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!

Life, business and sport during Ramadan in Istanbul

Most foreigners who have not lived in a Muslim country will probably be surprised to hear that the holy month of Ramadan is not just about abstinence and self-restraint. Undoubtedly, for the devout, from dusk til dawn it is exactly that, with no food or even water being allowed to pass their lips for the duration. And of course, smoking is also forbidden during daylight hours. This kind of rigorous denial is often the focus of media attention.

But there is another side to Ramadan; the festive one that begins with the breaking of the fast and carries on late into the night. Lavish and extended meals compensate for the deprivations of the daytime and it is a time for family and reunions and an overflowing of life onto the streets. When Ramadan occurs during the summer months, as it has for the past few years due to the secret machinations of the moon, daytime activities slow down immeasurably as a result of the heat and the fasting. İt is a spiritual time and time for reflection, but it mixes in a good bit of old fashion family fun, too. As Ramadan nears its end, there is a Bayram holiday which could be said to be the equivalent of Christmas, where children receives gifts, mostly monetary, and people return to their native cities and villages to visit family and old friends.

The end of a long hard day

 

Personally, from a real estate perspective, we, too, like to consider this a time of reflection and we try not to worry about closing many deals during this period. We try to immerse ourselves in the spirit of the month and trust that Allah will keep food on the table in coming months.

İt is also a good time for planning, as traffic in the office slows to a halt. We often take a holiday and get recharged for what is usually a busy fall.

Finally, as Ramadan coincides with the Olympics, a word on how it affects sporting life.

Some people I know, though you may find it hard to believe, actually play squash while fasting. İ was stunned when one of my regular partners insisted on playing during the daytime. İ brushed him off, saying it would be too easy for me if he were fasting. Yet, when we did finally play, I was nothing short of flabbergasted to see that he actually performed at a high level. And here is Spartan me, who can barely muster up the natural strength to get out of the house without my two cups of coffee in the morning!!!

So, some athletes competing in the Olympics will fast and still perform, something for which they should get a separate medal for! In rare cases there are certain exceptions that can be made for fasting, however these instances are very unique and complex, and in some of these cases the fasting days can be made up at a later date.

Go Turkey Go

 

İn any event, whether you be laboring under the fast or not, let us take the time to celebrate this annual, yet unique and mystical event.

Kolay gelsin (Turkish)… ‘Let it come easy’

Festivals, stats and a new task

Last weeks property search for our client ended in success. We found a very attractive two bedroom right next to Bilgi university in lower Tarlabasi (see photos below). It has fantastic character and is in reasonable shape. We will do some small renovations and then let it out, most probably, to teachers working in the area. Now, we are finalizing the paperwork.

   

The” Istancool festival” got underway yesterday and the streets are abuzz with artists, musicians and theatre people of all varities. Take a look at http://www.facebook.com/ISTANBUL74

A quizzical look at how statistics are reported in the media. A reputable local newspaper made a big deal of how home sales were down twenty percent in January, February and March from the previous three months. Hardly an unusual development, given that the winter months are always slow, especially as it was an unusually wet winter. Barely mentioned, was the fact that home sales were indeed up 9 percent on the same period from last year. I suppose they will report it in the same way next year, when predictably, home sales will be down again for the winter months as opposed to Autumn.  Hmmm?

So, the task for this week is even more challenging than last week. A European based property fund that has sizable holdings in downtown Istanbul has tasked me with finding them a large building in a central location. Their demands are simple…it should be historical in character, central, in need of full restoration and around the 2000 dollar per square meter mark. They are divesting of their portfolio in other developing markets and betting big on Istanbul, which has by far outperformed their other holdings in Eastern and central Europe. They are very pleased with the capital growth and the yields they have achieved on their acquisitions in Istanbul. The competition is fierce for these kinds of buildings, but with patience and readiness, they can be sourced. Keep tuned…or drop me a line with any questions you may have (please keep them related to property issues, thanks…