Another zippy week in the Bul pen, with lots of movement on all fronts including in the direction of the Turkish Lira which broke all time lows and ended up at 8.88 to finish the week, thanks to a rate cut by the CB. Once again, Turkish assets are on sale again. It is good news, but it must always be mentioned that this does little for our bargaining power with Turkish sellers who are ever-conscious of the USD level. Very light on notes again this week, folks. Hope to elaborate on market in the zoom session. I will start the evening off with a controversial one. Wonderful views and permission to build amazing terrace on top. Will discuss further in meeting. Price is too high, but… Property links distributed during weekly zoom session
The market remains very competitive, with Turkish buyers starting to make their presence felt after returning from summer holidays. I am starting to see the same investor-types I used to see in Cihangir 10 years ago. They usually camp out at one of the real estate offices and closely follow what is going on. They move lightning fast when they see a deal and often skip the deposit process and go right to the Registry the next day.
Furthermore, as the neighborhoods that we target become cooler and more gentrified, wealthy Turks can be seen picking up weekender properties and they often buy multiple units with their friends. They often buy without much concern for appreciation or yield, rather opting for something that they really like. They often will not even negotiate when they find the right one.
Borrowing rates are still prohibitively high so it is the average Mehmet who gets the squeeze with rising rents. Those buyers are very keen on units on the lower end of the range.
For the above reasons, we try to close quickly once we have identified good leads. I will often be putting down smallish deposits to try to hold the properties til we can get valuations done and lawyers on board. That is the only way to level the playing field with the above Turkish buyers. We use a full array of tactics when negotiating. Sometimes one of the clients in the country goes in and acts as a pessimistic buyer and makes a low offer, then we present a more reasonable offer very soon with a real buyer. Sometimes I negotiate, sometimes Selin or Eren. We look at it on a case by case basis.
Nonetheless, we generally do not get much penetration on negotiations, which I have often highlighted. I am very confident that out targeted neighborhoods will see price increases of 15-25 % in the next 12-18 months and 3% yearly after that for the foreseeable future. Many of our properties should outperform that. I have recently revised that number upwards from my ultra-conservative mantra of 3-5% for the next 3-5 years.
We are also ramping up however and wherever we can. More staff will be coming, we will basically go anywhere in the city where we sense value. We still have our core 5-6 neighborhoods, but we felt it prudent to be more capacious in our view and loosen the chains a bit. I have brought in another guy for that. He seems to know just about everywhere and has a real nose for deals, so I am expecting some major production from him. Does not come cheap, but…
Property links distributed during weekly zoom session
All in all, it has been an interesting, but challenging few weeks. I finally got away for a short break to Alanya and have come back re-charged.
What have been the challenges? These are mostly on 2 fronts: property sourcing/deal closing and citizenship regulations for purchase + legal aspects.
First, on the property front. The unstable and deteriorating TRY is surely good news for foreign buyers, who might notice that 90% of what we offer is TRY based. On the surface, that is great, however, it does limit our moves while negotiating. In addition to that, it seems many sellers are hesitant to put their properties on the market, viewing their real estate assets as a safe haven during tumultuous times. Opportunities are coming up, but it is not really meeting the demand that we have at the moment, especially after a spike in interest on speculation that the CBI amount may be raised imminently.
This put me in a tough spot as a realtor. While the Gold Rush goes on all around me, with partner agencies doing huge business and making hefty commissions off nondescript new builds on the periphery of the city, or very overpriced projects in the centre of the city – all dubious in terms of yields and future growth – I am struggling to source properties that deliver what I have lad out as a de facto mission statement: properties that offer 5-6 % yield, where value can be added through tasteful renovation (10-30% initially) and where we can expect 3-7% YOY growth for the next 3-5 years in the targeted neighbourhoods where we observe favourable dynamics. We look for properties that are 8000TRY or less (unrenovated) and from 10.000-12.000TRY (renovated, with proper characteristics).
We have extended our search areas to include:
-Some parts of the Asian Side (Uskudar, etc…but only if there is a great view). We will search there for other kinds of properties, but only on client request)
-Macka, Besiktas. Very much opportunity driven and only in select micro-neighbourhoods.
-Our favourite locations strongly remain: Mesrutiyet/Bomonti/Kurtulus (all located in Sisli).
