The Neighbourhood Watch – Galata

Galata is one of the magical neighborhoods of Istanbul that conjures up a mystical past. The Galata Tower, in fact, is arguably the most iconic of symbols in this city that is resplendent with them. Its stocky, tough yet elegant stature gives testament to the city’s durable character. Built by the Genoese in 1348, it has withstood numerous earthquakes, fires and so forth. Although little of what remains from the Constantinople area still stands today, Galata has managed to retain an oddly gothic feel, with narrow winding streets and plenty of lung-busting hills.

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Those medieval streets

Those medieval streets

It has also become a center for fashion, architecture and design with many smart and sleek offices peppered throughout.   It pushes the boundaries with some of the highest real estate prices with inimitable names such as Dogan apartment, the I-Pera projects, Kamondo Han, and Galata A.S. to mention only a few. An area that 10 years ago was plagued by wandering groups of glue sniffers (tinerci) and plenty of trash, has now almost completely transformed into a very frequented tourist area and an address of the fashionista and legions of Istanbul hipsters, artists, and musicians. Galata is home to many famous actors, designers and alternative artists. Increasingly, it has become a place where the Istanbulu elite have weekend pads.

Perched at the corner of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorous, it is not hard to see why the Genovese booked this spot for their famous lookout tower. In many ways, it is the gateway both geographically and culturally to the city, both then and now. It also retains its commercial feel, as a place where lots of to and fro on prices is exchanged in the music shops on Galipdede St.

Just a few years ago, it was a struggle to find a decent restaurant, whereas nowadays there is a chic café on every corner and many good restaurants, including the Kiva and Enginar restaurants, which specialize in Turkish food.  Try the Nardis Jazz  Club for a chilled out night.

Galata is now superbly connected with the rest of the city in terms of transport. Utilizing the new Sishane line, you can go all the way out to Sariyer at the north of the Bosphorous and in future it will be extended South with a connecting link to the airport. The Tunel line connects you to the Galata Bridge, where you can carry on with the tram until the airport. It also has easy walking access to the old town and evening walks over the Golden Horn mingling with the fishermen on the Galata Bridge are a very cool past time.

The Location

The Location

The Galataport project, which is still a few years away, promises to add further shine and star power to the area, with its plan to offer the multitude of services and attractions necessary to keep the mega-liner crews and passengers entertained.

Although many of the buildings of Galata still require refurbishment, when one considers that this neighborhood was practically untouched by this trend all but 10 years ago, the pace of change is frankly staggering and shows little signs of abating. It leaves little doubt that this will become one of the most well-known tourist areas within the next 10 years and will become an almost household name such as Montmartre, Soho, or Las Ramblas.

Kiva Restaurant

Kiva Restaurant

Given this trajectory it is quite predictable that real estate prices have risen dramatically in the past years and seem set to move upwards, albeit at probably a more subdued speed. As there’s not much scope to create more building stock in these areas we expect to see a similar capital growth progression as Cihangir with possibly a 5-7% per annum property price inflation. Rental returns are good but not eyepopping coming in at approx 6-8%, though short term holiday lets can be much better if done well.

One of Lilimonts slick offerings!

One of Lilimonts offers!

Currently, for the in-demand properties, one could expect to pay a minimum of 2000 Euro/ sqm and go well upwards of that for anything with a view. The highest square meter price I have on record is about 8000 Euro/ sqm for a property with a lift, stunning views and an inspired architect’s interior finish.

The rents follow suit, with nicely finished properties of between 60-80 sqm costing a minimum of 1000 Euros monthly with peak prices for a very high end Bosphorous View Penthouse reaching 5000 Euros. Expect a good average sized 2/3 bed apartment to cost 1500 – 1800 euros per month.

If you fancy a Galata pad, get in touch with me – www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com

The Neighbourhood Watch

As I’m sure we all now know, Istanbul is fast becoming a vast metropolis on a scale
only matched by the world’s biggest cities. This can become a headache for
the-would be property buyer as it poses the question of where?
Where indeed?- In our experience, it’s best to start in the center, as with
a ripple in a pond. It is no real surprise that the centers of the world’s
major cities are usually the most valuable, New York/Manhattan,
London/Mayfair, etc. The out-skirts of cities have their own potential and
can often, in the good times, outstrip the performance of the historic center,
however, in the down times it is downtown property that most often holds its own and
resists the dip. This most definitely rang true in Istanbul in 2009.

oh.....I get it..

