How to find your estate agent in Turkey

Many property purchasers are used to the highly regulated real estate markets of the EU or USA. Turkey, on the other hand, had few protections for the property buyer until recently, though the government is trying hard to improve that situation.

Real estate certification is required!

For instance, in June 2018 a new law required the registration of estate agents. They now need a level 4 (for staff) or 5 (for office owners) certificate from the Vocational Qualification Authority, and certification has to be in place by the end of 2019. (If a business hasn't got its certification in hand by now, do you really want to get involved?)

However, agents who haven't registered can still continue to operate, so finding a reputable agent will take you time and a little effort. It's worth checking comments on forums and bulletin boards - have buyers had problems with certain agents in the past?

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Where to find your estate agency?

Turkey is still an emerging real estate market, and it's also a huge country; you could fit the UK into it three times and have a bit left over. That means you won't find the kind of big chains of nationwide agents you might be used to at home. Smaller agents will be poorly placed to advise you on the appeal of one town or neighbourhood versus another. Make sure you know an agent's coverage before you decide to use it, or you could miss out on interesting opportunities. Yes, there are some international agencies working with Turkish properties, but their coverage can be limited and anyway you need to check multiple forums and ask people about their experience.

Start with Properstar

Your best bet if you are just starting your research might be to start browsing properties on Properstar, as we’re working with trusted agencies only. But first define the location of your future residence; since most of the real estate agents cover only part of the country, you will be able to get various objects within that specific place. And keep in mind that some nationalities have certain limits in buying properties in Turkey (e.g. Greeks are not allowed to buy real estate at the Aegean Sea shore and Russians cannot buy property at the Black Sea), so if the agent offers something that you cannot buy, think twice if you should work with this agent.

Peculiarities of working with estate agents in Turkey

Properties can be placed with several agents, so you may well find agents want you to sign up with them before they will show you a property - they want to make sure they, and no one else, get the fee for selling it. However, Turkish agents do work with each other occasionally, and split the fees - normally 3% for buyers.

The information that you'll get is typically quite limited. You won't see floor plans, 360 views, walk-throughs or many photos; you won't get an energy efficiency rating; in fact, you may not even get any measurements for individual rooms. You really do need to do all your own research in this market, so go equipped with a clipboard, pen, and tape measure!

And you may get information in Turkish… While most agents are very well used to dealing with foreigners of different nationalities, you may want to arrange the services of a translator to ensure you get an unvarnished and accurate account of exactly what's being said, particularly when you get stuck into the legal process.

Many agents will suggest a lawyer you can use - however, you should stick to your guns and ensure you find an independent lawyer and one who has dealt with cross-border sales before. The more they understand the regulatory and financial background you're coming from, as well as the Turkish market, the easier your life will be.

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Manage the risks!

Remember that apart from a small down payment, you shouldn't be asked to put any money upfront. Don't pay till a penny you can see the TAPU (basically the title deeds) of the property, check that it matches the property and that it doesn't have any debt attached to it (for instance, an unpaid mortgage). Generally, 70-90% of the asking price is paid once your new deeds are ready for issue - which will be some while after you've signed the contract.

Since all the locals complete the purchase process on their own, most real estate agents are used to it and you have to ask your agent if this part is covered as well, otherwise you will have to arrange all the taxes etc. yourself.

As anywhere, buying off-plan requires even more vigilance. You'll want to check the developer's background, and you'll also want to ensure that major payments are made only once the property is completed. In Turkey, that also means it needs to have its Iskan (habitation licence), or you won't be able to connect to the utilities. For foreign property buyers it’s actually recommended to avoid buying off-plan properties, because no one knows if the development is going to be completed or suffers the same fate as Burj al-Babas.

If you want an easy time, going through the Turkish property purchase process is not for you (it's the case for the most overseas property purchases). On the other hand, if you do have the perseverance to get through it, you'll end up with a magnificent property for far less than you'd pay in other similar destinations. And at least you'll have strong Turkish coffee to get you through reading all those legal documents!