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Thursday, 12 September 2013

How to avoid getting ripped off while buying property in Turkey

A crackdown on illegal buildings in Bodrum has once again demonstrated how crucial it is to make sure your property in Turkey has all its proper deeds and permissions before any money changes hands.


When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s took a short holiday to Bodrum in August he was appalled at the scale of waterfront development, claiming that it wouldn’t be long before properties were being erected “in the sea”.

Erdogan quickly commanded a detailed investigation into buildings. The results were astounding: inspectors discovered that 60% of the waterfront construction was illegal, with most of the dwellings violating the 100 metres from the shore rule and/or constructed in protected areas. The buildings, which include luxury hotels and facilities, are set to be destroyed.

Erdogan: "No more illegal construction in Bodrum!"

Turkish Property consultant, Cameron Deggin, who divides his time between Bodrum and London, says the investigation has demonstrated how cautious property buyers need to be before committing to either constructing or buying property in Turkey.

“You would be amazed at the amount of people who would never take shortcuts back home, but fly out to Turkey and act on a ‘hot tip’ from a taxi driver or a barman. They get greedy when they hear about this incredible deal, buy this villa or apartment in haste and then spend years wondering why they did it - or worse, blaming dishonest Turks and not their own hasty behaviour.”

If you buy an illegally built dwelling you not only risk the chance that it will be destroyed but may be unable to resell it in the future, Deggin said.

Deggin recalls the story of a Norwegian couple who called Property Turkey last year.

“Early one day I received a call from a Norwegian man, asking for advice,” said Deggin. “He and his wife were about to buy a waterfront villa just outside of the Bodrum peninsula, a beautiful spot, actually. They were buying direct from a local man and were all ready to sign a contract.” However, the day before the signing the wife found a Property Turkey news article about illegal dwellings in Bodrum.

“They called and said they were concerned that they were making the wrong choice. I made some calls and was not shocked to find that the villa had never had building permission - and that meant no habitation licence or title deed.”

Deggin said the couple were extremely pleased at their last-minute escape and eventually bought another - legally built - villa through Property Turkey. However, a significant number of other buyers have not been so fortunate. “It never fails to astound me how regularly buyers are taken for a ride here in Turkey - and in each and every single case this could've been prevented with a little homework.”

Dodgy dealings: don't sign anything until you're absolutely sure what you're buying.


The two types of illegal construction you'll encounter

1. Village houses

This is the most common illegal dwelling you’ll find in Turkey. These constructions are located in rural areas all over the country. They were constructed on agricultural land away from buildable zones by the villagers who bought and then worked the land. These properties were usually given a retrospective habitation license by the town mayor, which allowed the inhabitants to stay in the properties. The properties are technically illegal and are not eligible to receive title deeds (TAPU).

We do not recommend you buy village homes in Turkey unless they are in non-agricultural zones, which have proper IMAR (zoning and planning). Because they do not have title deeds you will not be able to raise finance on the property, and reselling the property on will be difficult.

2. Deliberate violations

This type of illegal construction is far more serious as it involves the deliberate flouting of zoning laws by developers - this is what has been going on in Bodrum and other parts of the Turkish Mediterranean and Aegean coast. In these instances, zoning laws have not been adhered to and developers have built in illegal locations (for example, within 100 metres of the waterfront) or improperly (eg, building a bigger property than is allowed in the area).

Consequences for buyers

If you’ve built or constructed an illegal property, you will not be able to receive:

-          Full TAPU (title deeds): the freehold title to land for a house, or a share of land if it is an apartment;
-          ISKAN certificate: the habitation licence which is awarded after the property's completion. This certificate demonstrates that the property has been built in line with local planning laws and zoning regulations.

How to avoid buying an illegal property in Turkey

In Bodrum or anywhere in Turkey, there are easy measures you can take to make sure you don’t become a victim.

1. Find a good Turkish property agent

By ‘good agent’ we do NOT mean ‘guy you met at the bar’ or ‘your taxi driver's brother’. Find a qualified agent with a unimpeachable local reputation. Agents come and go (especially during the last few years of the Turkish property boom), so ask for a recommendation from someone you trust or find an agent who has been operating for a number of years.

2. Hire a lawyer

Think of it as a kind of insurance. Yes, no one really likes lawyers and their fees can be high. But in Turkey, you can get a decent solicitor to check your villa or apartment is legit for around 500 Euros. They will check the habitation licence and permissions on the property and tell you if you’re making a good decision. Personally, we don’t think you can put a price on this kind of peace of mind. Check your local consulate for a recommendation or ask us for a list of trusted professionals.

Deggin says despite the clampdown on illegal dwellings there are still totally legal and proper waterfront properties available to buy in Turkey, and certainly some amazing ones in Bodrum. “There are beachfront properties for sale in Bodrum that were constructed before today's laws came into place. These are constructed directly at the seafront with all relevant permissions and titles. There are also one or two seafront villas for sale in Bodrum built right on the water that are the proper distance from the water but with beach platforms which allow for good access. There are still fantastic opportunities for anyone looking to buy a frontline property in Bodrum or Kalkan or Fethiye and  the many more charming towns Turkey offers.”

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