-Kagithane has some properties of interest and the prices can be quite low. I do not see much downside with a proper purchase here. My command of the rental market here is not strong, so it would take an investor willing to walk down that path. I am sure downside risk could be mitigated or we could go with a tenant ‘in situ’
We have yet to do any transactions in this neighbourhood.
-Taksim, Cihangir, Galata. Again, only if we see value for the investor. Prices are inflated and there is very little movement in the market. High prices have led to low yields. Most transactions are from local people who choose to buy in these areas for lifestyle. Investment opportunities are rare.
In sum, our criteria is opportunity driven and a bit restrictive. My new target is to come up with 2 ‘viable’ properties/week and 2 ‘possible’ properties/ week. The ‘possible’ category would include properties that I am not sure will meet the above lad out targets, but that still might be of interest to certain types of buyers.
Typically, we make calls on up to 30-40 properties/week. After we weed out all the issues – tenant issue, deed incompatibility, erroneous info provided in the advertisement, and much more – we may be left with 10 properties. We visit those; inevitably some disappoint, so we are left with a few in the end. Sometimes, I miss the mark and do not gage client interest properly. I have a beautiful 500.000TL loft office that I was sure would be snapped up. Still no takers. For me, it is about as safe an investment as you could make in Istanbul. It seems most of my current clients want residential only. Noted.
So, if you look at this all together, the supply of properties will remain limited. We are always considering new neighbourhoods, but those take time to understand. When I made the shift from Beyoglu to Sişli, I first invested there myself. Only after I saw it working, did I start encouraging others. Unfortunately, I cannot really do that with many neighbourhoods.
Deal closing/legal/CBI restrictions:
As I have reiterated in the past, timing is essential in deal closing. The pace of the lawyers, the preparedness of documents and the time between arranging POAs, negotiating, doing diligence on the deed, having valuations done, putting down of deposit and final closing all need to be coordinated in a timely and efficient manner. Days, if not weeks, can be lost when verification of documents from abroad is required. Account openings, transfers also take time. We are moving more towards the model of having all of that in line before we begin to negotiate on a property, otherwise it risks ending up with a higher percentage of broken deals. In such a volatile environment, we cannot realistically expect sellers to wait so long between negotiations and a deposit payment.
As a rough guideline, the absolute minimum to prepare all of the above is 2 weeks, but 1 month may be a more prudent timeline. We can begin the property search at any time, but we will be reluctant to enter negotiations unless we know that most of the steps above have been completed, for everyone’s benefit.
For CBI buyers, the pool of properties is further restricted by the fact that purchasing properties with mortgages attached is often frowned upon by the lawyers (usually a standard procedure, but complicated by CBI guidelines). In these cases, we will deal with it on a case by case basis and take into account the lawyer’s willingness to deal with the complexity, the size of the mortgage, etc.
CBI buyers cannot buy properties with other liens.
Finally, I will be collating all information from my past notes and putting it into one document (thanks to HK Sebastian). This will include almost everything: taxes, buying process, neighbourhoods, renovation, rental market, growth projections and more.
Timing a good real estate deal correctly is often the critical factor, particularly in these highly volatile times. Clwyd regulations change, currency gyrates, and sellers often get the jitters, wondering if they are unloading their real estate too cheaply.
That is why timing is key. CBI buyers are faced with several hurdles: it is difficult to move on properties that are mortgaged or may have liens (incidentally, where often best deals reside), and buyers have to organise POAs across borders, work with lawyers who are not as speedy as we would like them to be, time zones, valuations reports and more.
Here is the standard buying procedure in Turkey.
-Identify the property
-negotiate (anywhere from 1-3 days)
-pay down a small deposit (5% range)
-move to finalise sale anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
The buying procedure for CBI buyers
-Repeat first 2 steps above.
-Do initial checks to see if there are liens or mortgages (should be done by lawyer)
-Send the property for valuation (2-3 days).
-If the lawyer does net yet have POA or the Turkish account is not set up, the process will be delayed until that time. The time frames for this are very imprecise. That is why I am suggesting it is not a good idea to offer on properties until these are in hand. Then there is also the time needed to set up the bank account (2-3 days + wire transfer, which typically seems to be 1-2 days).