I find visuals always help….

Once you have made the decision to target property in the center of Istanbul the
overwhelming nature of the city becomes more manageable and smaller
neighbourhoods can be identified. If we take Taksim Sq as the center then
immediately south we find Beyoglu comprising predominantly of the
neighbourhoods of Cihangir, Galata and Tarlabasi. Go South again across the
Golden Horn and into the ancient Byzantine town and heavy tourism with the
neighbourhoods of Sultanhammet and Balat. North of Taksim we move into Sisli
and Besiktas with some very upmarket neighbourhoods such as Nisantasi.
Finally further North into the expensive modern semi-suburb neighbourhoods
in Levent. All of these neighbourhoods are accessible and within close
proximity to (or sitting on) the historic sites, the Bosphorous and
nightlife. As with other International cities, the very fact history is
within most of these neighbourhoods adds integrity and long term capital
value to real estate.

The bit we're talking about

The bit we’re talking about

But which neighbourhood suits you best? Is the purchase for lifestyle or purely for investment? – Over the next few weeks I will take a detailed
tour of each separate neighbourhoods mentioned above and what I consider to be the
highlights and qualities of that particular city zone. This will be a unique
exercise and will offer an exclusive insight into their separate cultural milieus,
local flavoring, my take on their history, the pros and cons of actually
living there and finally (when buying istanbul property) the ‘all-important’ what you get for your money in terms of square meter pricing.

In time I will progress this “undercover” behind the scenes survey to other areas of the city
but for the moment we have more than enough to be getting on with.

Cihangir will be our starting point. keep tuned in.

www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com

The advantages of working with one real estate agent

Istanbul is a massive and sprawling mega-city that can be very hard to grasp for first time visitors. It can also be quite challenging to get from one end to another, if there ever really is one end or another.
If you are considering purchasing property here, the logical first step is to research and find an agent that shares a common language with you. As you probably have a finite time, be it a week or two, to find the property you want, it is best to start out with one agent that you have created a long distance relationship with and see where that gets you.

Try to find an agent that has a grasp of your needs, but be under no illusions as it’s up to you to outline your wants pretty clearly, agents are not clairvoyant . For non-resident clients, as an agent I like to have a pretty firm budget in my hands and at least a general idea of location (city center, outskirts, European side, etc). Also, any information on physical characteristics of the property is useful; is a view a necessity? Historical building or new? Also, before putting in a lot of research, an agent dealing with offshore clients would usually like to know how the property purchase will be funded. These are not meant to be invasive questions, but rather serve to limit everyone’s loss of time.

So, you have fulfilled your part, now what should you expect from the agent? If you have arranged a travel date, they should state clearly that they will indeed take you to view some of the properties that you have selected from their website and give you some idea of how long it will take to complete the viewings. A good agent will help you wade through the bureaucracy of the actual sale and contract and then help with after sale issues, it then becomes apparent that you are getting good value with the commission. It’s worth noting that a good Istanbul based agent will most probably run rings around a generic agent from London.

Maybe steer clear of this guy

Maybe steer clear of this guy

It is also important to be clear and discuss up front the associated fees of a completed transaction (be aware of anyone who is not transparent in this regard).
The agent should also disclose all potential problems there may be in a particular property…is it in a zone where foreigners can buy? Is it residential or commercial? What are the issues, if any, with tenants? Property problems come in all shapes and sizes but do not dispare as these are not likely to be dissimilar to issues seen in the Western world.

If you feel the agent is showing you properties that are close to fitting the bill, but you haven’t found exactly what you are looking for, don’t be shy about asking the agent to contact another agency for alternatives. If you try to do all this by yourself, it can lead to a great loss of time and can be very unproductive, as someone who you have not been working closely with will likely just try to sell you what they have on the books and not necessarily what you want. They may drag you half way across the city to show you a 2 bedroom, when you specifically asked for a three bedroom.

