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House Hunting in... Hungary

This four-bedroom stone house overlooking Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, is built in traditional Hungarian style, with native gray limestone and thick wooden beams; it was built in 1997 and renovated in 2012. Spanning 3,220 square feet, it has gas heating and oak floors, and sits on almost three-quarters of an acre on the Tihany peninsula, part of the protected Balaton Uplands National Park, said Agnes Kacsmarik, a broker with Engel & Völkers Budahill Center, which has the listing. 
The ground floor has wood-framed glass doors opening to the pool terrace, as well as an open kitchen and a dining area with a traditional “beehive kiln” made of clay. The kitchen has white wooden cabinets, butcher-block countertops, a double-sized refrigerator and appliances by the Dutch company ATAG. A brick arch to the rear of the dining area opens to an airy skylit hallway flanked by glass doors leading to guest bedrooms. A full bathroom tiled in white stone is also off the dining area.  
Upstairs, a living room opens to a large balcony with panoramic views of the lake. Two bedrooms, one of them the master, are tucked under pitched ceilings, as is a bathroom with tub and fittings by the French designer Philippe Starck and the German company Villeroy & Boch. The house is being sold unfurnished, although a price for the furnishings could be negotiated.
The property also has a traditional wine cellar, and a 26-by-16-foot outdoor swimming pool with a hot tub for eight people.
The Tihany peninsula is on the north side of Lake Balaton, which is known for its historic properties, as well as for boating and wineries, Ms. Kacsmarik said. Swimmers favor resorts on the lake’s shallower southern side. Convenience stores are within walking distance, and the area has many restaurants. Tennis and golf are popular, and the Balaton Royal Golf and Yacht Club is a 15-minute drive. The house is an hour and a half from Budapest, and about 30 minutes from the nearest international airport in Heviz. 
Foreign investment virtually came to a halt after the global real estate crisis, said Gabor Borbely, an associate director of the commercial brokerage CBRE Hungary. Sales volume plunged, construction fell to an all-time low and mortgage lending all but disappeared, he said.
However, recent purchases by foreign investors show the residential market is reviving a bit, driven in large part by foreclosure sales, Mr. Borbely said. “Many developers/investors see current low values as a good entry point,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Ms. Kacsmarik agreed, saying home prices had fallen by about 25 to 30 percent since the downturn.  “Owing to the significant price drop,” she said, “there are some excellent opportunities available to property hunters.”  
The Lake Balaton region has long been the prime vacation resort for Hungarians, and foreign buyers are now discovering it. While the home market outside Budapest has remained mostly stagnant, there have been sales in towns around Lake Balaton, a region that is home to several universities, said Bela Varga, a lawyer specializing in real estate and investments.  
“In university towns,” he added, “students generate more transactions, and at Lake Balaton, where presumably prices have reached their lowest level, foreigners see investment opportunity.”
Ms. Kacsmarik said demand was strongest at the high end, for apartments and houses with views on the northern shore of the lake. A large apartment would cost at least half a million dollars, while the most expensive houses can reach $3 million.  The southern shore is less expensive; there, a large home with views starts at $390,000. 
Budapest was popular among European buyers, particularly the Irish, before the financial crisis. The Lake Balaton region was, and still is, more appealing to retired and affluent Hungarians seeking a vacation home.  German retirees and vacationers who have business or family ties to Hungary also buy in the region, especially residents of the former East Germany who grew up vacationing at the lake, Ms. Kacsmarik said. 
In recent years Russian buyers have discovered the city of Heviz, which has hot springs known for their therapeutic qualities.  “In the windows of the real estate agencies,” she said, “the adverts are showcased in Cyrillic letters.”  
  There are no buying restrictions on European Union citizens, Mr. Varga said. All other foreigners must obtain a permit, but the process is straightforward, and the permit is granted in almost every case, he said. The permit has a stamp duty of about $215. 
Buyers typically pay a lawyer’s fee of 1 percent of the sale price, plus a stamp duty of 4 percent at the closing, he said. The cost of the land registry fee is minimal, less than $30 total. 
Hungarian National Tourist Office: gotohungary.com 
Hungarian government: kormany.hu/en
Hungarian; Hungarian forint (1 forint = $.0042) 
There are no property taxes on this home; there is an annual tourist tax of about $800. 
Agnes Kacsmarik, Engel & Völkers Budahill Center, 011-36-1-392-03-88; EngelVoelkers.com

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