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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.”

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cosmetic surgery in Turkey: what are the risks? A patient speaks out about her rhinoplasty

Turkey’s reputation as a health tourism destination is growing, with over 260,000 people a year travelling to the country’s Mediterranean areas for medical procedures each year.

Claudia Eckhoff* travelled from Germany to Antalya in 2012 for a rhinoplasty procedure. The veterinarian said she had always been “self conscious” about her nose and chanced on an online review of a clinic in Antalya.

“I did tonnes of research and was very nervous but after I got in touch with the clinic I knew I was doing the right thing.”

The clinic asked Claudia to send some digital photos for an initial evaluation. “He told me that I needed to send them some digital photos to let the surgeon have initial evaluation. “Two days later I had a reply with a short report from the surgeon saying that I was a good candidate for the surgery, and if I wanted to go ahead I would need to ensure I booked to stay and rest locally for at least four days after the surgery.”

Claudia said the online photos of the hospital, the surgeon’s report and the customer service were extremely reassuring. “The prospect of going to another country where I’d never visited to have surgery was nerve-wracking but the contact did help.”

Two hours after she stepped off the plane, Claudia met with her surgeon at his Antalya clinic for a consultation and checked into a private hospital the next day for surgery.

“Everything went much better than I assumed it would. My surgeon was very skilled and well qualified and the patient care was very good. The private hospital where I had the operation had full facilities and advanced medical care units.”

Claudia stayed in Antalya for the requisite four days and then toured the coastline for another week, staying in a Kemer holiday home.

“I am really happy with the results and my confidence is at a high. I think this kind of health tourism will increase in Turkey because prices are so low and there are some very good clinics.”

Claudia advises potential health tourists to “do lots of research”.

“Find as many reviews as you can, talk to the surgeon, ask for his or her qualifications and check them out. I may sound paranoid but you cannot be too careful - the procedures are not to be taken lightly.”

The number of health tourists travelling to Turkey has quadrupled since 2010, when visitors hit the 110,000 mark, and the Secretary General of Turkey’s Health Tourism Association estimates that 2023 will see 2 million annual medical tourists.

2011 statistics show that patients from Germany, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Iraq top the list of healthcare visitors to Turkey.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Dear Queen Liz, may we have our artifacts back?

A Turkish lawyer and film producer has written to Queen Elizabeth II requesting the return of artifacts taken from Bodrum's Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which are currently displayed at the British Museum.

Remzi Kazmaz sent his letter via the British Ambassador to Ankara, and says if he doesn't get a satisfactory answer within two months (the official response time) he and a group of other lawyers will apply to the European Court of Human Rights.

The mausoleum in happier days. You can see the four horses at the top of the structure (among other items) at the British Museum.

Two of the ancient world's seven wonders were found in Anatolia. One was the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the other the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum. Some pieces of the mausoleum was sent to the British Museum during the Ottoman period.

This isn't the first time letters have been exchanged over the contentious issue. The writer known as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli, wrote to the British Museum several years ago. Kabaagacli stated in the letter that the mausoleum was only valuable under Bodrum's blue sky.

The museum retorted that the mausoleum artifacts was stored in a blue hall. Not quite the same as being in their rightful place overseas in Bodrum.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Kas's dolphin park closed after protests

After an outcry over the treatment of its dolphins, Kas Dolphin Park has been closed and its two inhabitants moved to another location.

The dolphins were originally brought to Kas for rehabilitation but were kept at the Kas Dolphin Park, an entertainment centre.

Turkish writer Buket Uzuner started a petition through which quickly attracted 20,000 signatures  and sparked protests throughout Turkey and the world. The signatures were presented to the municipality by the non-government organisations Freedom for Dolphins Platform and WWF Turkey.

During the presentation Uzuner said that Kas should be a dolphin paradise, not a prison.

Kas Underwater Association spokesperson Belma Tosun said the move is extremely positive. "We hope that this process will be an example for other Turkish cities that have dolphin parks."

Kas Dolphin Park is gradually being dismantled.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Tourist faces jail for collecting stones on Turkish beach

A US man is facing a 12-year jail term after picking up stones from a Mediterranean beach during a six-day beach holiday.

Jason Dement was detained by airport security when officials discovered a bag of stones in his luggage. Two of the stones appeared to be artifacts, officials said.

The 30-year-old from Mississippi faces prosecution under stringent Turkish laws against the smuggling of artifacts. A museum report confirmed the pieces identified by security were in fact artifacts, but it didn't state how old they were or what they may have been.

Demet told the Associated Press that he and his wife Sheila often collect stones as souvenirs. One stone was a triangular marble piece that looked like it had come from a building. The other was a brick coloured piece that looked a bit like old masonry.

"It had no inscription," Dement said. "It came from an ordinary beach. There were no historical sites around, no ancient ruins."

Dement was taken into custody at Antalya Airport on Sunday. The following day he was released but barred from leaving Turkey until a full report on the artifacts' value is received by a judge.

Dement has started a blog asking for help to cover his costs while in Turkey. Hopefully that won't be as long as the maximum 12-year sentence meted out for the smuggling of artifacts.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Turkey could become 'the new Amazon' with new petty crime sentence

If you pick a pocket or steal a bicycle in Afyonkarahisar you might find yourself with an unusual sentence: planting up to 1000 trees.

A judge is handing out a community service sentence of tree planting for petty crime in the Aegean district. In a year, Mehmet Gulcek has handed down 60 sentences of planting between 100 and 1000 trees around Afyonkarahisar. This has meant an extra 40,000 trees for the district.

Gulcek said his criteria for passing down the sentence is having a previously clean criminal record and showing repentance. Part of the deal is that crims will need to maintain the trees for up to a year. “If charity is done, it should be fully done. There is no such thing as planting and taking off just like that,” he told the daily Milliyet. 

“If one thousand courts did this in one year, Turkey would gain 40 million trees. If my colleagues support this practice, in 10 years we will transform Turkey into the Amazon.”

The trees are provided by the Forestry and Water Works Ministry.

Afyonkarahisar hit the news a couple of years ago when it banned alcohol.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Bodrum's blingiest beach resort

Sometimes I wonder if Bodrum's turning into an Aegean Dubai.

Have a look at the pictures of this new beach resort, due to be opened this time next year. You can almost imagine you're looking at a new Abu Dhabi resort when you look at this ridiculously luxurious Bodrum property.

The Nikki Beach Resort & Spa aims to cater to "swanky sophisticates" (that's me out, then) who take their partying seriously. 

The resort is due to open in Torba, a small village about 10 minutes' drive from Bodrum centre, Torba property is known for its seclusion and natural surroundings. The architects are endeavouring to match the buildings to the natural surroundings and use all local materials. There will be 57 suites and villas, 28 with their own private pool for the truly wealthy.

There'll also be a large shared pool, beach access, spa treatments, a fitness centre and a cafe and a bar.

 Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts already has hotels in Thailand and has beach clubs in a number of cities. 

Price? TBC. But you'd better have a fat wallet if the other Nikki resorts are anything to go by.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Is this the world's dullest museum?

Is it just me or is this a rather half-baked idea for a museum?

A new museum is aiming to draw tourists away from the charms of sun and sea and entice them into learning about ... stoves.

The Stove Museum's administrators hope that the new facility will convince tourists to seek out culture as well as the traditional Mediterranean delights.

“We cannot get tourists to leave the hotels. We need to present ourselves more. We need tourists to go outside of the hotels and see the town and its environs,” said Antalya's deputy governor, speaking at the opening of the museum in Balbey.

Although the southern resort area draws in around 11 million tourists each year, they tend to stay in their resorts or their Turkish homes, Yuksel said.

He added that as well as the Stove Museum, other new attractions include a Toy Museum and an art centre.

The Stove Museum will feature a children's section and exhibits showing stoves constructed of different materials.

Antalya's mayor Mustafa Akaydin added hilariously that: “Stoves are a part of our culture, but they have lost their attraction. We would like to keep the value of stoves alive.” 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

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Monday, 14 January 2013

Fethiye's dead sea

Even if you haven't been to Turkey before, you might have heard of Oludeniz. Deep blue sea, white sand and balmy breezes mean it's high on most tourists' 'to do' list.

But what a lot of visitors to the area don't know is that this Fethiye hotspot is considered Turkey's very own 'dead sea'. The name 'Oludeniz' translates to 'dead sea' as there is a higher concentration of salt within the lagoon than on the seaward side of Oludeniz, thanks to the lagoon's sheltered, warm aspect.

Oludeniz Lagoon

Unlike the huge, salty inland lake found on the shores of Jordan and Israel, you won't be able to float on the buoyant waters of Oludeniz Lagoon.

However, there are still a number of benefits to be found from bathing in the salty waters:

Skin sores and ear infections

An Australian study showed that sea water with a high salt concentration can help heal pyoderma (skin sores) and ear infections in children. The study of Aboriginal children showed that incidences of these two issues decreased by 50 per cent, and stated that the sea water acted as a skin cleanser and a 'nasal and ear washout'.

Oludeniz Lagoon


Dermatitis drives its sufferers demented with repeated occurrences of inflamed, itchy skin. A Japanese study showed that salty sea water is an effective treatment, giving relief from itching and burning.


Inhaling salty fumes has a positive effect on acute bronchitis. A 1995 study showed that patients had positive changes in metabolic activity, a normalisation of serotonin levels, and more.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

Salty water and UV rays combine to improve the effects of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. A study on location at the Dead Sea showed improvements in joint pain and skin irritation.