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

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!

Turkish V Foreigners Part 1 + spot Johnny Foreigner

As a 2 part study over the next 2 weeks I will assess the differences between Turkish and foreign buyers, with a liittle game at the end!

While selling real estate in İstanbul,  it can be quite interesting to observe the differences in how Turkish and foreign clients arrive at their decisions to buy a piece of Istanbul real estate. No doubt it is a bricks and mortar world, but the psychology of the buyer is much more liminal and indeterminate than we may often imagine.

Firstly, after much experience, when I meet for the first time with a Turkish client, I do not go out of my way to demonstrate any particular knowledge on property in Istanbul, which is quite odd when you think of it. But one must understand the cultural context of the encounter. As a Real Estate Agent, the bestowed social status in Turkey is quite low, with probably about the same status given as to any tradesman (or lady). Many of my clients are newly minted rich and on the rise fast, and they have a few ideas of their own. Realty and property, as a profession, used to be to a large extent the domain of early-retired government workers, or in many cases the Kapici (bldg superintendent), who get their start by doing side deals with the properties under their management.

Needless to say, the profession as a whole is very much in its infancy. There are wide, sweeping reforms being discussed that would probably make it the playground of smartly dressed, multi-lingual young college grads. But for now, it is certainly not that. Think playground, Congo-style.

So with the Turkish “musteri” ( client, pronounced mooshteri) I opt for a low key profile and a certain humility (veiled, anyway) in front of my chirpy Turkish buyers. They usually assume that as a foreigner that your knowledge is very incomprehensive and incomplete. They also frequently come armed with a an extended crowd of relatives and it is not uncommon to have three generations being towed along on the tour. Now, I am hardly going to dive into a headlong debate on the merits or demerits of a particular property, being outnumbered as it were.

And the clients seem to play along well with this game, hardly deigning to ask me a question throughout, while they squabble and generally offer plenty of rich commentary amongst themselves during the process.

The really peculiar part of it all is… and I will contrast this with your typical foreign property buyer later…that Turkish buyers seem strangely oblivious to most of the normal metrics on real estate; rental yields, types of mortgages, property appraisals, square meter prices, interest rates, and so on. And this happens to be where I shine.

That is not to say they make poor decisions. They do not, they just arrive at them a different way. They are more intuitive and quite perceptive. They don’t use data to make their decisions (these are of course all generalizations). They seem to have a natural ‘feel’ about the location and price dynamic for a property.

And they do not seem to take well to the hard sell or the used car seller’s methods. They seem to like to be left alone to make their decisions whether they be with clan or solo for the day. And I respect that; in some ways even like it, though it does leave me feeling like the Maytag repairman at times.

So while Kemal, his wife and her brother and father enter the penthouse flat on the Bosphorous, I stand obsequiously in the backdrop somewhere, getting a positive jab in every now and then, “My, lovely original flooring, isn’t it?”

To be continued next week.

As a little light relief after that “highly” informative blog I’ve devised a game. I’m now exceptionally adept at spotting where a potential client hails from at 100 paces, feel free to have a go yourself and see if you can spot their great nation:

A few of my favourite things to do in Istanbul

I’m currently out of town in Ankara battling in the squash courts. The competition is fierce and I’ve not been on court enough over the past month but I’ll hopefully come back with a bit of silverware!

Even after many years of living in Istanbul, there are still certain tourist activities that I like to do above all else.

First of all, when property clients come and mention they are going to the Blue Mosque or The Spice Bazaar, it’s just not my thing and I can’t get too excited about battling the crowds and hustlers for a peek at the good stuff. But when they mention Bosphorous tour, I quite often down tools and tag on along. A tour of the Bosphorous is simply second to none. With its fast running currents and chaotic network of ferry boats and lovely old yalis (old mansions), framed by the bridges, it is a visual delight. I still go regularly, especially when I need to be reminded how much I love Istanbul and it is a great way to steal an hour or two of contemplation from this demanding city.

Bebek  near Levent is by far the top place to be seen and home to most of the International elite donning their designer clothes, running errands in their Ferrari’s. But there is a good reason for its popularity, it has a beautiful position on the Bosphorous and has in recent years exploded with chic cafes, restaurants, and upscale nightlife. When you’ve had enough of the high life and you want to relax, then the Bebek park is a good place to take a time out.

Bebek waterfront

I am not big on shopping, but when necessary, I try and make a pleasant day of it by hitting the Levent area, which is now home to the world design award-winning Kanyon Shopping Center, Metrocity, Sapphire and much more. Out of these, the Kanyon, which is a partially outdoor mall with superb architecture and a very classy food court (it seems an insult to even call it that).

Kanyon Levent

Finally, right here in Beyoglu, when I need to escape for half an hour, I like to go to the Cihangir Mosque, which was built in 1560 by Sultan Kanuni, for his crippled son Cihangir so he could watch the boats come in many hundreds of years ago. The views from the tranquil cemetery garden are absolutely stunning, and it is an understated, pretty mosque with a well-kept garden.

Cihangar Mosque

A quick property buying tip –

For those new to the Turkish property market. Local Real Estate agents will generally give you the total square meterage of a property in an exaggerated brut (gross) number, with some local property agents not even going that far, and just providing you with the number of rooms. All things change, but some take time. The property market in Turkey is still in its infancy and there are lots of areas where it stands to evolve.

Next week I’ll update you with my current property tasks and I’ll include some more tips.