If your agent feels you are a serious client, they will likely go the extra mile for you, and you will have seen more properties that are to your liking in a more efficient manner. Ultimately, it helps to do a fair bit of research prior to arriving in the city and to have at least one person you feel that you can begin to work with.

My kind of agent!

My kind of agent!

Even though I mainly work in Beyoglu, if I feel good about the client, I’ll gladly extend my search to other areas.

www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com

Bond, James Bond…returns to Istanbul

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Hollywood/James-Bond-returns-to-Istanbul-on-50th-anniversary/Article1-849054.aspx

There was certainly quite a bit of fan fare during Daniel Craig’s visit to do filming on the new Bond movie in Istanbul. Yet, it was not the first time that Bond as an enterprise has graced Istanbul’s shores. Not only is it the favorite city of the director of the current Bond film, but it was also apparently the favorite of the film series’ prolific writer, Ian Flemming.

Of course, anyone familiar with Istanbul will not be surprised that it has featured in 3 Bond movies…with its winding streets, stunning waterscapes, bridges, steep slopes and grand monuments with every specimen of humanity trampling about…it can hardly be a surprise that film makers of all stripes lust after shoots in Istanbul.

007 looking good in Istanbul in the 60’s

One can just imagine the difference between 1963 and To Russia with Love and today’s skyscraper-filled skies. The new skyscraper center, Atasehir, more closely resembles what some high-tech vision of some emerging giant Chinese city would reveal.
In any event, it seems to the history that adds the magical, surreal element to the city. After all, if it were just stunning modern architecture, there would be countless rivals: Dubai, Singapore, Mumbai, and so on. Istanbul remains unique in its combination of older than old history and blazing modernity.

Not as confident in the 90’s

Unfortunately, the undercover property agent did not get a chance to meet the real undercover agent Bond on this occasion, but I did follow around his stunt crew who seemed to be looking for a little after hours action up in Taksim. Despite their sticking out rather obviously, they seemed to get lost and were asking passers by for directions. I had a chuckle to myself…even the Bond boys were out of their depth in Istanbul.

Back to his best now

If you fancy catching a bit of the Bond spirit, take a stool at the Orient Bar in The Pera Palace Hotel and try one of their divine Martini’s.. http://www.jumeirah.com/en/Hotels-and-Resorts/Destinations/Istanbul/Pera-Palace-Hotel-Jumeirah-Istanbul/Restaurants–Nightlife/Orient-Bar/

A tale of two cities: real estate prices in central Istanbul and Budapest

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to explore the real estate scene in Budapest. To be frank, I was quite surprised at how cheap it was (now don’t drop reading and rush off to Budapest just yet…or at least not without calling me first!!!). It really got me thinking. I was looking at quality, un-renovated historical properties in reasonably good locations that were going for under 1000 euro per sqm. I have been in a lot of European capitals over the years, yet I have not found prices like that anywhere, even in raunchy Bucharest or relative backwater places such as Sofia.
The prices are less than half that of equivalent properties in Istanbul, which is not even part of Europe, a.k.a ‘the bubble belt’.
I reflected on this at length and I came up with a few pseudo-theories that I think stack up.
Apart from the obvious economic facts which any economist could rap off in their sleep… such as Istanbul’s being one of the fastest growing dynamic mega-cities  or its geopolitical importance in the 21st century, bridging Europe and Asia, etc…are the other, less tangible reasons why I feel real estate prices are higher in Istanbul and will likely surge higher. Much like Moscow, New York, and the undisputed king, London.

In Istanbul, you can buy anything and at ANY TIME. It defines the insomniac modern city. And everybody is selling something. It is deeply immersed in the culture, so much so that I am appalled at how concerned I have become about the price of trivial items, of one kind or another, I have been indoctrinated. When my friend buys a new pair of socks, I cant resist…’how much?’ In Istanbul, dinner parties often deteriorate into a game of monopoly, where people call out street names and prices of property. In Budapest, I suspect doing so at a dinner party would be met with, ‘go directly to jail. Do not pass go.’ a major social faux pas.
By contrast, In Budapest, nothing is open on Sundays and it felt perpetually as if it were a Sunday afternoon, even on Friday night. It lacked bustle, not to mention hustle. Lovely for relaxing, not so great if you want to make real estate skyrocket (not that I do).

