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: