Just a very brief blog for today as we’re all about to head out for the end of trip dinner and to celebrate this afternoon’s presentations to Wing going well.

All the groups spent this morning working hard to finalise their presentations using the information that was gathered yesterday afternoon during the office visits. Everyone’s presentations seemed to go well and hopefully all the groups got some constructive feedback from the people at Wing which will mean when the end of module presentations are done in several weeks time all aspects of the development will have been considered.

Also today a group of us conference called back to NTU to report back to a meeting with RICS what we had been getting up to during our week in Budapest. Despite a hiccup with the video conferencing this went well and listing everything we had been doing made us realise exactly what a busy few days its been!

Last thing this afternoon I had chance to do some very hurried last-minute sightseeing and took the fernicular up to Fishman’s bastion. Unfortunately I was 10 minutes too late too see inside Matyas Church but the views down over the river and across to the Parliament building were spectacular.

I said it would be brief, we’re now off to reflect on a successful week over dinner. 

View from Fisherman's Bastion


Hero's Square: The last bit of sightseeing before bedtime

Yesterday we had a “free” morning when we had the chance to climb the citadel, take a wander along the banks of the Danube or simply catch up on the project work. I finally had chance to try the famous Gellert thermal spa. The building is incredibly impressive and beautifully tiled. Having collected my obligatory shower-cap [which must be worn at all times in the swimming pool] I attempted to negotiate the rather complicated changing rooms with their electronic wristbands to open and lock cubicle doors. It was all worth it though for a swim in the amongst the intricately tiled pillars and a relaxing ten minutes in the 38 degree thermal pools. Highly recommended!

Fully relaxed we spent the afternoon in groups visiting the offices of some property and construction companies in Budapest. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the kind of places we might end up working after graduation, find out about the projects that they’re involved with and, hopefully, get some advise from them for our project.

Real Estate-ers en route to King Sturge

My group of Real Estate students headed out to visit King Sturge in their offices on Roosevelt ter, directly at the end of one of Budapest’s famous bridges. Here we met James Kinnell again. As I mentioned in the last post, James graduated from NTU in 1993. After working in London for 9 months he was sent to Budapest in 1994. After just 9 months here in Hungary he decided to start-up his own property business which he developed across 6 countries in central/south-eastern Europe. In 2007 he sold his business to King Sturge where he is now an equity partner responsible for South East Europe. I think the whole group was impressed by the fact that James set up his own business on foreign soil when he was barely two years further into his career than a lot of the group are now. James was a massive help with the development site project, talking us through competitor projects in the area and financial models.

Reports back from the other groups suggest that they had equally worthwhile afternoons. One group of Quantity Surveyors visited Tamas Fonda (another contributor to Tuesday afternoon’s conference) at the offices of Tomlin Project Management. Tamas told the group more about his career, starting out as an architect with a keen interest in cost control. Having gained an insight into UK approaches during a period working for EC Harris he decided to start his own company and Tomlin was born. The group was particularly impressed by Tomlin’s office which Tamas led a tour of. Originally a winery and later residential flats the building was purchased from the government and is now provides a fantastic office environment which the whole group agreed would be a lovely place to work. They were particularly impressed with the sauna!

Not all groups spent the afternoon in the office though. One group of Building Surveyors visited Norbert Schomer at AIG Lincoln and had the opportunity to visit a 17 hectare mixed-use development near the airport. They were shown around the three-zone site which consists of an airport business park of industrial units, Market Central – a retail unit and The Quadrum which is currently still under construction to be completed in four phases. The group heard more about BREEAM, the most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings, and the importance of considering the environmental implications of their plans for the project development site.

Quantity Surveyors on the roof of the RC Harris development

Another group of Quantity Surveyors visited Tibor Stahl at EC Harris and also had the chance to see a major retail development first hand. They travelled to the centre of Budapest’s shopping district where a 101 year old bank building is being converted into an impressive shopping centre. A conversation with the client’s project manager highlighted that, although there were substantial extra costs involved with refurbishing and keeping the building’s historic facade, it was worthwhile considering the building’s prime location.

With all the groups having such different afternoon experiences there was plenty of work to do when everyone got back to the hotel, incorporating what had been learnt into the plans for Thursday’s presentations.

I thought it was about time to find out what some of the other groups though of the trip so far and Harvinder, Lisa, Ed, James, Sean, Chen, Matthew and Alex of project group two were kind enough to provide the following reflection:

“Budapest is a fantastic city and we are gaining invaluable experience and knowledge from being exposed to the property market dynamics of this region. The trip has been well structured, providing us with an opportunity to understand the property market first-hand, as well as being filled in with the expert knowledge of some of the city’s leading players to help shape our ideas. Overall, this trip is providing us with an excellent range of information and experiences regarding Budapest’s real estate markets that can be applied not just to our coursework, but also to our future careers within this sector.”

