Monthly Archives: December 2009

BBC News – Turkey seeks return of Santa Claus’ bones

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Istanbul

Bronze statue of Saint Nicholas outside the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in Bari, Italy

St Nicholas was born in modern-day Turkey 17 centuries ago

A Turkish archaeologist has called on his government to demand that Italy return the bones of St Nicholas to their original resting place.

The 3rd Century saint – on whom Santa Claus was modelled – was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey.

But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari.

The Turkish government said it was considering making a request to Rome for the return of the saint’s remains.

While Christmas is by and large not celebrated in Muslim Turkey, the Christmas figure of Santa Claus certainly is in the Mediterranean town of his birth.

He was born in what was then the Greek city of Myra in the third century, and went on to become the local bishop, with a reputation for performing miracles and secretly giving gold to the needy – on one occasion being forced to climb down a chimney to leave his donation.

After his death he was canonised as Saint Nicholas, and venerated in much of the Christian world. But when Myra was occupied by Arab forces in the 11th Century, Italian sailors came and took the saint’s bones to the port of Bari, where they remain interred to this day.

Prof Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeological research in Demre, says Saint Nicholas had made it clear during his life that he wanted to be buried in his home town.

Even without the bones, the town of Demre has not been shy about cashing in on its most famous native son – today visitors to the Byzantine church there are greeted by a large, plastic Santa statue, complete with beard and red snow-suit.

Posted via web from Jonathan Bowker

Good morning T’Ville from Gocek , Turkey – Images:

Another Islamist succeeds only in burning his balls | The Spectator


‘Mr Schuringa then saw a ‘burning object’ – which he said resembled a small, white shampoo bottle – between the student’s legs. Mr Schuringa said: ‘It was smoking and there were flames coming from beneath his legs. I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands then threw it away.”’Daily Mail

How can we best help them, these angry young Muslim imbeciles who want us all dead, but are too thick to do anything about it? Abdul Farouk Umar Abdullah, a Nigerian, is the “syringe bomber” who attempted to detonate a device on an aeroplane above Detroit on Boxing Day, but succeeded only in setting his balls on fire. Goodness, gracious, etc. You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain, etc. Hopefully he will end up sharing a cell with the fabulously cretinous “Shoebomber”, Richard Reid, who forgot to take a lighter with him and anyway couldn’t find his fuse. Or those doctors who spent year upon year planning to blow up Glasgow Airport but couldn’t even drive through the front doors. Or the other doctors who left a bomb in a car outside a nightclub in London but forgot to set it off. Christ alive. If Armageddon really is coming and we are headed towards the final prophesied conflagration, whose side would you rather be on? The side represented by the Palestinian Authority, the Sudanese government, Abdul, Richard and those doctors – or the Israeli army? The remarkable thing is that time after time these half-wits are foiled not by government driven security measures, or the perspicacity of our secret agents, but by their own forlorn IQs. Or might it be that Allah is trying to tell them something?

I suppose, in a spirit of diversity and tolerance, we could set up training camps somewhere in the Pennines suicidal Muslims could learn to blow themselves up and then, in a final, glorious coming out parade, actually do so, perhaps watched admiringly by the Home Secretary or a minor royal. It would be a bit like those citizenship tests, except with a less equivocal conclusion.

Posted via web from Jonathan Bowker

Visiting a Turkish Bath in Istanbul – Lonely Planet

Visiting a Turkish Bath in Istanbul

Blog: GoBackpacking – 15 December 2009

This is a guest post by Nico Crisafulli. If you want to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

I visited Istanbul with the idea that I would not do a Turkish bath. I stood by that decision simply because I figured it’d be a bit too touristy, and frankly, it seemed a little silly. I mean, who sits in a hot room with a bunch of middle-aged, incomprehensible men, sweating and unable to breathe? The whole idea seemed preposterous.

That was of course until the fifth of my six days in the city. I was dining by myself at a hilariously-named restaurant in the Sultanahmet called Doy Doy, which, surprisingly, had some of the best food I encountered in over the course of my stay—the Lavash bread and lamb casserole was freakishly delicious.

Across the cobblestoned street from the Doy Doy was an inconspicuous entryway with a sign overhead that read “Bath.” Turns out this hamam was unique in the city, one of the longest continuously operating baths in Istanbul. Established in 1673, the place topped out at a quaint 335 years old, instantly making any American business touting “Since 1973″ seem kind of ridiculous in comparison.

Once dinner was fully imbibed and my hands were on my belly, I rather impulsively made the decision to throw my inhibition into the wind and remove myself from my clothes in the presence of strange Turkish men. The fact that I had nothing else to do that night was also a consideration.

I walked through the hole-in-the-wall entrance and down the long corridor, tentatively, but confident I’d made the right decision. The hallway opened up into a room set deep into the hillside, quite underneath the Blue Mosque perched on the hilltop several hundred feet above.

The proprietor stepped up at once and engaged me. He told me his prices along with a few quick details about the place. Yes, it was older than pretty much anything freestanding in my United States, setting my mind to consider how things must have been upon its grand opening.


Running water—somewhat.

Sanitation—fairly questionable.

The man’s English was marginal at best, something I actually took pleasure in since most Turks I’d encountered up until then held excellent English skills. (It just feels weird to expect everyone you see to be able to speak your own language no matter where you are in the world.)

I was shown into a dressing room and given a small towel, a pair of rubber clogs and was left to wonder what next to do. I undressed, donned said towel and clogs and stepped out into the suddenly very drafty main salon. Luckily, it was late and the place was empty save for the proprietor and one male client who was lounging in an easy-chair smoking a languid cigarette.

The proprietor gave my elbow to an old man, roughly of retirement age, and dressed in nothing but my matching towel and clogs. He escorted me through a squat doorway into the bath proper.

Turkish mosaic

Turkish mosaic

This is where the experience became an authentic roll through hundreds of years of Turkish history. The bath rooms were a honeycombed marvel, made fully of marble, laid out as a large hexagon with six circular alcoves around a main room with a high domed marble ceiling above. Vents pocked the ceiling and a warm steam permeated the space. The alcoves were dark and had benches and basins for splashing warm water onto your face and neck. In the center of the main room sprawled a gigantic marble slab about 15 feet square and was exquisitely warm to the touch.

The old man gestured abrasively for me to lay belly down on the slab. The warmth was magnificent. Not too hot to scald, but warm enough to quickly bring my core temperature up from the winter chill outside. I was alone in the dim space, and with face pressed to marble, couldn’t have been more comfortable.

Two minutes later the old man was dumping hot water on me. Not misting or sprinkling water but literally unloading pail after pail of sweet hot water all over my back, without pause or explanation. The sensation was wonderful. Hot marble, hot water, ancient stone containing who knew what history. Any anxiety I may have had walking into the place was quite literally washed away.

Four pails were unloaded onto me and the old man spoke what I could only assume meant “come with me.” I spatulaed myself from the slab and, dripping wet, followed him though a set of swinging doors I hadn’t noticed before. I came into a small, cool, also marble room that had showers and another smaller slab upon which I was made to lay. He thereupon proceeded to pumice me from head to toe. He did this unhesitatingly and without mercy. When he finished, my entire body was glowing red and quivering like raw meat.



Following the exfoliation, I was soaped down with the same willful abandon. Pails of hot water, suds and oil rained down upon me. Wet soap was splashed from all angles. What surprised me most about this process was not the way my senses were near-electronically lit up, but how artfully this man did his job. He simply reveled in it, sang, whistled, cascaded pumice over rosy skin as if he was lathing the finest quality wood.

Twenty minutes later, with the treatment nearly done (the finale was probably 10 pails of hot water dumped shamelessly over my head) he incomprehensibly said I had the option to return to the warm slab in the main bath or to adjourn to the salon and changing cabins. I meekly gestured my wish for the slab and took another 15 minutes daydreaming about sultans and concubines on a piece of marble that felt as soft as pillows.

Once I had my fill, I exited the bath and returned to the salon. The proprietor came over, gave me a warm dry towel for my waist and wrapped another one around my head with such expertise I had a hard time removing it later. The mirror showed me someone looking vaguely similar to Suleiman the Magnificent, towel on my head tight as a turban.

We chatted awkwardly upon my leaving. He said I had good lips which, according to him, meant that I was an intellectual. Go figure. His English may have been off, but I took it as a compliment.

The bathing practice has a compelling history in Turkey. Throughout its long Empire-laden history the Turks have held the practice with solemnity, and it’s evident in the ritual. Some of the most elaborate rooms in the Sultan’s palace nearby were dedicated purely to hygiene, something that is quite lacking in the structures of Western Europe of the same time period. Not to mention the simple statistic of a public bath remaining in operation well over 3 centuries.

Whatever compelled me to pass through that simple entrance notwithstanding, I’m happy to have experienced this cultural phenomenon first-hand. I doubt I’ll look upon my little bathroom back at home the same way ever again.


Nico Crisafulli writes regularly for the AirTreks blog.

