Buying a Property in Turkey

A property is an expensive investment - you do not wish to risk losing your money. This is true whether the house in Turkey or elsewhere.

The purchase of property is also something that has been happening for hundreds, if not thousands, of years: so a lot of lessons have been learned about risks and how to avoid them.

Transferring the ownership of a house is also, inherently, complicated. It gives rise to legal questions, issues about the condition of the property, and the need for a number of administrative steps.

Thus, the process – if done properly – is bound to be a little time consuming and very detailed.

It is also a process that is likely to be very different from the process of buying a property in your own country. More than ever, this guide is an introduction to help you understand some of the issues that arise when you’re buying a property in Turkey and to let you have a sensible conversation with your professional advisers: estate agents, lawyers, the Notary etc. It is not intended to be a do-it-yourself manual!

Video guide to buying a property in Turkey

You can learn about buying real estate in Turkey by watching this full-length interview (below) with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun, or by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide that she has written with us.

The video guide below is a playlist – split into several parts. One part will play right after the other.

Can a foreigner own property in Turkey?

Yes. However, Turkish law makes a distinction between the rights of a foreigner and the rights of a local person when it comes to owning property. It does not matter from which part of the world the foreigner comes. The same restrictions will apply.

Certain areas of Turkey are designated as military zones. A foreigner will, generally, not be permitted to own land (including houses, apartments or other property built on that land) within a military zone.

The position is made more complicated because it is often not obvious why a particular piece of land has been designated a military zone. They are sometimes located in places where the most uneducated person would recognise the military importance of the site but, sometimes, they seem to be located at random.

For many years, the process of establishing whether a piece of land was located within a military zone – and so whether a foreigner would be able to buy it – was time-consuming. You had to make an application to the Army, who would then issue a certificate confirming that the land was (or was not) in such a zone. This could take months.

Recently, the position has become a lot simpler.

If, since 2012 (when the new arrangements were put in place), a person has already obtained a declaration that the property is not in a military zone, that will be recorded at the Land Registry and you will automatically inherit that ruling and so don’t need to make an application yourself.

If you will be the first foreign buyer (or the first buyer since 2012) of that land, you need to carry out the process of obtaining military permission via the Land Registry. Basically, you apply for the purchase of the land in the usual way and the Land Registry takes care of the issue of military permission. It typically takes four to six weeks and costs around an additional TRY300.

Some foreigners fall in love with a plot of land or a house located within a military zone and which they would, therefore, not be able to buy. In the old days, they would simply set up a Turkish company (in which they would own 100% of the shares) and then own the land through that company. This didn’t count as foreign ownership. However, the law has now changed and this would now require the Turkish company to have more than 50% Turkish ownership and to be managed by a Turkish-resident person or entity. A company owned solely or mainly by foreigners will no longer work.

There are people who advise that there is a simple solution to this: set up a Turkish company where most of the shares are owned by a Turkish national (for example, your estate agent or your lawyer) and then have them execute a document saying that they hold those shares ‘in trust’ for you. We think that this is really bad advice. There is great potential for this to go wrong and, if it does go wrong, it will be hard, time-consuming, expensive and/or impossible to fix the problem. Trusts of this type are not recognised in Turkey, so you have few legal rights. We think that it is better to recognise that if the State does not want you to own this piece of land, you will just have to accept that limitation. There are many other beautiful plots and houses!

There is one further restriction on the rights of foreigners to own land in Turkey. That is that no foreigner may own a piece of land in excess of 30 hectares (74 acres). That is quite a lot of land! If this is not enough for you, you can make an application to the Council of Ministers, and the limit can be increased to 60 hectares. Whether this application will succeed will depend upon where the land is located and the commercial rationale behind what you’re doing. This rule was put in place, basically, to protect Turkish agriculture from foreign intrusion.

One other matter that may cause you concern is that, for many years, the only foreigners who were allowed to buy land in Turkey were people who came from countries that gave Turkish people the reciprocal right to buy land in their country. This was not a problem for people from most European countries or the US (which granted those reciprocal rights), but it was an issue if you came from some Middle Eastern or Far Eastern countries (which did not). We mention this ‘problem’ only because people are likely to mention it to you but, in fact, it isn’t a problem at all any more. When the financial crash came in the late 2000s, Turkey wanted to sell land to people from the Middle East to replace the buyers from the UK and Germany who had dried up. As a result, this rule was revoked. It now doesn’t matter which country you come from; you will be able to buy land in Turkey unless it is in a military area.

Is buying a property in Turkey a good idea?

For many clients, buying a property in Turkey is a great decision. They buy for several reasons: as a permanent place for them (or, increasingly, for their children being educated in Turkey) to live, as a holiday home or as an investment.

Quite often the person buying a holiday home sees a huge lifestyle benefit – and sometimes becomes so comfortable in the area that they later decide to relocate or retire here.

You may enjoy a better climate, a lower cost of living and, often, a more active social life than you experienced at home.

Of course, there may also be all sorts of career and business opportunities in Turkey.

There’s also a chance of making money, as property values can increase substantially. However, you probably need no reminding that there is no guarantee that properties will increase in value. You will have seen, over the last few years, that in bad times their value can fall dramatically.

Prices have increased since the dreadful years of 2008/9/10, but there is political and security uncertainty in Turkey at the moment, which is making many foreign people question whether now is the time to invest here. Of course, often, those who invest when nobody else is doing so are the ones who make real killings – but sometimes they get badly hurt when things don’t go as they’d hoped.

So, buying a property in Turkey is not for everyone: none of us have a crystal ball to see whether the property market will improve or deteriorate. Yet if you want to retire to Turkey or enjoy the benefits of a holiday home in this unique country, it can still look like a very attractive option.

It is seldom economically attractive to buy a home if you are only going to live here for a year or two. You are usually better off renting. This is because the acquisition and disposal costs when buying are both quite high.

Nor is buying a property in Turkey entirely risk free from a purely technical point of view. It isn’t in any country. There are always risks associated with buying a property, wherever in the world you are looking at, and Turkey is no exception. Do not over-estimate or fear the risks. The vast majority of transactions turn out to be danger-free. Making sure you get expert guidance will dramatically reduce your risk and similarly increase your chances of a good buying experience – whether you’re buying a holiday home, an investment property or buying as a means of relocating to Turkey.

In fact, one of the few things that all the experts agree on is that buying a property in Turkey really does require some specialist advice.

Ignore them at your peril!

Horror stories and dangers

Let me start by repeating that, generally speaking, as long as the appropriate checks are carried out, there is no more need to worry when buying a property in Turkey than there is when buying one in your own country.

Unfortunately, many people buying property in Turkey (and in other foreign destinations) take little or no legal or financial advice and are far too casual both about the purchase of property and about the signing of legal documents. If they go about things this way, it can turn out badly. Sometimes very badly.

