Magnolia Property have offered me the opportunity to write a blog with regard to living, advice and opinions including buying and selling of property in the Turkey and the region I have come to know namely in Southern Turkey within the region between Antalya and Gazipasa.
It may help by me giving a little overview as to how I found myself getting to know and understand this region a little better.
I am 78 years old and married with a Ukrainian wife and during the last few years we made the decision that we would rather winter in warmer climes than endure either the cold of
Ukraine or the general greyness in the UK. Our first winter break was four years ago when we visited Cyprus for four months and whilst I had visited Cyprus many times during my life felt that we had explored the Island sufficiently and decided to look somewhere else in Europe where we could find a similar more enjoyable winter vacation time. My wife had visited Turkey on previous occasions and suggested that as this was not a place, I had ever visited then perhaps we should try it for our next winter break. We subsequently found ourselves renting an apartment in a large complex in a small town called Avsallar which is approximately 25kms from the centre of the biggest local city Alanya.
We arranged to stay for three months and to be frank I fell in love with the town. It was small and yet close to a large city. An Idyllic beach on the doorstep and people friendly. The weather was fantastic and in the early days we honestly considered perhaps moving there on a permanent basis and we had no problems in leaving with regrets and looking forward to our return the following winter. If there was a downside at that time was the problem the world had with the “Covid epidemic” which severely curtailed your movements in and around the region as there was a general curfew for residents. For visitors there was no problem as we were free to visit the beach and visit whatever attractions including restaurants that had still (possibly illegally) decided to keep their doors open.
We decided to rent a car in order to explore the region more fully and should anyone who is reading this be thinking of doing the same thing please bear in mind that the majority of car rentals will only allow you to drive within the region where you are located. This meant for us we could only drive around the Antalya region and all cars are fitted with tracking systems and are generally monitored on a daily basis to verify your location.
We therefore looked forward to our return in late October that year. We were undecided on the length of the stay and agreed to rent an apartment for three months. On our return Avsallar was just how we remembered it and it felt like we had somehow returned to our second home as it was nice to find, when my wife and I visited shops and restaurants, many of the staff remembered us and greeted us warmly. The downside was that this region suffered its coldest winter for over thirty years and you then realise that many of the apartments are built for the sun and not the cold which mainly meant that you used the air-conditioning as a heater to warm up the apartment as against cooling it down. As the majority of rentals are for the apartment only and you pick up the utilities which of course additional heating added to the budget. Saying that, utilities are certainly a lot cheaper in Turkey than the UK and many other countries in Europe.
During our first month we decided to explore the possibility for extending our stay beyond the 90-day rule and rent for five months thereby to hopefully enjoy some winter sun. We spoke with some resident foreigners and found that it was possible with the landlords help and permission to obtain a resident’s visa which would allow you to reside in Turkey for upto a year.
We spoke with our landlord and yes, she was happy to assist but did warn us that her apartment was booked from early March the next year. It was during this process that we first realised that doing any form of business in Turkey is not an easy process for many foreigners. Thankfully we had been pre-warned and told that yes, the process can be done without any legal assistance but the advice was to employ an advocate (preferably one that had been recommended by a trusted person) to guide you through the process. In general, the process is simple with regard to the information to be supplied but there is a lot of personal running around from one office to another office. And each office is very strict that the paperwork has to be correct and every i dotted and every t crossed or else it will be rejected. As said, we used a recommended advocate whose fees were very reasonable ($100) and he was with us at every step of the way and we received our residence permit within 10 days of submission. We heard on many occasions that some people were waiting months to receive theirs and that many had used so-called “Agencies”. My advice: RUN a mile if anyone suggests using an “Agency”. We were quoted over $2,000 by one such agency for their fees and when we analysed just what they would do for this money then it is little more than a scam. Some people we spoke to had paid over $5,000 to their “Agency” and were still waiting months later for their residency permit.
Whilst writing this paragraph I should add that things have now changed and it is now becoming very rare for the government to issue 1-year permits. It now seems common for them to be issued no longer than six months and more likely three months. This could be for many reasons but the most likely is that many people have abused the residency rules and do not stay in the property to which the visa was assigned for the agreed one-year period.