Non-CBI buyers can move faster if they are okay with their agent doing the deposit and sales agreement. The lawyer can be part of this process or not, but they will not sign the sales agreement if they do not have the POA. The only problem with this is establishing a time frame for closing which should be written in the contract. Given the range of times needed to execute POAs etc, this might not be the best option, but may be considered on a case by case basis, or when the deal is just too good to pass up.
In sum, it is best to have a POA + account open before entering negotiations on properties. Research and working towards identifying properties was a great strategy until that time. It gives enough time to get a real sense of the market.
Of course, clients who are in-country can speed up all of the above significantly. It can take just a few days to be in a buying position. So, if you see that property that you want, sometimes putting down a small deposit can work. Then you could order the valuation, fly over and tie it up within a week.
So, as you can see, various time frames. You have to select the one that works best for you and that you are most comfortable with.
Assuming all of the above are in place – POA/funds in Turkish account – you can move very fast if something really attractive comes up. You can be almost sure there will be others giving serious consideration to such a property in that situation. In those cases, we try to apply pressure to the seller by saying that the client is only here for a few days and just wants to buy a property quickly, making them think they may have caught a good buyer. Whatever works, right?
Notes on closing costs
In law, the 4% stamp duty is supposed to be shared by buyer and seller. However, the buyer sometimes/usually insists on an ‘in pocket’ amount and the buyers bears the cost. It all works out in the end to the same thing: what is the total cost to you being the only question that matters. Some clients object to this, so we just go back to the seller, they agree to pay the 2% stamp and raise their ‘in pocket’ amount 2%
This is how a typical negotiation on a budget property has been going these days.
Asking price is 600.000TL. The seller goes down and says he will accept 550.000TL in pocket, but not pay the expenses. In this case, the buyer would pay 550.000 + 4% stamp + 2.5-3% commission, so it often ends up back up near the asking price with the closing costs.
On properties over 1.5 mil TL, the scenario is often a bit looser and sometimes more penetration is made in the negotiation, though not always. Mostly, we are identifying properties that are well-priced and trying to nibble away a bit at it (see notes from last week and currency implications)
Notes on commission
As of February, when a client comes through referral our standard commission is 3%. However, on properties over 1 mil TL, we can be flexible on this and negotiate case by case.
However, on budget properties, 2% just does not work. It means we will often make just over 1K for a sale in many cases, which may still require much effort. We feel that the discounts we secure for the client by finding under-valued properties far outweigh this 1 percent.
Update on Transferwise:
Many clients have given positive reports. Great exchange rate, ease of set up and speed of transfer all received top marks. I am always happy to hear of alternative methods. I have used it many times in the past myself and was highly satisfied.
there really is a lot to like here. It is a quiet, classy neighbourhood. The property is very valuable. It obviously needs re-modelling for residential purposes of residential. It is not a yield play, but capital growth could be interesting. Blue chip property.
Fiendishly hot days here in Istanbul as the pressure and thermostat climbs, and the number of client inquiries this week broke all records. Sorry for the shortened 1 to 1 zooms; it was hard to process a lot of it. Not to mention, I received about 10 inquiries from Julian’s YouTube…all in French!!! I got the general idea thanks to the Grade 12 French class with Miss St. Onge.
In spite of the frantic pace, we take time out for our weekly zoom, the highlight of every week for me.
We continue to source interesting properties and slog through the process of trying to tie them up and close. Multiple challenges, as always, but progress is being made and deals are getting done.
We will keep it pretty informal this week: analyse a handful of properties, give a few illustrations of a number of properties that recently went into rental – looking at purchase price, renovation costs, timeline, and rental figures.
We will also look at our ‘cookie cutter’ property; the budget ones, in good locations, that require full reno jobs. We have a lot of these and they usually follow a pretty predictable trajectory which I hope we can demonstrate to clients, particularly newcomers.
Finally, we will look at some new build projects that are now on the secondary market and touch on a few details of projects in construction.
We find this kind of property with some regularity; small, one to 2 bedroom apartments, in the 500-600.000 TRY range, good locations, poor condition, requiring full reno. Typically 70 sqm range. Renovation costs 150-170.000TRY. It costs approximately 700.000TRY. Expected rental return 3500-3750 TRY, perhaps jp to 4250 TRY if furnished. Time frame from purchase to tenanted, 3 months. Value added to assets right away 10-15%. Copy/paste/repeat.
It is the first property in the video. Property 2 and 3 are also shown in the video.