They may find that there is no title to the property, that it was built without planning permission – or, sometimes, that it does not even exist!

They may find that what they were told by the seller or the estate agent is just not true.

At the moment, the problems we come across most commonly are:

Kat irtifak title

Kat irtifak title – or a kat irtifak tapu – is a provisional title deed relating to a property in a project which has not been fully completed. There is nothing in itself wrong with a kat irtifak tapu. You will often receive one when buying into a new development but, once the development is completed, it needs to be upgraded into a full, permanent title (kat mulkiyeti tapu). It’s important to make sure that there is no apparent obstacle to this being done, and that the seller has an obligation to assist in that process.

If you do not do this, you can find that it becomes very hard to sell the property.

Excess construction

This is still a problem, though much smaller than it was a few years ago. A developer will obtain a perfectly valid building licence to construct, say, six 150m2 houses on a site. He will then built eight 200m2 houses. Needless to say, the building licence will no longer be valid. It will then be impossible to obtain proper title to, and the right to use, those properties.

This remains a problem even after the property has been completed and you’ve taken delivery of it.

Fortunately, there are two fairly simple solutions. The first is to obtain a survey of the property you’re buying. This will confirm its size and that it has been built in accordance with the permission granted. The second, in some ways cheaper, is to take a mortgage on the property. If you do this, the bank will make the necessary checks, at no extra cost to you, and refuse the mortgage if all is not in order.

Under-declarations

For many years, there has been a tradition in Turkey of stating in the title deed (selling the property to a new buyer) a price well below the real price being paid for the property. There are two reasons for this. The main one is to save paying tax, which is calculated upon the value declared in the title deed. The second, in some instances, is a desire for privacy.

Either way, under-declaration is illegal and if you assist the seller to reduce his tax liabilities in this way, you merely create an instant, completely artificial and taxable capital gain for yourself. Unless you can find somebody who will, in turn, under-declare the value paid when you sell the property to them, this can prove very expensive; particularly if you’re tax resident in a country with a high rate of capital gains tax.

Under-declaration is foolish and illegal. It should be avoided. Fortunately, it is happening less and less frequently.

Bad contracts or the lack of proper contracts

This is, in particular, a problem when you are buying a property under construction, but should also be avoided in any property purchase.

Some contracts presented to buyers are simply bad contracts: they are unclear, unfair, non-compliant with legal requirements, or all of the above! These contracts, which do not make clear the seller’s obligation to you or your obligations to the seller (for example, in terms of payment of the price), are highly likely to give rise to problems later on.

Fortunately, there is again a simple solution to this problem. Have your contract inspected by your lawyer before you sign it.

Problems with the building

Whether you buy a property that has already been completed, or one still in the course of construction, you can find that problems emerge with the fabric of the building after delivery.

This is true in every country and it is a problem that cannot be completely eliminated. However, a properly drafted contract (providing for the opportunity to inspect the property before taking delivery of it and a mechanism for dealing with any problems after delivery) and making sure you do arrange an inspection will greatly reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Resale properties

If you buy a second-hand (resale) property, the risks associated with the state of the property will usually (but not always) be your responsibility. You should, therefore, think seriously about having the property surveyed (inspected) before you sign a contract to buy it.

New properties

If you are buying a new property from a developer, it is important that the contract provides for the inspection of the house before you take delivery of it, and that it makes clear the obligation of the developer to rectify any problems that arise.

If no other periods are specified, the law imposes an obligation for the developer to repair any large problems that arise (such as sinking foundations or structural cracks in the walls) within 20 years of the date of delivery of the house and any small problems (such as a broken door, but not including problems caused by wear and tear) within five years (see our Guide to Buying a New Property in Turkey).

Because fixing problems costs the developer money, they are often reluctant to do so and if you have to go to court to enforce your rights it can often be uneconomic as a case could easily take three years.

The principal solution to these problems is, again, to have the property inspected before you take delivery and, ideally, to make sure that any issues found are rectified to your satisfaction before you take delivery.

Is the house the one you thought you were buying?

Strange as it may seem, we have come across instances where buyers have been shown and agreed to buy House A (say, unit 26 in a development) but when the contract arrived it sold them House B (say, unit 50 in the same development – or even a property in a different development altogether). This is more often due to clerical error than malice but, as you can imagine, it can cause massive problems; especially if the problem is not identified immediately, or if the house you actually wanted to buy has, in the meantime, been sold to somebody else.

The solution to this problem is to make sure that you identify the property you think you are buying to your lawyer by reference to a map.

Your lawyer will have access to the maps at the Title Deed Office (Tapu Ofis). Entering the plot number comes up with a Google Maps location. Brilliant! One of the best systems in the world.

Unpaid condominium (community) fees

This can cause a problem in two separate ways.

First, if the previous owner has not paid his condominium fees, they may become your responsibility.

The second is that, often, owners do not pay condominium fees because there is a problem with the apartments or in the administration of the condo. If this is the case, it’s better to find it out before you buy the property and, possibly, to look elsewhere. A condo with unsolved problems will probably not have the money to spend on maintenance etc. and so tends to decay.

Developer finance

It is quite usual, as in most countries, for developments to be financed by loans made to the developer by banks. There is nothing wrong with that. However, your contract needs to make it clear that it is the obligation of the developer to clear that finance before handing over the property and its title to you and – just as importantly – you need to make sure that the amount that you’re going to have to pay to the developer when you take delivery of the property is in excess of (and so sufficient to clear) any outstanding finance.

Safety first!

Don’t become one of the people who simply drifts into the purchase of a property without making any checks.

For your own safety, insist on taking proper, independent, legal advice. Independent legal advice is advice from a lawyer not connected with the seller: someone whose duty lies solely in looking after you.

A sense of proportion

Remember that for every ‘horror story’ you hear, hundreds or thousands of people buy safely in Turkey.

The state of the market

At the moment (2017), in most parts of Turkey, this is a buyer’s market. There is lots of property on sale (though not as much as a few years ago) and there are relatively few buyers, especially foreign buyers. There are local exceptions to this rule. For example, there is great competition to purchase property in central Istanbul and there is a strong demand for property in well-respected coastal destinations. But in most of the tourist areas, you have the luxury of being able to choose from a number of suitable properties.

In all parts of Turkey, prices fell back from the heights they reached in 2007/8 but in some places – such as Bodrum – they have now risen again to virtually the same levels as prevailed at that time. In other places, prices are still well below 2008 levels. In some places, the prices are well below what it would today cost you to build the property: the direct costs, ignoring any profit. This is often a strong indicator that the property is a bargain.

The recent availability of mortgages for local Turkish people of modest means has generated lots of demand for properties of the type that they are wanting to buy – and that is also having a knock-on impact on other parts of the price range.

Are you ready to buy a Turkish property?

Going to look at houses should be the last stage in the exercise of acquiring a home in Turkey, not the first. The process of buying a property – whether it is for your personal use or for investment purposes – should start with thorough preparation.