So yes, that winter was cold but enjoyable as many covid restrictions had been lifted and we were able to explore the region and then, with some regret, we made plans to vacate our apartment on the 28th February.
Unfortunately, on the 24th February Russia invaded Ukraine and suddenly we found ourselves in the same position as millions of others in Ukraine other than that we were already out of the country. We could not get back to Ukraine as all flights had been cancelled and basically it was one-way traffic with people fleeing the country. So, there we were, my wife and I unable to get back her country and help her parents and found ourselves basically homeless with just four days to find new accommodation.
Luckily, and I would recommend this to anyone considering moving to Turkey, is join as many “Whatsapp” groups as you can that have been formed in whatever region you are considering as they can be a great source of help and advice. My wife posted a comment regarding our position and within a day someone had responded with an apartment for two months, funnily in the same complex as we had been living in.
As things were obviously not going to improve in Ukraine and as my wife, at that time, did not have a long-term residency permit for the UK we accepted this offer and moved into our new accommodation. Fortunately, my wife was able to continue working remotely and as I am basically retired it did not cause us too much of a problem in adapting to our new situation.
It became very clear, very quickly, that things were not going to improve in Ukraine for a long time and even though we had an apartment it was only for two months and so we started searching for a longer-term rental. Through a connection to my wife we were introduced to a gentleman who said he was a “realtor” working for a Real Estate agency and offered us his apartment that he and his wife were going to vacate in the next month. We viewed and as it was only about 200 metres from the complex, we were currently living in it seemed ideal.
We met at his offices and agreed a deal on the rent and signed a six-month lease. It was agreed that no agency fee would be paid (due to the situation in Ukraine) and that all we had to do would be to pay the first month rent and a damage deposit of a further one month rent. So, all was good. We moved in and set about adjusting to our new lives. For the first month all was well and then during the beginning of the second month my wife bumped into a neighbour across the hall who was also renting from the same “realtor”. She asked my wife if we had heard from this “realtor” as they had just received a phone call from him to say that they had to vacate by the end of the month as the apartment had been sold and that she was to pass the message on to us that it was the same situation for us.
We then tried to contact the “realtor” who suddenly became unavailable and refused to accept any calls. We responded by sending him a voice message to say that this neighbour had informed us of his threat and that we had no intention of leaving as we had a signed six-month lease which contained no early termination agreements. So, for us that would be the end of the matter. At the end of the month he again refused to communicate and we were unable to pay the next months rent. Then suddenly, on returning one evening, we found our electricity had been cut off. Annoying, but not a major problem as it was light in the evenings and warmer. We again sent multiple messages and then things went downhill even further.
On the Friday evening of that week we again returned home and now found that our water had also been disconnected. Fortunately for us we had developed some friendships with people in our old complex and were visiting them for a farewell dinner the next day as they were going back to the UK and told them of the situation and they kindly offered us their apartment for upto six months as they would not be returning till much later that year should we not be able to get a resolution to our problem.
So, to some degree, with relief, we drove to the Real Estate Agency on the Monday and met with the owner and tried to explain the situation about our treatment and advised him that we fully intended to go to the police with our complaints unless he resolved the issues that day. He exploded with anger and told us that this “Realtor” did not work for him and that he was an Independent who basically just rented office space from him and he was not there and he had no idea where he was and that if we tried to implicate him and his company then things would become very bad for us. He then stormed off and one of his member of staff then tried to usher us out of their offices. As he was pushing us out my wife shouted at him “So if the “realtor” does not work here then how come the lease, receipt for the deposit and first months rent was signed and issued on this company’s headed paper?”. He stopped pushing and asked if we had evidence. My wife produced a photo of the documents and we left.
We had not driven more than ten minutes from these offices when suddenly my wife’s phone rang and it was the Real Estate office asking us to return immediately. This we did and surprise, surprise we were greeted by a smiling owner of the premises who took us into his office and Lo and behold this “Realtor” (who never worked for him) was sitting sheepishly in an office chair. To cut a long story short after some heated discussion they agreed to repay our deposit. We could stay for another month if we wished for no rent and that this “Realtor” would also pay our first months rent on any new apartment we had found with the understanding that ALL documents relating to the deal would be handed over.
On arriving home, we found that the electricity and water had miraculously been reconnected. Having no wish to stay any longer as we already had alternative accommodation, we agreed to meet later that week to hand over the keys on receipt of the monies they had promised. Even then, they still tried it on as our first meeting later that week he asked for the keys and I asked for the money he suddenly realised, he had forgotten the money!!!!!! So, no keys transferred. The next day, surprisingly, he found the money.
We did have one slight revenge in that with the electricity cut off some fish we had in the freezer started to go bad and my wife wanted to throw it away. Fortunately, we decided to leave it as we were not going to live there and so when the electricity was switched back on this rotting fish froze to the melted water in the freezer. It was not a pleasant smell.
This was our event but during this period I carried out some investigation and found that with the Ukraine crisis suddenly there was a huge demand for rental properties and rents were going up two hundred/three hundred percent and many people were being forcibly evicted from their properties or having their rents increased by this amount.
There are laws to protect tenants but unfortunately the law seems to work in many cases in favour of the owners or it will take for ever and a day with many delays before actually coming to court.
As said this section is about the darker side of Turkey.
Another darker side was that with the energy crisis around the world many shops, restaurants and businesses except for a very few exceptions in this particular region of Turkey also increased their selling prices way beyond what could ever be described as acceptable. For example: a loaf of bread was 1.5TL now more likely to be between 4.5 TL and 6 TL. A hamburger was 150 TL now in some places between 220 TL and 260 TL. A cup of tea, normally between 2 TL and 4 TL now has gone in some places to 20 TL and in one restaurant some friends were charged 70 TL a cup.
Also, in many cases, shops will not advertise their prices and there is a price for locals and a price for foreigners.
You just need to be VERY CAREFUL and if you are not happy then DO NOT BUY.
During our enforced living conditions and having once had a career for many years in estate agency (or Realtor|) gave me the chance to explore the way that property is bought and sold. It is a mixed bag of honesty, corruption and bad practices that in many cases are hard to understand would ever be allowed to happen in the UK and may European countries.
Over many regions in Turkey the government have now put a block on issuing residence permits to foreigners. Should you wish to buy and reside as a permanent resident then please make sure that the town you are seeking to live will still allow the issuance of a residential visa.
Due to the Ukrainian conflict the Turkish government have also recently issued new laws that particularly are aimed at Russian Citizens between the ages of 18 to 60. It is now extremely difficult for them to obtain a residents permit for longer than two months unless they are siblings of an existing property owner.
Should you currently be buying an apartment under construction from a developer where you may have thought you would obtain a full-time residency then check that this property is still situated in a region that is allowing full-time residency.
If you are requested to pay a deposit then agree only the minimum as there are many cases where developers either default on construction, raise the price or are unable to get their "Iskan" which is a certificate of approval by the government that the property has been built according to government regulations.
Without this "Iskan" you will NOT be able to get your "Tapu" (Title deeds) or register for the supply of utilities such as water or electricity.
When reading any property brochures that show room sizes please remember that in Turkey the majority of room sizes shown will include the wall thicknesses so the available space may be smaller than expected.
With buying and selling there appear to be no laws or certification required in order to work in the Real Estate industry and many companies employ foreigners illegally on a cash in hand commission-based structure to attract buyers from their countries of origin who have no knowledge or experience within the real estate market.
You will find that many real-estate companies in the region where I lived English is not a common language and you will find they will speak Turkish mainly with German and or Russian as a second language. So, if you are a buyer make absolutely certain that you understand any contracts or documents you are asked to sign and insist that the documents get translated into your native language before signing.
With the recent tragic earthquake in Turkey and Syria and the subsequent arrests of hundreds of contractors regarding the construction of apartments without the necessary earthquake provisions it is clearly apparent that corruption and corrupt building practices have allowed hundreds if not thousands of buildings to be constructed that are basically unsafe and not fit for their purpose. This could be a difficult decision for anyone wishing to enter the property market as there are honest developers who follow and practise all the governmental building codes and have constructed complexes that will withstand even the worst of earthquakes. The problem is finding the honest one should you be wanting to live, invest or just holiday in Turkey. Maybe comment J below may help.