And now on to a few picks for the week.
New builds on the secondary market: Contrarian corner.
Last week we looked at the 3 categories of new build projects, luxury 5 star hotel-like towers, bespoke projects, still high quality but with less grandeur in terms of facilities and the ‘Mom and Pop’ small new replacement building, without facilities other than a lift and perhaps parking.
This week, we will answer the question, ‘Why might clients be interested in new builds on the secondary market?’ I certainly have no hard facts to answer this question, but I will put forward a few tentative propositions that make sense to me at least:
1-Construction costs have risen quite a bit in the past few years. Developers will be struggling to undercut prices of previous projects, especially in areas where land is scarce. They may be able to do so in far-flung areas, but not in more central areas.
2- Land costs have risen…DOH!
3- The ‘pain’ factor or, more colloquially, the GMTFO factor (Get me the f..out factor). Some owners, due to financial reasons, may need to get out fast. It is very easy for us to scan prices on these developments (when you have 20 properties for sale in the same project, finding the one that stands out as a good deal is not that hard. You are comparing apples with apples. 2 months ago we picked up a great office like that. 8 similar ones were for sale at 600-625 in the same project, one even next door. We got ours at 500. Done deal.
4- You do not have to wait for completion and you usually have an idea of the yields (you can scan the rental market to get an idea of that).
5- There are often other clues. Are there too many from the same project on the rental market? You have to look at the number of units in the project. If there are 200 units and a year after it has been delivered, there are still 40 units for rent, that indicates a problem, Houston. Abnormally high number of units offered for resale? Developer still has a lot of stock on hand after a year? The chatter on the streets, and so on.
6- You can see how the landscaping, social areas, gyms etc turned out. Has it turned into a ghost land (Bati-Sehir), where many Arab buyers bought and where the restaurants and markets all became very low quality because the flats lie empty? (The Starbucks to Star(f)ucks deal). Or is it a lively and dynamic living space as the CGIs promised?
Again, I am just pointing out the possible edge you may have in new builds on the secondary market. There are also many advantages of buying off the shelf new builds: early bird discounts, rental and buy-back guarantees, being able to select the more favourable units (best selection goes to first-ins)
Still, I believe it is a useful debate to have.
So here are a few tips that keep in mind the above points
Not in our usual area, but it is a nice project. Decent field for new build, approx 4-4.5%. Maybe some room for negotiation. Nice, safe play. Ideal for CBI done on the fly. WYSIWYG. High percentage of Turkish ownership.
This week has been a little light on the new property front as several days were spent at the land registry and at the cadastral office archives trying to dig up paperwork to allow greater scope to one of our current renovations, as well as a host of other bureaucratic tasks. Nonetheless, there was still plenty of activity and a few new properties of interest. Unfortunately, I will be away from tomorrow for the week, so I will not be able to personally vet some of these til I return. However, I will do 2 hours/day of 1 to 1 zoom sessions. If anyone is interested, just contact me on whatsapp. I will be holding them daily from 3PM to 5PM Turkish time next Tuesday-Friday
In the press:
Some red flags for office space in the US.
+ a few graphics on Turkish economy.
+ Eren will review the Covid situation and outlook. There have been record numbers of new cases in the past week, like many European countries. So far, travel remains open, but there is a soft lockdown on Saturdays and Sundays, so take that into account when planning travels.
We currently have 4 ongoing projects and will start another this week. We seem to be managing well enough with these kinds of numbers. We are noticing an increase in our costs. Especially for smaller flats, we are now looking at closer to 2500TL/sqm. There have been almost across the board increases in materials + labour. However, we are still at the 350USD/sqm mark or lower for entire renovations, so no need to panic. Spring/Summer outlook looks busy.
Update on Transferwise:
Most clients are tipping this as the most cost-effective, easy to use method of converting funds to TRY.
Residential rental market in our target areas: Bomonti, Kurtulus, Mesrutiyet and surrounding areas.
There is a serious shortage of renovated apartments of all sizes and budgets, ranging from 3000-8000TL. Very little to choose from. Clients with renovated properties can expect to find tenants quickly. 1 bedroom starting from 3000TL, 2 bedrooms from 3750 TL and upwards. There is almost nothing at the high end, above 5000TL, and that is not due to lack of demand. If the property has something special, it should command a high rent.
A handful of investment properties we will be checking into