This will save a lot of wasted time and money.

It is a good idea (though quite rare) to talk to your lawyer before you go to look at any property. That way, they will be able to take you through all the key issues (such as those listed below) calmly and clearly, before you get involved in the rush and pressure associated with buying a property anywhere in the world.

There are also certain steps that you can take yourself, just to make sure that you are ready to buy a property in Turkey: that you have the necessary paperwork and (if you’re thinking of applying for finance) that you’re likely to be acceptable to a mortgage lender.

Preparation checklist

Why are you buying the property?

Be honest with yourself. Do you and your spouse or partner agree why you are going to spend a lot of money buying a home in Turkey? This can often lead to some matrimonial moments!

Is this for retirement or long-term relocation, a pure holiday home, a holiday home that is also intended to make you some money, or a pure investment?

Which area will suit you best?

If this is an investment, where are you likely to make the most money? If it is for your own personal use, how easy will it be to get there?

Surprisingly, answering a dozen or so simple questions can narrow down the places likely to suit you to a radius of 50km or less (and that’s in the whole world!)

Which type of property will be best for you?

A villa, an apartment, a townhouse, or something else?

How are you going to pay for the property?

Are you going to take out a mortgage? If so, where and for how much? What are you doing to guard against the risk of fluctuating exchange rates?

How are you going to manage the property?

Will you do this yourself?

Will it be done by local friends and neighbours?

Or will you use a professional property management company?

This question is nearly as relevant if you are buying a holiday home as it is if you are buying an investment property.

If you want to let the property:

  • Who are your target tenants?
  • Who will manage the lettings?
  • How much money will you make?

Who should be the legal owner of the property?

The right choice here can save you a lot of money, even on a holiday home. See below.

Due diligence

The process of answering these questions is an essential part of your ‘due diligence’. However, it is all too easy to skip over these points as tackling them might feel a bit complicated. That is a mistake.

The decisions you make will have a big influence upon your enjoyment of the property and the amount of money you make out of it.

It can be well worth speaking to your lawyer and/or someone who really understands the property market in Turkey to clarify your thoughts about these issues.

Who should own the property in Turkey?

Getting this question of ownership wrong is probably both the most common and the most expensive mistake people make when buying property overseas. There are many people who could be made the legal owner of the property or, possibly, the shareholders in the company that owns the property. The best choice is often not obvious.

Making the wrong decision can cost you lots of money in totally unnecessary fees and taxes, both during your lifetime and on your death. Ask your lawyer for advice. It will be time and money very well spent.

Making the right choice can, in some cases, completely eliminate inheritance tax on the later passing of the property after your death and/or greatly reduce the taxes on any income from the property during your lifetime.

Some local lawyers will be unable to help you make this decision as it involves an understanding of both the Turkish and your own legal, tax and inheritance systems. In this case, there will be lawyers in your own country who will be able to help, possibly by working in conjunction with your Turkish lawyers.

What are the options as to ownership?

There are many ways to purchase a property in Turkey. These include:

  • In your name alone
  • In your name and the name(s) of your spouse or other co-purchaser(s)
  • Wholly or partly in your children’s names or in the name of somebody who you would like (eventually!) to inherit the property from you
  • Via a Turkish company
  • Via a Trust

Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages. The one that will be best for you will depend entirely on your individual circumstances.

Getting advice

The choice is not obvious. Just because a husband and wife are buying the property does not mean that the best choice is always to put it in both of their names. Just because your neighbours bought the property in their joint names does not mean that this will be the right solution for you.

Please, seek advice. It will almost certainly save you money.

Is the process of buying a Turkish property the same as at home?

No. The systems in Turkey are likely to be very different from those in your own country.

In Turkey, you should be safe to buy property if you take some basic precautions – just as you would in your own country. Just remember that this is a different country where we speak a different language and have a different legal system. If you are not familiar with either of these, you definitely need proper legal advice.

Sometimes the procedure for buying a property in Turkey may be better (quicker, cheaper, safer, easier) than the procedure in your own country. Sometimes it may be worse. But it is always different.

This can be a little confusing.

If it’s any consolation, a Turkish person buying an apartment in (say) Paris or New York would probably be just as confused, baffled and worried as you are!

The main things to look out for when buying property in Turkey

The important thing to understand is that there is no simple list of dangers that you need to check. For different people and different types of property, or for people who are buying for different purposes, the dangers will be different and so the checks needed will be different. It is part of your lawyer’s job to work out the questions that need to be answered in your particular case.

However, there are some dangers that arise in every country and every transaction. For example:

  • Does the seller have good legal title and the right to sell?
  • Is the property affected by debts?
  • Has the building been constructed legally?
  • Willyou be able to use the property for the purposes you desire?
  • Does the property suffer from any defects?
  • Is what the seller and the agent have told you about the property true?

In addition, in Turkey there are other issues that often need special attention. These include:

  • Are you sure you have chosen the correct form of legal ownership?
  • Is the property built in an area that is specially protected or where foreigners are not permitted to buy?
  • If you are buying a ‘ruin’, will you be able to restore it?
  • Are the boundaries of the property clear?
  • Is the existing planning status of the property clear?
  • Does the property have a habitation certificate, permitting its occupation as a dwelling?
  • What is the price that will be declared in the title deed (tapu)? As we have already said, the price you declare as the price paid for the property should, legally speaking, be the full price paid. This is the value used to calculate all the taxesarising out of the transaction. Declaring any other value can lead to all sorts of problems, both locally and in the country where you live. Declaring any other value is also illegal.
  • Are you aware of the rules of any condominium or Home Owners’ Association of which the property forms a part? These can be restrictive.

There will usually be other issues that arise in the special circumstances of any particular transaction.

All of these issues should be discussed with your lawyers, who should then be instructed to make the enquiries needed to protect your position.

What is the role of the estate agent/realtor?

Most buyers will use the services of a real estate agent (realtor) to help them find a property. Most estate agents in Turkey are honest and competent, but there are some who are not.

It is always a good idea to seek out a personal recommendation about estate agents from friends or family who have been through the process, or even from your lawyer.

At the very least, make sure that your estate agent is registered with the Turkish Chamber of Agents. At the moment, there is no legal obligation to be professionally qualified before operating as an estate agent in Turkey, or for the agency to be licenced. Licensing may come shortly.

Many properties are advertised via several different agents, so even if – as most of us are – you are more concerned about the property on sale than you are about the agent selling it, you can still choose to deal with a ‘better’ agent. One who is recommended. One who speaks your language. One who has experience dealing with people of your nationality.

You may come across estate agents in your own country offering property for sale in Turkey. If they are legally entitled to work as an estate agent in their own country, they are legally entitled to offer property in Turkey for sale as far as the Turks are concerned. However, such agents must (and most do) work through a registered Turkish estate agent when it comes to negotiating or finalising the transaction. So, when you come to Turkey to look at the property, you will be dealing with an estate agent experienced in selling property in Turkey.

