Buy Property in Istanbul – Essential Information
Andrew Henderson is the founder of Nomad Capitalist, the world’s most-visited resource on issues of legal tax reduction, investment immigration, and global citizenship. He works exclusively with six- and seven-figure entrepreneurs to help them and their money “go where you’re treated best.
Real Estate to Citizenship in Turkey
In general, could you explain the essence of the real estate to citizenship program in Turkey, both currently and in the past?
“In early 2017, Turkey introduced its own citizenship by investment program. Like any such program, you make an invest and almost immediately get citizenship in a commoditized way; everyone except Armenian citizens qualifies.
Real estate in Istanbul was one of four options, but is by far the easiest and made the most financial sense. Originally, the required real estate investment was US$1 million, based on the value on the day of purchase. However, the government’s high hopes for renewed foreign investment never materialized, and after months of rumors, the minimum investment was finally reduced to US$250,000. The large declines in the lira make valuations a bit tricky, but working with a professional should smooth things out.”
Second Citizenship Explained
What countries do you think will benefit most or make use of the program most, and why?
“Most of my clients seeking a second citizenship are Americans looking for a “Plan B”, including the ability to renounce US citizenship and avoid the huge tax consequences of being a US citizen. Going from being a US citizen only to being a Turkish citizen only isn’t very appealing, but it may be appealing as part of a “passport portfolio” wherein you hold a western-friendly passport along with a Turkish passport. However, I imagine the largest clientele will be Chinese and Arab investors who see the low level of investment needed to get not only a “Plan B”, but visa-free travel to such hard-to-get countries as Thailand, South Africa, Morocco, and Middle Eastern frontiers like Iraq.”
Property in Istanbul – Benefits to Europeans and Western Buyers
What benefits do you feel it would offer for European/Western buyers of property in Istanbul? I can think of one example: Many Europeans live year-round in Turkey, especially in the coastal areas. Some have residence permits, but they are temporary. Others, have to navigate the tourist visa route, which poses challenges.
“I have a residence permit in Montenegro on the basis of owning property. It will never entitle me to citizenship, and I can renew it every year. I don’t see that as a huge burden, providing they don’t enter the European Union and increase the standards to qualify for renewal. The same feelings are likely held by the Brits, Germans, and others living in Turkey; I don’t hear from many Europeans about the need for a second passport in a “Tier C” country.
If anything, some Europeans would likely prefer to NOT be Turkish if they’re living there. I think holding citizenship may actually be better if you DON’T live there, since residence permits can generally be renewed as long as you own property. I can see some Americans buying property to get another passport, but many Europeans will be cautious, I think. If you’re Danish and aren’t paying tax there, your perceived need for a “Plan B” is probably low especially since citizenship puts you “on the radar”.”
How does Turkey benefit from this program?
“This program was designed for and by developers with excess inventory. Their goal is to bring back the European and, primarily, Middle Eastern investors who fled in recent years over concerns with security and the lira.”
Clearing out that glut in the construction market could help developers sell their inventory and keep hiring for new projects. It’s worked in countries like Portugal, where a “Golden Visa” residence permit helped turn the real estate market around from the doldrums of 2009. We will see how valuable a Turkish passport is perceived as.
Could you compare it to a few other countries programs, some good, some not so good?
“Turkey is unique in that it is the only substantial country offering citizenship by investment, but whose passport does not afford visa-free travel to Europe’s Schengen Area or the United Kingdom. As such, it’s hard to compare it as an actual passport. How is compares about as a citizenship is interesting. On the plus side, you have a substantial country with a lot of bargaining power. On the minus side, you have a substantial country that has more power to do stuff to you than a tiny Caribbean island you can buy citizenship in. What I like about Turkey, however, is that you can buy any real estate, which means you can actually make a good investment. In most other programs, real estate is “approved”, which means it’s generally overpriced and more for living in than for investment. Turkish citizenship could turn into a profitable endeavour for those working with professionals.”
How did you start your business, NomadCapitalist?
“I have spent years looking to “go where I’m treated best”. After selling my businesses in the United States, I spent time in nearly 90 countries seeking opportunities for banking, tax reduction, immigration, and investments. I was doing this stuff by myself and blogging about it, and then people started asking for my help I’ve always been fascinated by Turkey ever since visiting for the first time in 2011, and I find this new opportunity very interesting.”
Expats Investors and Citizenship Programs in Istanbul
I watched several of your YouTube videos and was very impressed, and also noticed you have a good viewership. You do not just offer valuable insights on citizenship programs. There is also a lot of other great information for expats and investors alike. What are some of the more popular subjects you have covered?
“Most people come to me to save money on taxes. We live in such an interconnected world that an entire new generation of online business owners and consultants no longer need to pay taxes where they’re from. I reduced my tax rates from about 43% to below 1% by following the very advice I offer to others. Stuff like passports and bank accounts are just part of what’s required to reduce taxes in a legal way, and people get a lot of diversification benefits from like holding other currencies and asset protection. Once you have your tax and lifestyle plan in place, you can take the money you save and invest it in high-yielding properties. Some of my clients will easily save $250,000 in taxes this year (or even in a few months) and will look at how to earn 10% returns in Istanbul and get a passport for free. It becomes a compounding benefit.”
Turkish Real Estate Market in 2018 – 2019
Do you think it is a good time to buy property in Turkey? And why?
“I think there is always the potential for good deals… and bad deals. Too many people who have come to Turkey have paid the “foreigner premium” for properties in dubious suburbs. The Turkish real estate market has so many players that it’s easy to get confused. If you have a focused plan and stick to it, I think that Turkey has a lot of benefits: a young, growing population, and a greater position in the world in terms of exports. Of course, there are a lot of questions about the economy right now, but I like to buy uncertainty and hold for the long-term. I think Istanbul offers a very unique offer; not many cities have a growing population of 20 million people and haven’t lost value in decades. Now that some prices are hovering near $1,000-per-meter, I think it’s becoming attractive for a long-term hold.”
Do you think buying property in Turkey can be a good hedge in a carry trade?
“[I'll sit on the sidelines on this one.]”
What do you envisage for the future of Turkey’s program? More changes or a loosening?
“While there has been a Caribbean citizenship price war in the last year, I think most countries – especially a larger one like Turkey – isn’t going to constantly tweak. Honestly, you can debate about WHETHER you want a Turkish passport, but I think that if you decide that you do, this offer is rather attractive.
I wouldn’t foresee any further reductions, particularly as the $250,000 minimum is less than the originally proposed $300,000. That shows to me that the government is being aggressive to court investment, and if anything changes, I would suggest it would be some consulting firm convincing them to tack on a hefty application fee.”