Thanks guys and good luck to everyone for the project presentations!


Apologies for the delay in posting yesterday’s blog, there seemed to be an issue with both the wifi last night and my laptop charger. I assure you that these are genuine excuses and it wasn’t just that I was impeded by staying out too late enjoying more Hungarian dumplings.


Following a wonderful hotel breakfast, with the unusual inclusions of semolina, tongue and boiled baby carrots (not together), we finally headed off to examine our development site. The site is a fairly short tram ride along the banks of the river and everyone was making sure that they learnt the route for Thursday when we will be coming back in our groups to present our proposals for the site to staff from Wing at their offices nearby.

The weather today has been beautiful and I think this helped everyone get a very positive first impression of the site. As I have mentioned before the site is right on the banks of the river Danube. Although everyone was well aware of the size of the site (36 acres, or 17.7 hectares) I’m not sure anybody truly appreciated its scale until we saw it first hand. I don’t think any of the groups had any nasty surprises regarding what they were expecting but the scale of work that needs to be done before building on the land can even start became increasingly apparent.

Although it doesn’t look much today the site has an interesting history. Until around 1950 it was a harbour and wholesale fruit and veg market. This was replaced by the concrete factory that we skirted the edge of today, which was built to aid the construction of the metro. People have obviously recognised the site’s potential for quite a while as Budapest hoped to develop the site to host the 1996 Expo but they didn’t win the bid.

Wing really want to develop a brand new part of the city on this site and the vision behind the concept has been developing for several years. I was interested to hear of Foster and Partners involvement in the initial concepts for the project and the presentation by Wing highlighted several of London’s riverside developments as inspiration.

A view of the site

One new challenge that the groups were handed today was the dilemma of what to do with the existing high-rise office building on the site. The existence of this 15 story structure is what will potentially allow the developers to build above the 30 metre normal Budapest limit to match the 55 metres of this, rather ugly, 1970s structure. From a vantage point on the roof of the building we were able to understand the full scale of the site as well as admiring the impressive view and beginning to get an idea of the site’s full potential. It was also the perfect opportunity for the first group photo of the trip.

The group on the roof

Enjoying the refreshments during the seminar break

This afternoon was the Real Estate and Construction Seminar which took place in one of the hotel’s impressive conference rooms accompanied by a selection a very spectacular miniature Hungarian cakes . The academics had brought together five speakers working in the Hungarian property market to talk to us about current market conditions and predictions. The speakers were an interesting mix of Hungarians and Ex-pats, several of them having connections to NTU such as being alumni of one of the property courses in Nottingham or of the partner course that until recently ran in Budapest.

The first speaker was James Kinnell from King Sturge . An NTU graduate he was speaking about the real estate market in Hungary, the residential and commercial property supply, demand, rental levels and yields. He has had a really interesting career but I think I will leave the details of this until tomorrow as our group of Real Estate students will be visiting the King Sturge offices tomorrow afternoon so I’m keen to hear more before I report back.

Other speakers included Laszlo Berczi, a Property Development Director from MAV Vagyonkezelo ZRT who spoke about the opportunities and challenges when developing railway land. After the break we were joined by Tamas Fonda, a partner from Tomlin Project Management, talking about technical due diligence and building surveys and Tibor Stahl a partner at EC Harris Built Asset Company talking about construction activity and costs in Hungary.

Our final speaker was slightly less technical. Jake Lodge is Head of Asset Management for Axa Real Estate. Jake gave us a fantastic overview of what it is like to work overseas as a Chartered Surveyor. He’s had an interesting career and has worked in Bangkok and Bucharest as well as here in Budapest. His presentation was frank and honest, explaining the pros and cons of being an ex-pat working in the property market. Despite issues with bureaucracy, language barriers and being well and truly thrown in at the deep end, I don’t think he really put any of the group off. If anything he just highlighted what an exciting career property can be with professional opportunities open all over the world. For those of the group wanting to get out there, according to Jake, Poland is the place to be. Next stop Warsaw?!

We arrived in Budapest at 6.30 this evening and have filled the evening with a bit of a walk around and some lovely Hungarian food.

Our hotel is really impressive. Called Danuibius Hotel Gellert, it shares a building with the Gellert thermal baths. These are truly spectacular and I suggest you take a look at the hotel website to find out more. My room is very comfortable and looks out at the River Danube and one of Budapest’s famous bridges.

We set out on a walk round this evening at 8pm. Unfortunately my hunger was starting to get the better of me by this time but, despite some staff and students abandoning the walk in favour of dinner, some of us stuck at it and were rewarded at the end with a lovely Hungarian meal. The size of the portions (served at the table in small frying pans) was something to marvel at in our cosy basement restaurant. I opted for the traditional goulash and Hungarian noodles which seemed to be small gnocchi-life dumplings. Delicious and very rich it wasn’t quite possible to polish off the entire plateful despite the exercise of the evening’s walk. Others in the group enjoyed soup served inside a bread roll, a Hungarian equivalent of black pudding and a rather gigantic dumpling. This dumpling resembled a cricket ball in size and it was suggested that we should wrap it up and gradually carve slices off throughout the week whenever we got hungry!