Estate agents in Turkey may operate differently from those in your country.

For example, they do not operate a multiple listing service (MLS). As a result, you need to wander from one estate agent’s office to another to find everything that is on offer.

Alternatively, in many parts of Turkey, you can select the agent you would like to work with and they will liaise on your behalf with other agents in the area to show you both the properties that they have themselves been asked to sell and the properties on sale via all the other estate agents in the area. They will negotiate an arrangement whereby they will receive a part of the fee due to the other agent in return for introducing you to the property. You should not, yourself, have to pay the agent any fee for providing this service unless you specifically agree to do so in writing.

Another way in which the agents in Turkey will probably be different from the agents in your country is that they publish very little information about the properties they are selling. In places with a preponderance of sales to foreigners, you may find rather more detail than in other areas, but even then the information tends to be somewhat limited. There will be a picture. You will be told the number of rooms in the property, the number of square metres covered by the property and its approximate location. The rest is discovered by inspection.

You are not likely to find floor plans, the measurements of individual rooms, or any details about the facilities in the property, or in the condominium of which it might be a part, in the estate agent’s publicity materials.

Are there other sources of property in Turkey?

Yes. There are a growing number of ways in which you can find your new home in Turkey.

Banks

Following the recession of the late 2000s, many banks have repossessed properties to sell. Prices can be low. Such properties sound attractive, especially if the bank will grant you a mortgage to help buy the property, which they might be more inclined to do if – by selling the property – they are solving a problem.

However, remember that many of the properties are in undesirable locations and that many will have been neglected pending repossession. Finding a property through a bank can also be more time-consuming than when you’re using an estate agent as the estate agent will be able to help you filter the large number of areas and properties down to a few that you might really want to buy.

In fact, whilst some banks take care of the sale of these properties themselves, most put them in the hands of local estate agents. Even if you are interested in a repossessed property, you are probably better off sourcing one via an estate agent.

Private sales

A few private individuals sell their property themselves: advertising on the internet, by signs on the property and (sometimes) in specialist press. These people will, almost always, be Turkish. As a result, unless you speak Turkish, you may find dealing with them difficult. It is also, always, time consuming.

Auctions

Finally, some properties are sold by auction. Properties offered via auction are properties being sold upon the orders of the Court. Once again, the idea of buying property at auction can be superficially attractive but – unless you speak fluent Turkish and have the time to view lots of properties and attend lots of auctions – this approach is not, generally, a good idea for a foreign buyer. You can end up attending a lot of auctions where you are not the successful bidder. If you are paying somebody to do this for you, it can get expensive!

Visits to view properties

It is usual for the estate agent, or an employee of the estate agent, to accompany you when you visit the property. You may find them very reluctant to give you the full details of the property, to take you there or to give you the details of the seller until you have signed a document confirming that it is they who have introduced you to the property. Whatever the reason they give you for this requirement, the real reason is to protect their commission!

Always visit the property at least twice – preferably at different times of the day – before putting in an offer to buy the property.

Do you really need a lawyer to buy a property in Turkey?

If you speak fluent Turkish and understand both Turkish law and the system of buying and selling property in Turkey, you probably don’t need a lawyer. Many Turkish people would not use one.

However, for most foreigners the use of a lawyer is essential.

The estate agent selling you the property might try to persuade you that he has the skills to do all this work on your behalf, and that this would save you money. Don’t listen. Remember that the estate agent only gets paid if you buy the property – and that, in most cases, his client is the seller of the property, not you.

When it comes to finding a good lawyer, ideally, seek recommendations from people who live in the area: especially foreigners who speak your language.

If you don’t know anybody, you may find recommendations on the website of your country’s consulate in Turkey. Such lawyers will usually be experienced in dealing with people from your country and are likely to speak your language well.

Be very careful before using the services of the estate agent’s ‘own’ lawyers. Are they the estate agent’s brother? Are they looking after your interests or the interests of the agent who is providing all their work?

Find somebody who you are comfortable working with, who speaks your language and has experience of dealing with foreigners – preferably, foreigners of your nationality – who are buying property in Turkey.

Of course, we will usually be happy to help by acting for you!

Always make sure that you agree, in advance, a fee with the lawyer.

For the basic service, this will, typically, be an all-inclusive 1% of the price of the property (subject to a minimum of €1,200) plus any direct expenses that they incur on your behalf.

Should you arrange a survey/inspection when buying a Turkish property?

You can do quite a lot for yourself. Having a look at the property in a slow and methodical way and checking some of the basics could result in you rejecting a property without the need for a formal survey.

However, if the property passes that initial test and – wherever you buy a property – it is sensible to have the property surveyed (US: inspected). We strongly recommend a survey, especially in the case of older or unusual properties, or properties that have been extended or modified.

It would be just as expensive to re-roof or re-wire a house in Turkey as it would be back home!

Surveys are still not common in Turkey, particularly amongst Turkish buyers. They will invest in a survey for high value properties, but often don’t for more modest ones.

Surveys are carried out by licensed experts. They are inexpensive: perhaps TRY500-TRY1,000 (€121-€242/US$138-US$276/£107-£214) for a modest house.

It’s also worth noting that it can be complicated (and expensive) to carry out a survey on an apartment, where the main walls and services can (and usually do) belong collectively to all of the owners in the block rather than to one individual apartment, and where a survey of just your part of the building can be pretty much meaningless in the absence of a report about the rest of the building.

A local surveyor or your lawyer will be able to tell you whether a survey would be realistic or useful in your case.

Structural surveys typically take between seven to ten days. The time and cost varies.

Note that there may be cheaper alternatives to full structural surveys. These involve a surveyor or other skilled person inspecting the property (but not pulling up carpets, removing kitchen appliances etc.) and producing a general report as to the property’s condition. These tend to be about half of the cost of the structural survey. However, they offer less reassurance and come with fewer guarantees.

It is also possible to get some of the benefits of a survey – but not a full structural survey – by having a builder look at the property. This is usually particularly relevant if you are thinking of doing extensive repairs or alterations to the property. If you’re going to virtually rebuild it, you may not care too much about its current state and care rather more about the cost of doing the work necessary to achieve what you want to achieve. Such an opinion by a builder is likely to be free if he thinks he’s going to obtain a sizeable job because of it.

Strangely, surveys are relatively uncommon in the case of locals buying local property. As a result, it can – especially in a seller’s market – be difficult to persuade the seller to wait a couple of weeks for you to get a survey before you sign some form of contract. Often, in reality, the pressure is coming from the agent (who wants to secure their commission) rather than from the seller! However, in today’s buyer’s market, this is less of a problem.

Where possible, if you want a survey the best way is to persuade the seller to take the property off the market for a few days to allow the survey to take place and for you then, very rapidly, to sign a Reservation or Preliminary Purchase contract.

