How to buy property in Turkey as a foreigner

The process of buying a house in Turkey used to be complicated and time-consuming. But over recent years the government has been simplifying the requirements for foreigners buying property, and while the system is a little different from most other countries', it's much easier to navigate. The whole process could take as little as 4-8 weeks if you're buying an already built property; obviously, off-plan, it will take longer.

It's also a rather less standardised process than in many countries. For instance, deposits can vary widely; some sellers want 10-30% while others are happy with an almost symbolic amount of $1,000 or so.

Foreigners used to have to undergo a check on the property to assess whether it was in an area of military interest. That check could only be skipped if you were buying a property from another foreign buyer, in which case it would already have been carried out when they bought it. But now, this check is no longer required in many areas, like Bodrum, so that's one less thing to worry about.

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Things to check before you commit

You'll need the right paperwork. You'll have to show your passport, and if your purchase depends on having a residence permit, you'll need to show that too.

Thus the main documents required are:

  • ID or passport
  • residence permit (when applicable)

Another thing that can take up time, particularly if you're buying in the resale market rather than from a developer, is having documents translated. Developers, on the other hand, often have a translation ready made (though you might want to have it checked for accuracy).

The biggest check that you (or your lawyer) need to carry out is to look at the Tapu, or property ownership document. Ensure that the person named on the document is actually the person selling the property - it should also have a passport photograph of the owner. You also need to check, if you've been given a photocopy, that it has been duly notarized. The Tapu also gives the exact coordinates of the property on the map, which need to be checked in case half your garden has been chopped off, or there is a boundary issue.

Once you have checked the property and negotiated the price, you're ready to sign a sales contract and pay a reservation deposit. That's likely to be around €1,000 - 3,000 - relatively small money. At this point your purchase is legally binding.

You'll also need a full valuation - since March 2019, that's required for all properties being sold to foreigners. It's intended to prevent vendors, agents or developers taking advantage of buyers who do not know the local market in depth; it also stops vendors recording a lower price than is actually being paid (so they can minimise their tax liability). It's done by an independent appraiser and usually takes 3-4 days; the valuation is valid for 3 months. The valuation figure will be the declared price on the Tapu, and the Tapu can't be issued without the valuation.

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Earthquake insurance, tax number registration and Iskan

You need to get your DASK arranged. DASK is compulsory earthquake insurance. You'll need that to get your Tapu issued.

And you'll need to get a tax number from the local tax office. Once you have that, you can open a local bank account. (You can transfer money for the purchase straight from your domestic bank, or use a money transfer service to economise on bank charges, but it's often useful to have a local account for paying small amounts such as utility bills.)

The papers are now sent off to the Tapu office so that a new Tapu can be issued with your name (and photo) on it as the owner. If you don't want to have to be in Turkey to collect it, you'll need to give your lawyer authority to sign for you at completion. That's fairly normal, and not difficult to arrange. It's only when the new Tapu is issued that you'll need to pay the balance of the purchase price and any taxes or fees.

If you're buying a new property, you also need to make sure you get the Iskan. This document states that the building has been properly completed and is approved for residential use - without it, you won't be able to get the utilities connected. Both Iskan and Tapu need to be delivered before you make your final payment.

How much you will pay above the price?

The costs of buying in Turkey will differ depending on your choice of lawyer and any financing fees that are payable. Conservatively, allow between 8% and 10% of the purchase price and you'll have covered fees and costs, including connection of utilities, notary fees, and the 3% purchase tax.

And life could become even easier in future. Turkey's Land Registry recently announced it is opening representative offices in France, Belgium and some Arab countries that will allow buyers to handle all the paperwork in their own country. Further offices could be rolled out later - so once you've spotted your ideal property, you can go home and let things happen by remote control.