A new day and a new client

It’s another cloudless day with thermometers topping 30 degrees here in Istanbul and I have a full line-up for the day. At 1030 am I am meeting with my client Patrick, a UK national with an eye for a good property investment (read more below). After that I will meet with a few Turkish clients who are looking to snap up some property before they head off for the coastal regions (Bodrum, Antalya, Fethiye) for a good part of the summer. Turks love their extended summer holidays and many who can afford it, have a yazlik (summer home) on the Aegean. The plus side of this is that it seems to ease the traffic in Istanbul, as these motorists are replaced by peripatetic tourists.

  

To finish off, I will be dining in the chic 360 restaurant with a few squash buddies (life isn’t all toil, after all!!). http://360istanbul.com/eng/index1.html

  

Patrick has agreed to a quick interview allowing us to probe the mind set of an International buyer-

First Patrick, would you mind telling us a bit about yourself and what brings you to Istanbul and why you are planning to buy property in Beyoglu? I came to Istanbul to expand my business in an area that has until now bucked the European recession trend. It also interests me because it is such a vibrant place and has become increasingly important as a regional power…. and of course, the cost, a room with a view in Paris or Rome would be five times more expensive.

What type of property are you interested in? I have a strong preference for a historical property in a very central location.

What is your expectation in terms of the investment? I plan to purchase, renovate and rent for at least 5 years, after which time I will assess whether to sell or not. I guess I am more of a long term investor.

What is a property turn off? Complex ownership titles, impractical layouts with little space for alteration, generic apartment developments.

What attracts you to a property? Proximity to lively neighbourhoods, well designed internal aspect that maximises space and utilises natural light, terrace and views always a bonus but can’t be expected.

What do you feel is the biggest obstacle a foreigner faces when hunting for property in Istanbul? Finding information and language barrier.

What has been your coolest experience in Istanbul? Rooftop party with Bosphorous view.

Which local footie team do you support? (laughs, apart from “Where are you from” this is the second most asked question in Turkey) Arsenal…then Galatasaray.

Favourite place for a drink and/or a meal in Istanbul? Midpoint on Istiklal for a drink and  Datli lokanti for a meal in Cihangir. http://www.midpoint.com.tr/

Here’s a sneak shot of a potential property for Patrick -

Big Buildings in Beyoglu

Now that I’m back (and recovered) from my marathon Ankara squash tourno the search has been back on for a large building for the European fund I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Big buildings for investment can be relatively expensive per sqm compared to the smaller single units on offer in Beyoglu, Istanbul. This is because they are in demand from large investors and funds. Funds and large investors are not interested in the smaller units such as 2/3 bed apartments that I normally deal with as they are too fragmented and admin costs can be relatively high as you may need to buy 15 properties to equal the investment of one large property. Centralized renovations are easier in one block building as you only need one good overseer/ renovation team and additionally rent from a big building can be easier to collect as opposed to numerous tenants in different properties. All of these factors add a good few euros per sqm on to the price tag.

However, in general I find that smaller, well sourced units (residential apartments and small buildings) make relatively more profit per sqm from both rentals and capital growth, especially if the sourcing has been done well.

Big returns can be made by finding a problematic large building that investor funds won’t buy as it’s not oven ready. Then get the relative permission, sort any other problems, etc  and then sell on to a fund when you’ve done all the dirty work. It also requires true facility with the market and current trends. The small player can also take advantage because he or she may be more willing to take on this kind of management role. People who have flexible work schedules often relish the opportunity for some additional work and challenge…. the returns can be tremendous, however, this sort of game plan is not for the faint hearted!

Back to the job in hand – here’s a few hopefuls I’ve found:

   

It’s still pretty hot out here, with temperatures regularly topping 30 degrees, shops have sold out of fans and locals are running off to the beaches at the weekends.

A cool breeze can be found sipping a Margarita on the rooftop bar at the Pera Marmara Hotel, pretty pricey but add in the tremendous view and it starts to make sense!

  

A few of my favourite things to do in Istanbul

I’m currently out of town in Ankara battling in the squash courts. The competition is fierce and I’ve not been on court enough over the past month but I’ll hopefully come back with a bit of silverware!

Even after many years of living in Istanbul, there are still certain tourist activities that I like to do above all else.