If the seller will not do this, it is legally possible to negotiate a special clause in your contract allowing you to sign a contract there and then but making the contract conditional upon your receiving a satisfactory survey result. However, many sellers are reluctant to do this because of the complexity of specifying what is ‘a satisfactory report’ (meaning that the contract must go ahead) and what is an unsatisfactory report (giving you the right to cancel the contract).

What is the role of the Notary (Noter) when buying Turkish property?

The Notary plays a large role in lots of legal transactions in Turkey – including dealing with Wills and inheritances and authenticating all sorts of important documents. See our Guide to Notaries in Turkey.

However, in Turkey (unlike in many European countries), the Notary does not play a major part in the process of buying and selling real estate.

If you’re dealing with a property transaction in Turkey, the most likely involvement with the Notary will be drafting a Preliminary Purchase Contract (in order to make it fully enforceable: see above) or producing and witnessing a Power of Attorney.

It is important to bear in mind that the Notary is not there to give you legal advice or to promote your interests at the expense of the other party. They are more a referee, to make sure the process is followed properly, than a lawyer acting on your behalf.

The Notary will usually know nothing about the law in your own country. Therefore, a Notary is no substitute for your own independent legal advice.

Communities of owners/condominiums in Turkey

Many people who buy a property in Turkey, whether as a holiday home or for their own permanent use, will choose to do so in a development that shares common facilities. The classic example of this is a block of apartments, where there are shared access ways, gardens, parking areas etc. but these days it could equally be in a resort development comprising individual houses which share the use of pools, tennis courts, and a reception area.

If you do this, you will be buying into a development with a ‘community of owners’. A community of owners is a legal structure, common throughout continental Europe and used in Turkey, which has been created to allow for the orderly management of blocks of apartments or groups of houses. This is set up by a document called the Management Plan.

If your house or apartment shares facilities with other owners, there must – by law – be a community of owners. Every block of apartments, by definition, shares facilities, because you will find that you are the owner of the internal part of your apartment but that the outside walls, the roof, the foundations and all the communal areas such as stairways and lifts will be shared with the other owners.

When you buy into a community of owners you buy not only your own house or apartment but also an undivided share of those common facilities. An undivided share is a share which is not physically apportioned to you.

In other words, you do not own (say) a piece of land representing 1% of the parking area but you and your fellow owners collectively own 100% of the parking area.

When you buy into a property that is part of a community of owners there are several consequences:

  1. You will own a share of the common areas.
    1. The size of your share will, these days, usually be proportional to the size of your apartment or house compared to the total size of all the apartments or houses. In other words, if you have an apartment of 100m2 and your neighbour has an apartment of 200m2 in a block of 1,000m2, you will own 10% of the common areas and your neighbour will own 20%.
    2. In some older developments, you may find that your share in the common areas is split equally between all the owners in the complex. In other words, if there are 100 owners you will each hold 1% of the common areas.
  2. You will be responsible for paying your proportion of the expenses of maintaining those common areas. This could include, for example, the costs of electricity used to light the hallways, the costs of cleaning, the cost of gardening, the cost of redecorating the common areas and the cost of repairs to the roof, the outside walls, and the foundations. Your share will be proportionate to your share in the community.
  3. You will be responsible for paying your proportion of the expenses of managing the community.
  4. You will have the right to take part in the management of these common areas. A committee of owners will usually be appointed to coordinate this activity and, in all but the smallest complexes, that committee is likely to employ the services of a specialist management company who will take care of things on a day-to-day basis. The committee is elected, each year, by a general meeting of the owners, which you will have a right to attend and at which you will have the right to raise any issues of concern to you and vote.
  5. The residents also elect a president. The president may have a number of duties under the terms of the community’s constitution. The president must usually be a resident in the community.
  6. If you do not pay the amounts for which you are responsible, there is a fast-track court procedure by which the community of ownerscan recover the sums due from you and – if you still fail to pay – there is a process by which they can seize and sell your property to recover the money due. To do this they are allowed to go directly to the Enforcement Court, rather than having to start a court case against you to prove the debt. You will also have to pay interest of 5% per month on the amount outstanding until payment.
  7. You will have to abide by the rules of conduct agreed by the community. You should be given a copy of these rules and of the constitution of the community when you buy your property. These are important documents as they govern your rights within the community and your day-to-day conduct. Do not ignore the rules. They can cover everything from whether you’re allowed to have pets, to whether you can use your property for businesspurposes, to the frequency with which you must mow your lawn. If you fail to comply with the rules, the community can take enforcement action against you, in the worst case obtaining a court order to ban you from doing what you’re doing – and if you fail to comply with that, your property could be sold by the court!

This all may sound rather draconian, but some such rules and arrangements are needed if a group of apartments or houses is not to fall into disrepair and so that life is not extremely noisy and chaotic. This is particularly true in the case of holiday properties.

Most owners do not have any real problems in complying with their obligations but many do find that the community can become a bit of a den of intrigue in which there is a lot of petty politics.

Incidentally, even if you are a tenant you will also have to obey the rules of the community in which you live.

It is important that you check the rules before you buy or rent. It would be unfortunate if you moved into a new home only to find that you were not allowed to keep pets or – in extreme cases – your children.

It is also important to make sure that there are no outstanding community debts for your property and to check whether the community has approved, or is discussing, any major items of expenditure.

Items that have already been approved should be the financial responsibility of the old owner, but if the community is discussing, but has not yet formally approved, (for example) the complete renovation of the swimming pool, this could cost each owner quite a lot of money.

Cooperatives in Turkey

The concept of a cooperative is, in some ways, similar to the concept of a community of owners but, in a cooperative, you and your fellow owners own the entire property between you in undivided shares. In other words, you do not have a separate legal title to your own apartment and then a shared interest in the community’s facilities. You have, say, 1% ownership of the entire building.

Under the rules of the cooperative you will still be entitled to the exclusive use of your apartment, but the legal structure is different.

Cooperatives have long been a feature of property in Turkey. They were originally invented to allow groups of people to get together, buy some land and build some houses as a shared project. They’re now much less used as the more recent community of owners’ arrangements are generally better and more efficient.

State aid for improvements to the Turkish property

There is no state aid for the improvement of property in Turkey.

Preliminary contracts to buy a property in Turkey

Once you have found a property that you would like to buy you will, almost certainly, be asked to sign some form of Reservation Agreement or Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract.

However, the market in 2017 is (once again) a bit of a buyer’s market. As a result, although you will be put under some pressure to sign some sort of preliminary contract immediately, in order that the property can be taken off the market, you should not be in any great hurry to do so. It is better to get it checked by your lawyer before you sign. This can normally be done very quickly.

Why sign a preliminary contract?

Having said that, there will genuinely be some occasions when the property in question is in great demand and you may well want, immediately, to secure it by signing at least a Reservation Agreement. There is, in principle, no reason you should not do so.