Estate agents looked at me with suspicion, whereas in Istanbul they salivate; often sleeping, drinking and chatting in their offices until all hours. In Europe, the baseline for all commercial activity seems to peak at about 35 hours a week. That would be a good weekend for our unshaven, slightly dishevelled Istanbul hack property agent.
On a more technical note, the big difference in city center prices between the two capitals is the transportation reality.
In Budapest, an area that takes 15 minutes to get to by public transportation is considered a bit out of the way, and by no means central.
15 minutes in Istanbul can be chewed up just walking to the nearest metro stop, or getting through a set or two of lights while on the bus.
Obviously, if you work downtown in Istanbul, you lose an enormous amount of time if you live outside the city center. Throw in high gas prices and it becomes  a bit more apparent the factors that drive up prices in central areas. It can be a false economy to rent or buy on the outskirts of the city.

Budapest street scene

Population is a big factor, though so obvious as hardly worth mentioning. Istanbul belongs with Asian giants at an estimated 20 million.

Istanbul street scene

On a psychological level, our Magyar (Hungarian) brothers, seem to have a bit of a grudge, as if history had been unkind to them, which it often, indeed, was.
Contrast that with the Turks, who are walking with more of a swagger these days and harking back to their Imperial past and Ottoman glory. How does this reflect real estate prices, you ask?  Perhaps the sense of belonging at the top of the heap gives a bit of confidence, dare I say arrogance, to its possessors.

One of the final points I would like to make concerns the demand and supply side.
Istanbul, though a large and sprawling city, has an undersupply of well-established and beautiful neighborhoods, so the ones that fit this bill, command very high prices. Most of the neighborhoods and building stock are pretty drab and unattractive. Therefore, areas like Bebek, Nisantisi, and parts of Beyoglu are in demand due to their attracive old buildings or sea views.

In Budapest, lovely old historical buildings are a dime a dozen. The architecture is cohesive and the neighborhoods often blend imperceptibly into one another.  People will pay more to live in the popular second district than they will to live in the grittier eighth district, but the divide is not as great as that between Nisantisi (4000 euro per sqm)and some barrio on the Asian Side of Istanbul (400 euro).

And comparing the Bosphorous with the Danube? Like comparing Pele and Ronaldhino, my friend…

Bosphorous

Danube

In my entry next week, I would like to continue with some future predictions on real estate prices for both cities. I hope you will be interested in what I have to say on this. By the way, it hit 30 degrees today, the middle of October. Add that to your reasons to come to Istanbul!!!

What’s going on in Istanbul this fall?

Wondering what you can do in Istanbul during the last warm days of an Indian summer? Well, if the hundreds of trendy new cafes and restaurants that have sprouted up throughout the city don’t keep you busy enough, why not take in one of the many festivals that enrich the city’s cultural life so much?

In October there is a jazz festival, it’s not huge with little commercialism, but very low key and delivering great jazz. Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor have turned out in the past so dont miss it as they’ll be some laid back legends jamming around. For more info: 0212 334 010. http://www.pozitif.info/tr/festival/2012/akbank-22-caz-festivali/228/

Social Inclusion Band

If you are one of the growing legions who enjoy documentary films check out this festival which runs in November. Most of the venues are located around Beyoglu, so you can just give me a ring when the film is finished! http://www.1001belgesel.net/en/Default.aspx  Admission is free.

Also in November is the popular Istanbul International Short Film Festival (Uluslararası Istanbul Kısa Film Festivali), which has showings in Beyoglu and at the wonderful Istanbul Modern (which is a venue worth whiling away a half day or so in its own right). Admission is free. Who said you need to have millions to enjoy Istanbul?
0212 252 5700  http://www.istanbulfilmfestival.com/

Istanbul Modern

Drop me a line if you know of any other great events coming up and I will be sure to add it to our space. Enjoy, folks!