This rich assortment of food has made me quite sleepy and it was all I could do to drag myself back over the bridge to the hotel to write this blog, leaving my more hard-core colleagues to investigate a local bar. An early-ish night also seemed like a good plan as tomorrow the actual work starts. The trip itinerary starts at 6am with the suggestion of a spa in the thermal baths before breakfast. I’m not sure how many of us will make the thermal baths at 6am, I think the majority will aim for the 8.30am start when we will be leaving the hotel to visit the development site where we will be briefed by Wing, the developers who own the site.

Tomorrow afternoon and early evening will be taken up with a Property and Construction market seminar. This will give us plenty of opportunity to meet people working in the industry here in Hungary. Some of these people are NTU graduates and it makes you realise that a career in property could allow you to work anywhere in the world. I think contacts made this week could be really important going forward and looking for jobs. I think I mentioned in a previous post that last year’s postgrad cohort visited Prague for their Professional Practice module trip. Apparently one of the group even managed to secure a job working in Prague after graduation for one of the companies they visited on the trip. I don’t think any of the group expect to be offered a job here in Hungary this week but it certainly encourages you to be on your best form during this week’s visits.

I’ve finally finished packing. Everything, including the all-important yellow high-vis vest, is ready to go.

According to the BBC weather site the forecast for Budapest is looking a little bit better than here. It should be sunny all week with a high of 15 degrees on Thursday. Looks like it gets quite cold at night but fingers crossed for the sun (even if it isn’t quite warm enough to come home with a tan).

I’ve acquired a guidebook so I can read-up a bit more on Budapest on the journey. It isn’t the most recent publication (fifteen years old in fact), but I doubt the history has changed that much so I’ll spend the flight improving my knowledge of the Angevin Kings, Sigismund of Luxembourg and Mattias Corvinus (random reference pulled from page 10). My three favourite facts about Budapest so far are:

  1. It is home to Europe’s largest synagogue
  2. It has 123 thermal spas (one of which is, apparently, at our hotel!)
  3. The first continental subway line was apparently built in Budapest in 1896

My favourite random fact so far however, is that Budapest is the home of the biro! Invented by Hungarian Sir Biro (obviously) Laszlo Jozsef. Thanks for these enlightening fact go to this website http://www.nileguide.com/destination/budapest/overview/local-info and, sadly, not to my 15-year-old Michelin guide.

Not content with these gems, I’ve also searched the internet to find three famous people (other than Sir Biro) from Budapest, starting with one that is at least relevant in some way to our built environment theme:

  1. Sculptor and Architect Erno Rubik. Also the inventor of the Rubik’s cube
  2. Composer Bela Bartok
  3. Illusionist Harry Houdini (although he claimed to be from Wisconsin for most of his life)

So that’s Budapest in a very small nutshell and I hope to improve my knowledge (of the Hungarian property market at least) over the next week.

It’s now only a few days until we leave for Budapest. We started the project for the trip over a month ago so you can tell that everyone is really keen now to get out there and see the site for real.

Our project brief is to assume the role of an independent real estate and construction consultancy who have been commissioned by a development site owner to advise on development options. Everyone has been put into “multidisciplinary” groups (Building Surveyors, Quantity Surveyors and Real Estate-ers (?), with some Property Managers) so we should get a well-rounded view of options for the site.

The site itself is on the east side of the river Danube. For those of you that haven’t read the guide-book; that’s the “Pest” side of the river, as opposed to the “Buda” side which, I believe, is where our hotel is. It is 36 acres and currently houses office, storage and industrial buildings. There are plenty of challenges (not lease the rather obvious risk of flooding) and I have a feeling there may be more to be discovered when we see it for real! Anyway, I won’t tell you much more about that for now as I’m sure we will be seeing and hearing plenty about it next week.

I’m really looking forward to the chance to get a more European outlook on the property market and I appreciate any opportunities to get out the classroom ( not least because I need an excuse to wear the stylish hard-hat and yellow high-vis jacket I got at the beginning of the year!). We had a ‘warm-up’ run for the trip before Christmas when we headed to the exotic destinations of Leeds and Rotherham. Despite the freezing weather, especially from the top of the partially constructed new Rotherham Civic Offices, it was a really good trip and a great opportunity to get to know everyone on the Property courses. There is more information about the  Leeds trip on the Nottingham Trent Uni (NTU) news website

Anyway, I think that’s enough info for now. I need to head out and pick up my Hungarian Florins on my way home!