The reason people want to sign some form of preliminary contract is that it reduces uncertainty; and uncertainty almost always equates to danger. If you have only a verbal agreement to the sale, either party can change their mind and it is then, at best, difficult (but usually impossible) to prove what was agreed and to do anything about it.

From the estate agent’s point of view, it also helps him collect his commission!

However, remember that it is not strictly necessary to sign any form of Preliminary Purchase Contract, but it is almost universal practice to do so, especially in tourist areas.

Types of preliminary contracts

There are three main types of preliminary contracts that you might encounter, and two possible alternatives to them.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. They are significant. You should know what they are before you get involved in the process of buying a property in Turkey.

Estate agent’s agreement in Turkey

This is not, strictly speaking, a preliminary contract in relation to the purchase of the property, but it’s worth mentioning here just for the sake of completeness. This is only an agreement between you and the estate agent.

In most cases, it will simply be an acknowledgement that this agent has introduced you to this property. This is more in his interests than in yours, as it’s really designed to safeguard any commission he might earn from the sale of the property, particularly if the property is listed in the offices of several estate agents.

A second type of estate agent’s contract is a contract where you agree to pay an agent a fee for helping you find a property. This is rare.

It is not usual to have these agreements checked by your lawyers, though there is nothing to stop you from doing so.

Turkish Reservation Agreement/Reservation Contracts

Although estate agents in Turkey are not professionally qualified, it is very common for them to produce these simple initial contracts themselves.

This contract takes the property off the market for a short period.

It should contain little more than the details of the buyer and seller, the description of the property to be sold, the price agreed for the property and how long it will be taken off the market for you to complete your enquiries and sign a proper purchase contract.

You pay a relatively small amount of money (typically €1,000 – we refer to euros here as many properties are priced in euros) to take the property off the market for a short time (typically two to four weeks) During this period your lawyer can carry out their checks to make sure that the house is safe to buy.

If it is safe, you then sign a more comprehensive Preliminary or Promissory Purchase Contract to buy the property, or even proceed directly to the signing of the formal Deed of Sale: the tapu. See below as to these options.

If your lawyer finds any problems and you do not want to go ahead, you stop the process.

If you do not go ahead with the purchase because you merely change your mind you will, almost always, lose the deposit you have paid. If you do not go ahead because there is a legal problem with the property you will, in theory, be entitled to recover this payment. It can sometimes be tricky to do so unless the problem is clear and obviously the responsibility of the seller.

You should understand that a Reservation Contract does not give you any rights over the property. At best, it means that – if the transaction does not go ahead – you will be entitled to the refund of your money. You will not be able to take action to force the seller to sell the property to you. This does not mean that signing a reservation contract is without any merit, but it is of limited use. It is, however, a clear (if symbolic) statement of intent.

Once again, this contract is really of as much benefit to the estate agent as it is to you. If he later has any trouble with the seller, he holds at least €1,000 of his commission!

Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contracts in Turkey

A Preliminary Purchase Contract or Promissory Purchase Contract is a true contract between you and the seller, under which the seller agrees to sell the property to you and you agree to buy it. In theory, it creates a binding obligation on both parties.

Until recently, these were used a great deal. Now their use is rather rarer. This is because it has become clear that these contracts are only really enforceable by either party if they have been notarised – and that costs money.

Notarised contracts

According to Turkish Law, promissory contract for the purchase of a property must be subject to the involvement of a Notary (Noter). Otherwise the contract is accepted only as showing a debtor-creditor relation between the parties – which takes you back to the position where you are only entitled to the refund of the money you have paid.

A notarised Promissory Purchase Contract (NPCC) can be fully enforced. Both parties can be forced to honour their promises. Any penalties agreed in the contract can be applied. The seller can be forced to sell the property to you and you can be forced to buy it from the seller.

The cost of a notarised Promissory Purchase Contract is not cheap. The combination of the Stamp Duty and Notary’s fee will usually be 1.5% of the price of the property. In addition, when you finally sign the tapu (formal Deed of Sale) you will have to pay the usual property transfer tax (4%) and Title Office fee. See below for details.

Private (non-notarised) contracts

If you do not sign a notarised Promissory Purchase Contract but, instead, either sign a non-notarised Preliminary Purchase Contract or sign nothing and go directly to the Title (tapu) Office and sign a Deed of Sale (tapu), you will not have to pay this 1.5% – but you will still have to pay the Property Transfer Tax and Title Office fee when you sign the tapu at the Title Office.

Which to choose?

The top and bottom of it is that, if you sign a notarised Promissory Purchase Contract you’ll be paying more fees and tax than would otherwise be the case but your contract will be stronger and more legally enforceable.

The upside of signing a preliminary contract of any kind (notarised or not) is that, although any penalties stated in the contract will not be enforceable unless it has been notarised, it still forms a basis for you to get your deposit back if things go wrong through no fault of your own, and the basis for some kinds of litigation in respect of the contact. As the deposit paid on this type of contract is, typically, 10% of the price of the property, it is reassuring to know that you have at least some protection.

This problem of notarisation – or lack of it – is particularly important if the contract provides for a long term payment plan for the property: for example, where a property under construction is being paid for by instalments.

All in all, for many people it is probably sensible:

  • To dispense with signing a notarised Promissory Purchase Contractif you’re only paying a small deposit such as the €1,000 you would pay under a Reservation Agreement. You can proceed directly to the signing of the tapu.
  • If you’re going to be expected to pay a larger deposit, or if there is going to be a significant delay before you can sign the Deed of Sale (tapu), to sign at least a non-notarised Preliminary Purchase Contract
  • If you are going to be paying a lot of money (especially by instalments when buying a propertyunder construction) you should probably sign a proper notarised Promissory Purchase Contract, paying the fees and taxes involved

Alternatives to preliminary contracts in Turkey

Buying the land straight away

If you are buying an off-plan property (something still under construction) and the developer will agree to it, you can buy the land now (and take full legal title to it) and then agree to pay the developer for the construction of the property by instalments as the work progresses.

This gives you a lot more protection. As the owner of the land, you will benefit from the work done on it. However, few developers will accept this because, if you don’t make the payments, they’ve already handed over title to the land and have a very weak negotiating position.

An Offer to Buy (Fiyat Teklifi)

An Offer to Buy is sometimes used instead of a Promissory Purchase Contract.

This is usually when your offer is subject to conditions or where the price or payment method is very different from that sought by the seller.

It a formal written offer to buy a property.

Your lawyers or, at least, an experienced estate agent should ideally draft it. This makes sure it contains the clauses needed to protect you. There are lots of possible protective clauses: for example, a clause saying that the contract will be cancelled if you do not receive a mortgage offer within a certain number of days; or if your survey shows defects in the property; or if the seller does not produce adequate proof of ownership and legal title.

The Offer to Buy will contain a closing date by which time the buyer must have accepted your offer.

If she does not do so, the offer automatically lapses and the document is no longer of any legal effect.

Offers to Buy are rarely used in Turkey except in major commercial contracts.

Which type of arrangement should you choose when buying a Turkish property?

Whichever type of document you are asked to sign, it is a good idea to seek advice from your lawyer and to get your lawyer to have a look at it before you sign.

Is there a cooling off period?

There are some countries where the law grants buyers a period of grace, during which they can cancel their purchase contract without having to give any justification for doing so and without facing any penalty. Any money already paid must then be refunded.

Turkey is not one of these countries, so as soon as you sign a contract it is legally binding upon you.

It is, therefore, particularly important that you only sign a contract if:

  1. You really want to buy the property
  2. It is really necessary to sign a contract

It is also important that you sign the right type of contract – and one that is properly drafted to reflect your circumstances and those of your particular purchase.

What happens if you pull out of the deal?

This depends upon the type of contract you have signed. See above.

What happens if the seller pulls out?

Unless you have signed a notarised Promissory Purchase Contract, you will not be able to force the seller to sell the land to you and transfer legal title to you. The best you will be entitled to is the return of your deposit.

What if you don’t want to sign any of these agreements?

You can proceed directly to the signing of the final Deed of Sale (tapu), simply on the basis of a verbal agreement to buy. You then complete your purchase of the property and the transfer of its ownership to you at the same time, by signing the formal contract of sale – tapu – at the Land Registry. This, of course, means that you do not part with your money until you have the opportunity of obtaining full legal rights over the property.

If you’re going to do this, it is important that you and the seller really have agreed all the relevant details so that you don’t get into an argument when it comes to the Land Registry preparing the formal contract (tapu).

Buying a house in this way can save you quite a lot of money in notarial fees and taxes, but it leaves you very exposed; the seller can change their mind or move the goalposts at any point. The might decide not to sell at all or they might try to bounce you into paying a higher price, sometimes on the actual day of the proposed signing and handover.

If any of this happens, doing without the notarised Promissory Purchase Contract can prove to be a very expensive saving!

What if you are buying directly from a private seller or developer?

Some people buy property directly from a private seller or developer, without the intervention of an estate agent. You still need to take all the same precautions and sign the same contracts.

In our experience, buying directly from a private seller is almost always more complicated than buying via an estate agent. Even ignoring the language issues – most private sellers are Turkish – which often create difficulties for our clients, the whole process tends to be more problematic.

  • The sellers seldom fully understand the process.
  • The houses are often being sold privately because there are problems associated with them.
  • They are often sold in this way after they have failed to sell via an agent.
  • They are often overpriced.

It is also worth remembering that even some major developers will sell property that is illegally constructed or, for some other reason, not safe to buy. This is sometimes by oversight and sometimes a calculated attempt to sell a property with problems.

If you’re buying directly from a private seller or developer, it is absolutely essential that you use the services of a good lawyer.

The legal process of buying a property in Turkey

There are several stages in the process. It is probably worth summarising them.

The Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract (Satış Vaadi)

If you decide to sign a PPC, do so after your lawyer has carried out, at least, the following checks:

  • A check to make sure that the person selling the property is its registered legal owner; and that the property is free from debts or other burdens (e.g. rights of way across the property) that might adversely affect you
  • A check that the description of what you are buying matches the description in the title register. In the case of second-hand properties, it is commonplace for there to have been illegal or undocumented changes or extensions to the property
  • A planning enquiry to establish the current planning status for the property. Ideally, this would show that there is (in the case of a new property) a construction licence for the building of the property or (in the case of a resale property) a habitation certificate authorising the occupation of the property as a dwelling
  • Checks on the proposed contractof sale to make sure its terms are fair and cover all the necessary points needed to protect you
  • Checking that, where these are required, the proper guaranteessecuring the completion of construction of the property will be made available

There may be other checks required in the particular circumstances of your transaction. Your lawyer should discuss these with you.

Surveys in Turkey

As we’ve already mentioned, surveys are rare when people are buying property in Turkey – but this does not make them a bad idea.

If you have the property surveyed, you will at least know:

  • That it is actually the property you thought you were buying
  • What has been built tallies with the building licencethat’s been issued
  • If it is a resale property, you will have some idea of the condition of the property.

Mortgage

This will also be the time to obtain an approval, in principle, of a mortgage. See our Guide to Mortgages in Turkey.

Potential changes to the property

If you wish to make alterations to the property (for example, to put in a swimming pool) this will also be the time to check that the authorities are likely to agree to them.

If you want to use the property for a particular purpose (for example, as a bar or office) you should check that this will be permitted.

Report

Once all the steps appropriate in your case have been taken, your lawyer should produce a written report setting out their findings, their general observations and their opinion as to whether they think that it is – from a legal point of view – safe to proceed with the purchase.

Signing the Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract

If everything is OK and you decide to go ahead with the purchase, you will then often sign some form of Preliminary Purchase Contract or Promissory Purchase Contract, so committing yourself to the purchase.

You will then pay a part of the agreed price as a deposit. Typically, in the case of a resale property, this is 10% of the price. For property bought off-plan (not yet built) the deposit (often 30% of the price) is usually followed by a series of stage payments as the building work progresses. The triggers for these payments will be set out in the contract.

After you have signed a Preliminary Contract of some kind

Whether you sign some form of preliminary contract or decide to dispense with this step and proceed directly to the signing of the Final Contract of Sale (tapu), your lawyer will need to take various steps on your behalf.

Power of Attorney

In many cases they will prepare a Power of Attorney authorising someone in Turkey to sign the Final Contract of Sale/Title Deed (tapu) for you. This will be needed if you cannot or do not want to be in Turkey to deal with the formalities yourself.

The Power of Attorney can be signed either in Turkey or in your own country. It is much cheaper to do it in Turkey, if you happen to be in the country at the time. It is sometimes so much cheaper that it is worth making a special trip to Turkey for this purpose!

The person having the Power of Attorney will usually also need to apply for a tax number for you, to open a bank account and/or to obtain other documentation needed to buy a property in Turkey.

If you are taking out a mortgage in Turkey, your lawyer may need the Power of Attorney to liaise with your lender.

If you need to give your lawyer a range of powers, it will all be done in one document, though you should note that, if two or more people are buying, a separate Power of Attorney will be needed for each buyer.

If you are taking out a mortgage to help pay for the property, you will need either to be present in person for the signing of the tapu or to give a special Power of Attorney to somebody who can sign for you. Most banks no longer accept the finalisation of such contracts via an ordinary Power of Attorney. At best, they will insist that the Power is drafted as per their template. Some will insist on your being physically present. If the bank will accept signature via a Power of Attorney, you and your lawyer will need to prepare the Power of Attorney in the agreed form.

Bringing the money to Turkey

While this is taking place, you and your lawyer will make arrangements with your bank for any mortgage funding to be made available on the day the tapu is signed. In order to do this, the wording of a deed of mortgage will have to be agreed.

You will then need to arrange for the rest of the money to be transferred to Turkey. This will usually be paid into your own bank account in Turkey, leaving you or your lawyer (using a Power of Attorney) to draw it out when needed. Remember that you will need to transfer not only the balance of the price but also the amount needed to pay all the fees and taxes, plus a small margin to deal with the unexpected. Your lawyer will give you a calculation showing the amount you will need to transfer.

Whatever that sum is, it is a good idea to add a bit extra to allow for fluctuations in exchange rate and the unexpected. We suggest 1-2% of the total to be sent. If this money is not needed, it will remain in your bank account and be available to pay bills, buy furniture etc.

Make the transfer via a specialist foreign exchange (FX) company, rather than via your usual bank. This is likely to save you a lot of money. See our Guide to FX and Moving Money in Turkey.

Before you sign the Formal Deed of Sale (tapu)

After signing the preliminary contract, your lawyer will have to liaise with your seller and estate agent. When everything is ready, they will arrange for the Land Registry (Tapu Ofis) to prepare for the signing of the Deed of Sale/Title Deed (tapu).

To repeat, the tapu is the document transferring legal ownership of the property to you. It may be referred to in English in different ways: Deed of Sale, Title Deed, Formal Contract of Sale etc. none of these are strictly accurate. It is the tapu!

The tapu must, by law, be prepared by and signed in front of an officer at the Tapu Ofis, sometimes referred to (again slightly incorrectly) as the Land Registry. The Tapu Ofis must carry out various tasks to prepare for this. When everybody is ready to proceed, the tapu is signed.

Whilst this is being done, your lawyer will obtain approval from the municipality that the amount being declared in the proposed tapu is at least the minimum they assess the property as being worth.

Your lawyer will also obtain the compulsory earthquake insurance (DASK) from the government for around TRY500 (US$130/£100/€110).

The Tapu Ofis will require formal proof of your identity and other personal details, together with the relevant details of the property. They will then prepare the tapu document for signature by the seller and the buyer.

These days, the final preparation for the signing of a tapu is all a very slick process. Your lawyer will, online, make an appointment to sign the tapu, and they will usually be able to sign that day or the next day.

He or she will then pay the Property Transfer Tax due, immediately before the signing the tapu, using a special ATM in the Tapu Ofis… and that’s really it.

The only real delay comes about if you need to obtain a military clearance (which can add three or four weeks to the process) or if you want to obtain a mortgage (which will also add several weeks to the process).

When everything is ready at the tapu office, your lawyer will receive an SMS saying that the tapu is ready for signature, giving a payment code and setting a time for the signing.

Signing the Formal Deed of Sale (tapu)

As already stated, this is either signed, in person, by each of the sellers and by each of the new owners or it is signed by people having Powers of Attorney on their behalf. As also already mentioned, you may not be able to sign via a Power of Attorney if you’re taking a mortgage in Turkey.

If you attend in person to sign the tapu (which is an interesting thing to do and which could well cost you less than the price of preparing a Power of Attorney in your own country), a translator will also be required unless you speak fluent Turkish. In this case, you will be taken into a special room where the officer will read the title document to you (in Turkish) and where it will be translated for you (by your interpreter).

Once you or your lawyer have signed, you can collect your finished copy of the tapu -your proof of ownership of the property – about five minutes later.

Registration of title

This whole process is then registered in the Land Registry’s computer system – TAKBIS – and forms the legal basis of your claim to ownership of the property.

One of the great joys of the Turkish system is that the Tapu Ofis, where you sign the Deed of Sale, is the Land Registry. So, by signing the Deed of Sale, you have complied with all of the steps that are needed to secure your title to the property.

This is a great deal faster, and somewhat safer, than the arrangements in many countries, which involve a signing before a Notary followed by a separate registration of title at the Land Registry office.

How long does this all take?

The whole process from seeing the property up to the signing of the Final Contract of Sale will (in the case of a resale property with no mortgage) typically take about 12-16 weeks, though this can vary enormously.

If you are going to take out a mortgage, this will usually add about a month to the process. If you need military permission, allow an extra four to six weeks. In the case of a property under construction, the speed of construction usually determines the pace: typically, perhaps, 18 months.

What are the fees and expenses when buying a property in Turkey?

The total of the fees and expenses is typically from 6.5-10.5% of the price paid for the property. See the table below.

The largest component of this is the Property Transfer Tax, paid to the Government of Turkey. The Tapu Ofis will tell your lawyer the exact amount that is required.

The lawyer will want to have your money in his bank account in order to pay this tax! They will, usually arrange this by withdrawing the money that you have sent to your Turkish bank account (using the Power of Attorney you have given them) or by getting you to transfer the funds directly into their bank account.

The total size of the total bill depends upon several factors. The most important is the price of the property.

There will be additional fees if you’re taking out a mortgage (typically about 1% of the amount borrowed).

ItemCost
Lawyer’s fees1% of the property price (minimum €1,200) + VAT (18%)
Lawyer’s direct expensesVaries
Notaries’ fees - Power of AttorneyTRY800
Property Transfer Tax4%* of the property price (usually 2% paid by the seller and 2% by the buyer but, in some cases, the seller will ask the buyer to pay it all, or vice versa)
Military clearance, if neededTRY600
Tapu Ofis/Admin costsTRY200-TRY300

Note: this was 3% until the end of September 2017 because of a temporary discount given by the government to help the property market.

Things to do as soon as you’ve bought a property in Turkey

As the new owner of a property in Turkey, there are various steps that you ought to take:

  • Tell the local town hall that you have bought the house. This should have been done, automatically, as part of the purchase process, but it is a good idea to contact them. It’s very important for the town hall that you register as an owner, because the grant that they receive from the government each year depends upon the number of inhabitants (local and foreign) registered as living in their area. By registering you will give them just a bit more money to spend on schools, roads, garbage collection etc.
  • If your house is part of a community of owners, introduce yourself to the president and to the administrator of the community. Once again, they should have been notified about your purchase automatically but it is good manners to present yourself to them and it is helpful if, for some reason, the notification hasn’t arrived. You will need to make arrangements to pay your community fees. In some cases, these are payable monthly and in others they are payable in one annual lump sum.
  • Notify the utility companies – water, electricity and telephone- that you are the new owner of the property and arrange for future bills to be sent to you.
  • Insure the property. Your lawyer or estate agent should be able to suggest a suitable insurance company. See our Guide to Home Insurance in Turkey for more detail.
  • Finally, while it’s nothing to do with buying the house, this is a very good time to make a Will relating to your assets in Turkey. See our Guide to Wills in Turkey.

We know this all sounds a bit complicated – and it is. But, in truth, it is probably no more complicated than buying a home in your own country. It just seems to be because the process is different and you are not familiar with it.

 

Further reading

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