The Renovation Trap

I often walk into a property that a client or friend has recently renovated with a slight degree of trepidation. I have many things to consider, is it worth telling the truth and alienating a friend…or a client? Have they done what is logical in relation to the market and should I tone down any subjective reaction I may have to what they have done with the property? I rarely enter into detail about what they have spent. That is of less concern. I worry about the final product.

At times, I have had good reason for this fear, as I have seen many a fine property degraded by a poor or personalized renovation. But, happily to say, in Beyoglu particularly in the past few years, I have mostly been happily surprised with property renovations rather than disappointed. There are a lot of creative and bright people around and they invariably come up with something great, at times even jaw dropping and inspirational.

Here’s an example - 

This property is simple with easy clean design, without getting to engrossed in high design. Please see the full listing and photos on http://www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com/for-sell/residential-apartment-cihangir-3/

The problem with a poor renovation is that in addition to the expense, it often actually decreases the value or salability of a property. Quite often, it would have been better to leave the property un-renovated and to sell it as is. The paradox, too, is that the same people who implement a poor renovation are the ones who also expect a high premium for their dubious efforts. Of course, there exists a fine line between having a renovation budget and cutting corners. It is also a combination of the quality of materials and the workmanship involved. As finishing and design standards can be a bit low, it is imperative to ensure that the these are in line with the value and location of the property and that the materials used are neither too far above the market norm, nor too far below. Unless the owner has zero need for a future resale it is imperative to assess the salability of a property before embarking on a costly renovation.

Here’s another good one - 

This apartment utilizes a lot of the Turk Ottoman influence invoking an Agatha Christie era without getting too fussy. http://www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com/for-sell/residential-apartment-aynali-cesme-3/

I work with a group of International developers who have developed properties throughout Europe and their view is that in an area experiencing redevelopment, such as central Istanbul, an influx of owners from different countries tend to raise the stakes regarding renovation and quality finish. For example, an owner from Berlin may insist on a very high finish level and a Roman owner will quite possibly want to utilize a higher degree of design. This has happened in central Istanbul over the past 10 years and it’s readily evident that local tradesmen and architects are upping their game to meet these requirements. An International influence will also help direct the design trend in-line with the current ‘zeitgeist’ as opposed to lagging behind, which in itself will attract buyers. It is a combination of current International design with a Turkish cultural foundation that provides the most salable properties.

To undertake a renovation project without paying heed to current trends is to invite potential disaster. It is a bit like a surgeon performing surgery without being updated on current research in his or her field.

As a team, my partners and I have now renovated countless properties over the past 15 years, we can confidently say we know how to refurbish an apartment economically and to a degree that allows an easy onward sale. http://www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com/

Turkish Vs Foreigners part 2

In last week’s blog we discussed client purchasing habits A La Turca and saw how cool our Turkish brethren can be while making important investments.

On the other hand, foreign buyers seem to come to the battle field with significantly more information and much higher expectations from their realtors. In this, they could be said to be the opposite from Turkish buyers, though variations exist from nation to nation, with Germans, as if by some genetic pre-disposition, are at the top when it comes to preparedness and fastidiousness,  and the İtalians, apart from their insistence on square meter pricing, closer to the Turkish end of the spectrum.

As a general rule, foreigners typically do not make an offer on a property until they have had a good survey of the market. They tend to ask the realtor many questions and are quite prepared to offer a free lunch to get them! At least that is my excuse for my chronic battle to keep trim.

The issues that they most focus on are: legal issues, local planning and renovation codes, prices of course, rental laws, and down the road projections for re-sale, just to mention a few. They are also very fond of local tales of the past that give them insight into the neighborhoods. So, I always try to have a few of these on hand while we wait for a sleepy relative of some property owner to fumble for misplaced keys.

İn general, I like working with foreign clients for the reason that they do come to appreciate any knowledge or expertise I may have in the area.

The main task is to try and demonstrate the parallel lines in what often seems a jumbled and bewildering real estate market. And they do exist, and there are some wonderful opportunities in Istanbul, but at times, if one focuses too much on the details, they can often miss the bigger picture. Istanbul is, at present, an Alpha economy and things are developing at break neck speed. Neighborhoods and streets are changing rapidly. What was considered expensive last year, is now the norm.  Bosphorous property has become a global commodity and people from every corner want their piece nearly as much as they want property in Knightsbridge. These are some of the issues that foreigners, who are often not here on a day to day basis, have a hard time adjusting to. Finding value is best achieved through doing homework and working with someone who knows the scene and is patient to explain it to you. I can put you in touch with one such fellow if you leave your mobile number!

Just a few humorous (er..) anecdotes, on the nationalities and their real estate quirks.

The French:  always the most dramatic, prone to using ooh la la in excess. But don’t be fooled. They are ferocious bargainers.

The English: most prone to scoffing at cheap prices. They can hardly reveal their delight at a good, low price. I pre-coach them not to do this in seller’s ear shot. Luckily for us they have been conditioned by sky high London prices.

Russians: most likely to crush bones in a handshake. Is this an ‘in’ joke of theirs? Meeting with Russian clients…note to self…remove all rings.

Italians: still most likely to be very late and almost make up for it by giving you a sly wink and a wide grin.

Americans: true to form, seem to have an almost primordial obsession with the availability of parking. I usually lightly jibe that instead of buying one flat, they should just buy the whole building and turn the entrance floor into a garage. İt becomes a kind of Eureka moment for them and I am sure they never look at another building in the same way again.

Asians: masters of the great disappearing act. Nowhere to be found on İstanbul real estate scene. I suspect they are en route, backtracking the Spice Route. Though I did hear some rumours lately about Singaporean giants lurking the waters. How exciting!