First of all, when property clients come and mention they are going to the Blue Mosque or The Spice Bazaar, it’s just not my thing and I can’t get too excited about battling the crowds and hustlers for a peek at the good stuff. But when they mention Bosphorous tour, I quite often down tools and tag on along. A tour of the Bosphorous is simply second to none. With its fast running currents and chaotic network of ferry boats and lovely old yalis (old mansions), framed by the bridges, it is a visual delight. I still go regularly, especially when I need to be reminded how much I love Istanbul and it is a great way to steal an hour or two of contemplation from this demanding city.

Bebek  near Levent is by far the top place to be seen and home to most of the International elite donning their designer clothes, running errands in their Ferrari’s. But there is a good reason for its popularity, it has a beautiful position on the Bosphorous and has in recent years exploded with chic cafes, restaurants, and upscale nightlife. When you’ve had enough of the high life and you want to relax, then the Bebek park is a good place to take a time out.

Bebek waterfront

I am not big on shopping, but when necessary, I try and make a pleasant day of it by hitting the Levent area, which is now home to the world design award-winning Kanyon Shopping Center, Metrocity, Sapphire and much more. Out of these, the Kanyon, which is a partially outdoor mall with superb architecture and a very classy food court (it seems an insult to even call it that).

Kanyon Levent

Finally, right here in Beyoglu, when I need to escape for half an hour, I like to go to the Cihangir Mosque, which was built in 1560 by Sultan Kanuni, for his crippled son Cihangir so he could watch the boats come in many hundreds of years ago. The views from the tranquil cemetery garden are absolutely stunning, and it is an understated, pretty mosque with a well-kept garden.

Cihangar Mosque

A quick property buying tip –

For those new to the Turkish property market. Local Real Estate agents will generally give you the total square meterage of a property in an exaggerated brut (gross) number, with some local property agents not even going that far, and just providing you with the number of rooms. All things change, but some take time. The property market in Turkey is still in its infancy and there are lots of areas where it stands to evolve.

Next week I’ll update you with my current property tasks and I’ll include some more tips.

A day at the Tapu (Turkish for Land Registry).

I wont sugar coat it; a day at the Tapu usually means stress and a fair bit of it.

The Beyoglu Tapu office is a busy little place located right on Istiklal street. There are many reasons why it is a pressure cooker environment.

To start with, the office is very undersized for the volume of the property transactions and importance of the work being carried out, with the clerks and officials jammed into one 100 square meter room, where they seem reluctant to open the windows or turn on the air conditioning even in mid-summer. As if this were not bad enough, due to the nature of much of the property ownership in Istanbul, the deeds are often shared by many family members, and inevitably they all show up for the signing of the deed transfer.

But probably the largest factor contributing to the chaos (which I have luckily begun to view as ‘controlled chaos’) is the presence of large amounts of cash. Sometimes, the property sellers insist on cash and it often is counted out and divvied up with family members, who are often estranged from one another, right there in the halls of this antiquated Beyoglu building. It is not uncommon to witness some pretty fascinating and sometimes intense family drama being played out at these times.

There is also a very small waiting area and a toilet which seems to be a carefully guarded secret, and obtaining the key for it means having a connection. My preferred waiting place is out in front on Istiklal street where I can watch the daily mayhem pass by at a safe distance.

But this is not to say that the day cannot pass by unenjoyably. The fun side of it all is that the people working there are actually very helpful and have a real can do attitude even in the face of their daily stresses. They trouble shoot and just simply get things done. And when they know you, they extend all of the usual favours: giving preferred time slots, adjusting quickly minor paperwork errors, offering chai, working past closing hours, using their photocopy machine, and many things besides. In terms of the cooperativeness of the people working there, it ranks amongst the best government offices that I have been in…anywhere.

Finally, what makes it all worthwhile is that the chaos seems to bond sane minded people. You pretty much always make new friends when you go to the Tapu. After being crammed in this space for a good part of the day, you strike up conversations readily and sellers and buyers of property in Istanbul often go on to form a lasting relationship. Quite often the sellers end up doing things later to help with any issues the new owner may have with the property. Of course, for me, it is a great place for networking, seeing old friends and getting the inside knowledge on what realtors are selling next. It is also an invaluable way of collecting data on prices etc, in an area where sales prices are opaque and somewhat secretive. My day there usually ends with me heading off with one of my local agent pals to check out a new property they have. They are usually energetic, as a day at the Tapu means payday for them, and often they will go the extra mile for you on that day.

So, in the end, I would give it all a solid B plus grade. Yeah, sure, with AC and a large impersonal space, it might be more comfortable, but then I guess it would be Oh so European and much of the adventure would be lost!!!

Here’s a CGI for the new Tarlabasi regeneration development: