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!

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!

Renting in this big beautiful City

People who are familiar with the Istanbul real estate scene know that the rents in the city center are pretty high and the market is reasonably dynamic, producing a good yield if the property is purchased at the right price.

Not all of our clients are purchasers of Istanbul property, however.  Many come to us seeking long term rental properties in Istanbul city center, normally because they have been relocated by their company or a new job beckons. Luckily, we have lots of expertise in this area and we do our best to help clients find the best value, whether it be for a budget studio or a glamorous penthouse apartment in a luxurious compound.

High end luxury in a signature development

with a view to die for

It is hard to nail down per sqm prices in the neighborhoods because they really vary greatly from street to street and can also be based on the quality of the building.

In general, however, a furnished 1 bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood with quality construction, starts from around 1800 TL or approx. 1000 USD and 2 bedroom apartments are on average about 20% more. Naturally, the price jumps up significantly with a sea view.

Great value with a superb terrace

http://www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com/rent/ 

Contracts are typically one year. If you plan to stay longer than a year, make sure you are aware of any rental increases prior to signing a contract. If you are not familiar with the language, have somebody along to help you with the contract process who is familiar. Mostly, the contracts are standard, but they should be read and understood prior to signing.

A note on the landlords. Unfortunately, in Turkey, the landlords are quite hands off, except when it comes time to collect the rent! You are assumed to take care of small items that need repair by yourself. Larger issues should be brought to their attention and should be handled by them. In our experience, if you pay the rent on time and keep the place in reasonable condition, the tenant/landlord relationship should be amicable.

Have a look at a few of our stunning rental offers this season…. http://www.lilimont-istanbul-realestate.com/rent/ . If there’s nothing to your fancy on my site then give me your needs, we’ll put the feelers out and I’ll don my detective mac…. our team enjoy a task and a city search.