This is purely my opinion and as an example in Avsallar the established developers have been there for years and are happy to show any certificates and building plans to show that their construction has been built using the latest technology and building practices. They do not offer whizzy all singing deals. Their staff will be Turkish or registered foreigners who get paid a salary. They know the property market and would have created land banks of desirable plots close to the centre bought many years ago. The ones I worry about are the ones who have jumped on the band wagon and have no real skill in the property market. These people have bought land not in the best of positions, borrowed money for the construction and now with the downturn currently not only in the property market due to the earthquakes but also with the current cessation of foreign resident’s permits could be finding themselves coming under financial pressure. Since leaving Turkey in January 2023 in Avsallar alone there were more than 50+ projects currently under construction. My advice: BUYER BEWARE.
I became interested in the property market purely as a hobby due to the circumstances as outlined in “living in Turkey” and was amazed as to just how much “Wild West” and “Klondike” mentality seems relevant in the realtor industry. So, when I was first asked by a friend to help him sell his property independently of agents the following soon became apparent 1) Realtors are a law unto themselves. They are there to make as much money as they can and this includes underhand practices such as charging a SELLER upto and sometimes more than 15% of the selling price by way of commission. It is not unknown that they will also charge the BUYER a finder’s fee of anything upto 8%. In general, the agent’s fees are around 6% to 8%. Another practice is that they will ask the seller just what price they want and then add whatever they think they can get away with as a commission. For example: recently a friend of mine wanted to sell and the agent’s advice was the property was worth around $180.000. He agreed. What he did not know was the true value was around $250,000. This is what it was sold for and the agent pocketed $70,000. If you are going to sell get 3 or 4 different valuations.
I then come onto the transaction itself. Again, it is murky waters territory where many people try to avoid the payment of taxes and will, with the Advocate turning a blind eye, manufacture a deal where on paper you buy a property at less than the current selling price and pay a cash difference to the seller. Many people accept this and, in many cases, it is the norm. For me the downside is that the Government are not stupid and yes, they may have been happy to allow this type of practice to be swept under the carpet but now they are becoming more astute. So again “buyer beware” as you could be the buyer who agrees to buy at a legally noted cheap price and be the one, that when they come to sell, find that this practice is no longer possible for many reasons and end up showing a massive profit and huge tax payments from buying at a rigged lower price and selling for the genuine higher price.
In conclusion on writing this blog I would like to say that my experiences were encountered during my period of living in Avsallar. My wife and I fell in love with the town at the start, sadly with all the construction currently underway it is no longer the peaceful place we first knew. I would like to hope that when the construction projects have finished then the streets will then be free of incessant columns of cement lorries and dirt and dust and that it may return to some of its former peaceful life we first knew. My concerns would be following the earthquake, the war in Ukraine and the cessation of the issuance of foreign resident visas that many of these projects will go unfinished and many people could lose any deposits or part payments they have made due to constructors going bankrupt. Obviously, the war will finish, the government could change later this year and Avsallar could re-open for the issuance of residents’ visas and hopefully stricter controls on the construction industry will make certain these developments contain all the necessary building earthquake provisions.
For my part, the properties that I have been involved in helping sellers advertise are either in other regions and have all the necessary earthquake provisions or if they are being sold by a developer who is one that I am happy to say builds to a high and safe standard.
I do not receive any fees from the advice and property descriptions I have created.
Sadly, my wife and I have for the time being moved from Turkey following the death of her father late last year has left her mother who refuses to leave Ukraine and she has now been granted the right to reside in the UK. So, for the immediate future we will be dividing our time between Ukraine and the UK.
I would also hope that my comments will not deter anyone who is considering moving to Turkey. It is a great country with great friendly people. It really is the very small minority who are the sharks and scammers and as said in this blog on a couple of occasions “BUYER AND SELLER ALIKE “BE AWARE”.