Turkey is experiencing a surge in foreign property purchases and the arrival of new expats to the ranks from all over the world. This should come as no surprise; after all, Turkey is a stunning country surrounded by picturesque coastlines, embedded in history and enriched with natural wonders. The weather is great, and the cities and towns are lively and colorful. Life is both exciting and relaxing in Turkey compared with most countries worldwide, and the people are welcoming and famed for their hospitality.
As someone who has rented a total of 10 places here in Turkey, in Istanbul, Çanakkale and Muğla, I would like to share some of my expertise on the tricks of the trade with other fellow expats:
How to find a home to rent
As is the case all over the world Turkey does have its own quirks and particulars anyone intending to rent a place long-term should consider. First off, you need to determine where exactly you want to rent the said domicile. The definitive website for house hunting in Turkey is sahibinden.com, which means “from the owner” in English. Do not be dismayed, however, when you find that many of the ads on the website are indeed connected to real estate agents (emlakçı). Use the website and its map function and other classified sites such as Sabah newspaper's Sarı Sayfalar to get an understanding of the availability and price range in specific areas. You can even use Yemeksepeti.com, which is a website for food delivery but can serve as a guide to what sort of dining options there are in different areas.
Pounding the pavement has also withstood the test of time as many homeowners have not yet embarked on posting their availabilities on the worldwide web and prefer to keep their potential candidates among a pool of locals and friends-of-friends. Not only is there the possibility of seeing signs on windows of available flats, but you can also check out the local real estate agents, who also post up ads of the housing they have available. Word-of-mouth is a steadfast tradition here in Turkey as is to also ask the local retailers such as “bakkals” or convenience stores. You can always visit the “muhtar,” which is the neighborhood or village representative, whom you may have to meet up with eventually should you need an official address registration document. But the bottom line is that landlords in Turkey prefer to rent their homes out to people they know, whether that has been for just five minutes or through another connection. Thus, the more personal you are with the search, in other words, actually spending time in the neighborhood, the more your chances of finding something special.
Questions that should be on your checklist
Don’t be shocked if the apartment you are checking out appears to be a mess. In Turkey, there is a tendency to just leave what you don’t want, and maintenance issues such as a coat of paint are duties mostly left to the incoming. You can negotiate repair issues with the landlord, who may or may not actually have the place painted for you, and potentially arrange to have maintenance costs dropped from future rent. The most important thing you can do is to communicate these issues early and clearly to ensure there is no upset in the future.
In terms of what to look out for: check for a landline, the cellular phone and internet reception. You will want to find out whether there is or has been mold. Water pressure and whether there is a water tank for mainline cuts can also be important factors.
What could be the hidden fees?
When renting in Turkey it is normal practice to pay one month's rent equivalent as a deposit as well as the first month’s rent upfront to the landlord. If you work with a real estate agent expect to dish out another one month’s rent, or approximately 10% of the annual rent including value-added tax (VAT), as a finder’s fee. You will want to make sure there is no debt from previous utility bills and discuss whether and how you will be putting them in your name. Keep in mind that utilities such as electricity, natural gas and water may also require deposits when being transferred over. Some residences come with an “aidat,” which is a monthly maintenance fee for the building.
The rental increase in Turkey is determined by the Consumer Price Index (Tüketici Fiyatları Endeksi - TÜFE in Turkish) each year and currently is approximately 12%. You will want to denote what you agree on with your landlord as well as note down all payment transactions and what white goods and other furniture and appliances are already in the home you want to rent. Basic rental contracts are available for mere coins at stationary shops. It is wise to also discuss how you would terminate your contract early if necessary as the norm is to provide at least two months' written and notarized notice sent by the PTT postal service; otherwise, the landlord could hold you liable for the remaining months listed on the contract.
It is to your benefit to keep the paperwork intact. Should your landlord sell the property, then you are given six months' time to move out if you have a notarized contract or until the end of the lease if registered in the title deed registry; otherwise, on a rolling contract you may be asked to leave in as little as two months.
Won’t you be my neighbor?
As can be expected, Turks are the neighborly sort and love to meet and mingle with those they live close to. While this may be changing a bit in larger cities, you still shouldn’t be surprised if suddenly a neighbor were to show up at your door with a gift, most likely a delectable dish presented on a plate. While the norm would be to invite them in for tea, you can always politely decline but accept the gift as otherwise they may be offended. The most important custom in this tradition is to return the plate filled with a reciprocal gift of foodstuffs and then let the neighborly relations take flight!
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