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"Building a home is an art," says one of the leading property investors. And it would seem to be a popular art form, given that there have never been so many new homes to choose from on the market. An estimated 10-11,000 apartments are on sale in Budapest. But with growing supply, ever more buyers are complaining of poor quality.

It's almost impossible to sell a new flat nowadays without good marketing. Gone are the days when flats would be snapped up before they had left the drawing board. That's good news for buyers - their negotiating position is all the stronger. But buyers should avoid being seduced by special offers - free garages, furnished kitchens. The real concern is about the quality of the newbuilds.

Zoltán Nagy is a lawyer whose office is dealing with rising numbers of complaints from recent buyers. "We can't choose between good and bad quality, only between bad and worse," he says. There are plenty of cowboy contractors, he says, who lack the experience to build to a high standard.

"I can hardly believe some of the stories," says Nagy, referring to a client who bought a flat, only to have the plaster fall down from the ceiling after four months. Other complaints include imitation parquet flooring and the use of cheap tiles on the walls.

There is almost no difference between big and small firms, claims the lawyer. All builders have quality problems. But there are two groups of constructors. There are those who have the means to put high-quality buildings on the market, but who are more concerned with saving money. And there are those who have neither the money nor the means to work to a high standard.

Things might change, though. The National Property and Construction Office has launched a grading initiative, which may come into effect as early as next year. The ratings will apply not to the property itself, but to the construction company. Companies will have to prove that they meet the necessary criteria in three categories. The firm must be financially sound - it must have sufficient capital and it cannot be bankrupt or under administration. The company must also have sufficient technical wherewithal, which will be assessed by a committee examining three of the company's earlier projects. The companies will also be ranked according to their size.

But experts say that part of the problem is the preponderance of very small dwellings. Generous credit encouraged many to enter the property market with speculative aims in mind. In consequence, demand for small bedsits has boomed. But now that most buyers want to live in their newly-acquired property, the emphasis has shifted to the number of rooms. Area is now less important than function: adverts for two-roomed flats with a total area of 30 square metres are now commonplace. According to experts, it's common to find 100-flat projects containing a total of 60-70 studio-bedsits.

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