on the Pest side of the Danube was for decades plagued by high crime and economic decay. In contrast to the city centre, where heavy state funding following Hungary’s ascension to the EU in 2004 stoked a surge in foreign investment, the Eighth district spent decades struggling to gain its cultural and financial footing.
Yet like Hoxton in London’s East End or Kreuzberg in Berlin, the area known locally as Jozsefvaros, or Joseph Town, is today in the midst of a nascent revival. Plummeting crime rates have attracted contemporary art galleries and trendy cafés. Renovated metro lines shuttle scores of tourists and young people into the area to enjoy its vibrant nightlife. The core of the Eighth is the Palace district, where the crumbling 1860s-era buildings now feature restored museum facades and university buildings. Property developers, sensing an opportunity, have followed suit. They are spending tens of millions of euros renovating once dilapidated 19th-century buildings or building freestanding condominiums.
A stroll through Mikszath Square off Baross Street in the heart of the district today finds cranes and scaffolding hovering over building sites. “It’s not unlike many real estate stories in eastern Europe,” says Zoltan Szemes, managing director of Capital Real Estate Budapest, which concentrates on high-end dwellings in established areas but has expanded its listings to the Eighth district. “At first you see a lot of interest and money flowing into the city centre but, as prices there rise, investors look for other areas to put their money and there’s real potential in the Eighth.” The changes are also attracting large-scale development. For example, the Hungarian developer Futureal is spending €800m building Corvin Promenade, a 229,000 sq metre mixed-use complex due to be completed late next year.
Designs for the development include more than 2,500 residential apartments, 150,000 sq metres of office space, a cinema and a sprawling high-end shopping centre. Homes at the complex cost up to about €250,000 and include units with floor spaces ranging between 75 sq metres and 130 sq metres. The buildings will have a concierge service, a private gym and an underground parking garage. “There’s a stronger sense of renewal that wasn’t present for many years,” says Attila Dery, chief analyst for estate agency Otthon Centrum, one of the largest residential real estate brokerages in Hungary. Dery says foreign buyers, which made up about 10 per cent of the market over the past few years, increasingly see the district as a place to invest. More IN HOUSE & HOME The lure of living near international schools Finland property – Baltic scramble? A cautionary tale in sq ft Wells – England’s smallest city (nearly) Upmarket homes for sale can be found in districts adjoining the Eighth. Otthon Centrum is marketing a five-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the Sixth district for €671,198. The renovated 19th-century apartment measures 363 sq metres with a large living room and two balconies.
A three-bedroom home is being offered in the Fifth district for €512,903 by Property-Hungary.com. The third-floor property measures 169 sq metres and has balconies that overlook the Danube. Though it lacks the kind of high-end housing found in the city’s wealthier districts, the Eighth has architectural integrity. Art nouveau dwellings are sprinkled among the Italianate, gothic revival and neo-Renaissance styles that populate the area. Zoltan Mezo, managing director of At Home Network, an international estate agency with offices in Budapest, says many homes in the Eighth have been targeted by developers for top-to-bottom renovations. Some will be converted to rentals in an effort to tap into the district’s surging student population, says Mezo. “The Eighth is mostly filled with younger people who are looking for properties with history,” he adds. Living area in a Corvin Promenade apartment, priced up to €250,000 Peter Bishop, a professor of urban design and architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, says the trend of revitalising urban or decaying areas and watching them blossom into an upmarket location is not new. “We’ve seen similar transformations in London’s East End or in New York’s East Village,” says Prof Bishop. “But the trend is accelerating as many urban areas grapple with sustained population growth and fewer locations to build new homes.”
Because some areas of the Eighth are still far from being completely gentrified, property deals abound. Estate agency Metropolitan Homes Budapest is selling a three-bedroom 150 sq metre apartment in a newly renovated prewar building for €165,000. The property features French doors and hardwood parquet floors throughout and sits on the top floor of a six-storey building with two separate balconies offering views of central Budapest. Property-Hungary in Budapest is selling a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in the Eighth for €150,670. It is located in the Palace district near the National Museum and measures about 92 sq metres in a newly renovated 19th-century building. Budapest’s overall property market is still recovering after the banking and credit crisis of 2008. But, says Gabor Borbely, associate director and head of research at real estate services company CBRE Hungary, “we’re finally seeing stronger signs that buyers are slowly coming back into the marketplace”.
------------------------------------------- Buying guide
Foreign home buyers are limited to owning two properties per district in Budapest
Properties in Hungary are sold in forints or euros
Home buyers from outside the EU are required to obtain a permit of sale, which costs about 50,000 forints, or €170
Lawyers’ fees cost about 1 to 1.5 per cent of the property’s purchase price
According to Hungary’s Central Statistical Office, the overall crime rate in the Eighth district fell 16 per cent in 2012 compared with 2011
What you can buy for . . .
€500,000 A new 90 sq metre two-bedroom duplex apartment in a 19th-century building near the city centre
€1m A four-bedroom, 200 sq metre apartment with high ceilings in central Budapest
€3m A five-bedroom villa with a pool, sauna, and garage, just outside the city Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2012 INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
INVESTORS ARE MAKING THEIR WAY BACK TO BUDAPEST
BY PALKO KARASZ
Prices are some of lowest in Central Europe
With bargains still available Hervé Morin, a French-American business consultant, had to look for quite a while before he found his investment bargain in December 2011. ‘‘I knew it was time to put money in real estate,’’ he said, but he could not decide on which appealing segment of the Hungarian capital’s property market to place his bet — from high-end family homes to pied-à-terre in the city center. Mr. Morin ended up selecting an 87- square-meter, or 936-square-foot, residence near Deak Square, in the very heart of the city. He paid less than EUR 100,000, or USD 134,000, for the property and what he called a floor-to-ceiling renovation to divide it into two studios. Now he is renting them out and hopes to get an annual return on his investment of somewhere between 6 percent and 8 percent. International buyers like Mr. Morin are slowly returning to Budapest, after shying away from the Hungarian market since the global economic downturn in 2008, local real estate dealers said. Investors, mainly from Western Europe, are being lured back to a city that offers some of the lowest prices in Central Europe, with high returns, and some good bargains still available. Also, the capital, which stands on the banks of the Danube, was classed by the 2011 Mercer Quality of Living index as the region’s second-most appealing city, bested only by Prague. ‘‘There has been a significant shift in Budapest’s real estate prices in the last four years,’’ ‘‘If you come to Hungary, there is only one place, Budapest,’’ said Zoltan Szemes, head of Capital Real Estate, highlighting the low cost of living, cultural opportunities and attractive surroundings. For example, the central Districts 5, 6 and 7 have preserved their architectural unity, including the Opera House on glossy Andrassy Boulevard, part of a Unesco World Heritage site.
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PLEASE NOTE THAT THE AVERAGE PRICE IS 1800 EUR PER M2 NOT 850 EUR.