One of the great pluses of being an immigrant, you get to start again in terms of identity. You get to shed the layers of narrative that cling to you. Joseph O’Neill
Nearly 8 weeks in, it is November 1st and we are still loving our new Hungarian life. I love the freedom to start again, to try new things and to grow through new experiences.
Truth? I AM TIRED! The drastic season change from 30 degrees of the Hungarian ‘Old Lady’ Summer to the cool evenings and damp nights of Fall nearly over night, after five years living in dry, warm southern France, has been a tough adjustment on my body. My arthritis is acting up, and I am on painkillers, as the red wine each evening is not quite enough. Alfonz found a lovely light Merlot to take the edge off to drink with dinner, but I am taking something stronger, for days like today….
BUGS…Alfonz, then Daniel and lastly Angelina suffered from the stomach flu. Lucky me, I played nursemaid throughout the night with Angelina and have been trying to get everyone back on track with rich soups loaded with harvest vegetables and homemade meals. Everyone is nearly right at rain.
Right now the kids are on two weeks of holidays for Fall following the French school system. Angelina’s birthday falls into this break. Normally we have a big Halloween party but this year without the space we invited a small group of her school friends for a mini make-over day at the Mammut Shopping Mall. Six girls were invited but only three could make it during vacations, so… we decided to spoil these three lucky little girls, plus our own Angelina rotten.
We started with cake of their choice at a lovely well known bakery Szamos. Then, after singing Happy Birthday in four different languages, Angelina opened her gifts. Next, we left for our manicure appointments. The girls picked out their colours and sat through their first manicures. They were so very excited. After we visited the DM and bought each of the girls the same colour nail polish to take home as a gift. Next we took Angelina to have a full make-over at Estée Lauder. Normally it costs about 15€/person (4500 HUF), however the lady made-up all the girls for free! In return I bought some products from her.
I had my nails done too in a bright red, and at Estée Lauder, Lilla the cosmetician brushed a few strokes of cover-up over my red skin, did a quick touch-up just before we left. I bought the shiny lipstick and gloss she used on me!
Estée Lauder is the daughter of Hungarian Jewish Immigrants and her first retail store opened on Vaci Utca here in Hungary!
It was truly a girlie girl day. After the girls were picked up. Angelina and I went shopping. For her birthday we bought her a pair of heeled boots, some pretty underwear from Tezenis and I treated her to milkshake. We came home bee-u-tee-ful!
Angelina has grown into quite a young lady; helpful, respectful and studious. Her 11 years have brought her an innate understanding of who she is and who she wants to be. She is very easy to like, makes me very proud at how nice she is to everyone around her and makes me laugh every day! Love love love this super gal, and so glad she is in our lives.
Alfonz is working tirelessly on gathering quotes and trying to find contractors to finish our home. The house budget was 200,000€ and we found a beautiful house in Solymar unfinished for 38,0000 HUF about 120,000€, way under budget. That’s Hamori luck for you!
The finishing budget is between 50,000-80,000€ but so far our projections are around 55,000€.
There are many reasons why this house never sold before. I originally found this house online early this year. They started to construct the house in 2010 and the couple slowly built it to the highest standards over the next three years, so that one day this would be their family home. They hoped to fill the rooms with children, but it never happened. Disappointed, eventually they split and since 2013 it was left unfinished with neither party able to complete the work alone.
The government of Hungary has a system in place to reward young families planning to have or who already have three children by giving a one time gift of 30,000€ to help build a brand new home. Because this house is nearly finished, most don’t have the money to finish it. To further complicate the situation with this house, the banks won’t lend on a house that a family cannot move into right away. It is a different type of loan that is difficult to obtain. Also the house had a building permit that ran dry, which means that tax needs to be paid in full before the end of next year- no deals to get around it. If they kept the permit going, there would be no tax at all, just a transfer to the new owners to finish the work. This adds another 3000€ on top of the selling price. Complicated sale when there are so many houses for sale and many new builds to buy up!
For us, we were lucky enough to be able to paid the initial money outright and are now in the middle of qualifying for a building loan. I have to wait three months at my new job before it goes through, so we are slowly doing the work until the middle of December, saving the receipts as we go and applying them towards the loan.
When the house is finished and before the inspector gives us the living permit, we can apply for the government grant as well. Although we don’t have three children we qualify for 2.6 million HUF, enough to pay the taxman and extra for furnishings. Not bad at all!
The loan we are applying for is an interesting loan, one based on equity and the rising value of a house after renovations. The appraisal is upward towards 70-85 million HUF after construction is complete. Separate loans are given in the names of each family member; you pay in, and the financial planner shops for the loan on your behalf based on your accumulated savings. I have never heard of such a loan except in the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ at their Savings and Loan, but it allows people to get money based on what they can pay and not what they make for a living; which in a country with low wages makes sense. So they prove they can pay it for a few months, and then they use that figure to calculate what they can pay off. BRILLIANT!
What needs to be done!
The house has a solid foundation, thick well-insulated walls, and the layout is on three levels with views of the surrounding mountains.
The house needs floors; mainly tiles but the bedrooms upstairs will have hardwood looking 8mm thick laminate. The walls need to be finished with another coat of plaster and paint where I hope to throw in my favourite colour ‘Silver Sage’ by Restoration Hardware. A kitchen with custom cabinets, dark wood below and white above and stainless steel appliances and a strip mosaic tiles from a designer store FIDJI that has blue, light green and white glass tiles that will add femininity to my cook space.
Further needed are three toilets to be mounted, four bathroom sinks, an extra wash sink on the third floor landing, a bathtub and a shower. Everything is planned in neutral colours in high quality tile for quick sale if need be for the future. Another shower downstairs might be in the plans too, but I haven’t decided if it is a necessity next to the indoor sauna.
Outside we plan to add a custom metal railing on all four balconies and inside a railing on the outside wall of the stairwell. Terraces need to be finished with outdoor tile and our indoor 34 stairs could either be finished with tile, wood or the classic combinations of wooden tops and tile fascia Phew! I am exhausted just writing it down.
The picking of the tile was an interesting experience. Alfonz took me for a 9:00am meeting at the prestigious tile store in the second district. The prices seemed high to my foreign eyes but the tiles were nothing short of craftsmanship quality. There was a floor planner on site who worked for the store but also a man who helped us pick out which tiles went together, and how to go from one room to the next making sure the tiles looked fluid. He helped put the vision in my head together with their products. He was a private freelancer who we are buying the tile through. By using him and getting everything together in one shot, all flooring, bath fixtures and faucets; we get a 20% discount on the total bill. Basically we are receiving top of the line products for IKEA prices.
The children worked with the computer programer after I picked the bathroom tiles and they helped design the pattern and the layout of each bathroom, placing the detailed mosaic around the toilets, the showers and around the tub. While I chose the floor tiles for the kitchen, Alfonz chose the covering main floor tile then together we finished by choosing the bottom floor midrange basic floor tile that will also be mounted on the downstairs bath/laundry/furnace room walls.
It took us a total of two hours for everything. I apologized for taking so long. At that both men started to laugh! They had never had anyone pick tile faster for a 2700 square foot house before and without a single fight!
Needless to say the Solymar home will be a construction site for the next month or two. We are hoping to be living in the house by mid-December, but honestly it doesn’t really matter much when, but how! We must consider the neighbourhood, especially for resale. We would expect nothing less than top quality construction to make this a better investment.