Posted via web from Jonathan Bowker

A decade in travel: Frances Linzee Gordon’s review – Lonely Planet blog

Posted via web from Jonathan Bowker

Year in Review: Social networks come of age

By the numbers, it’s easy to say 2009 was the year social networking went mainstream. After all, if Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third most populated, behind China and India.

But the numbers only begin to show how social networks, led by Bay Area companies Facebook and Twitter, are reshaping the way people communicate. And because of that trend, businesses began to adopt social media in 2009 and figure to get more involved in the new year.

“The corporate response was no longer, ‘What is this thing?’ ” said analyst Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. “They were asking questions about how should we go about this, which tools should we use and what sort of (return on investment) should we expect. They were asking business questions.”

Social media has gone from being an easy way for people to keep up with friends and relatives to becoming as integral for businesses as e-mail in managing customer relationships and projects.

“It is my lifeline for business,” said Lisa Choi, a partner program manager for Responsys Inc., a San Bruno e-mail marketing company.

Choi said her Facebook profile was “very personal” a year ago, but then she started using it to set up meetings and deepen relationships with clients.

“I started adding more people from my professional world to my personal world,” Choi said. “I have over 900 friends on Facebook, and half of them are work-related.”

Even though surveys showed a large number of firms were restricting or blocking employees from using social networks, businesses still tend to follow the consumers, who were flocking to social media in droves in 2009.

Facebook registered its 350-millionth member in December, a phenomenal growth spurt considering the Palo Alto firm had 140 million members one year earlier.

Facebook shot past previous social-media king MySpace, which doesn’t release its total membership numbers, but reports that it has more than 100 million unique monthly users.

And Bernoff said the year in social media is better summed up with one word: Twitter.

Thriving on brevity

That’s appropriate because the 3-year-old San Francisco microblogging service has thrived on the brevity of its 140-character messages and took off in 2009 with celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey tweeting.

The privately held Twitter does not reveal how many members it has, although some analysts estimate that there are more than 70 million. The online analytics firm Compete Inc. has said Twitter’s number of unique U.S. visitors increased from 4.5 million in November 2008 to 22.4 million last month. And according to Web measurement firm comScore Inc., Twitter grew to 58.3 million unique visitors worldwide in October, compared with 4.4 million 12 months earlier.

Bernoff, co-author of “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies,” said Twitter’s growing influence was felt worldwide, even to the point that the larger Facebook changed the way it looks and operates to more closely emulate Twitter.

Both are generating income from deals with Google and Microsoft’s Bing to integrate their posts into real-time searches. The conversations, data and other information on those posts are potentially valuable to marketers.

Another measure of that influence came in June, when Twitter became a major conduit for the world’s news and communication from Iran as residents protested the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The U.S. State Department even asked Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance to make sure Iranians were able to tweet.

Other major events like the death of Michael Jackson turned Twitter into an instant news wire.

Negative publicity

Business began paying attention to what their customers were saying on Twitter and Facebook, quickly learning how negative publicity can spread like wildfire over social networks.

Domino’s Pizza found that out in April when two employees posted a YouTube video showing them handling food in an unsanitary manner. The clip went viral through social media. And in July, United Airlines had to deal with a firestorm when a disgruntled musician posted a video protesting the carrier’s handling of his broken guitar.

This holiday season, big retailers such as Sears-Kmart, Target, Toys R Us and J.C. Penney used tweets and Facebook fan pages as a direct marketing tool to promote Black Friday specials. One survey showed that 28 percent of early holiday shoppers were influenced to buy a gift through social media.

Carl’s Jr. chain is using its Facebook fan page to present an interactive “lunch date” on Jan. 13 with Kim Kardashian, who began promoting a new line of salads this week.

It’s not just major firms. A Web site that serves small businesses on the Peninsula runs Twitter Hunt promotions. One hunt for Gaia Essentials, a small Moss Beach soap and skin products shop, asked Twitter followers to answer a trivia question from information found on the shop’s Web site, and its traffic tripled.

Cost effective

“It’s a cost-effective ad solution, helping them expand their customer base,” said Jason Sutherland, owner and founder of

Choi uses a plug-in from Xobni Inc. of San Francisco that integrates Microsoft Outlook with her social networks, so photos, status updates and other information are visible within the e-mail program.

Look for more of that kind of integration next year. Microsoft has demonstrated its next version of Outlook that ties into professional social network LinkedIn Corp. of Mountain View, while NutshellMail, a startup partially funded by Facebook, released an application this month that manages social-network interactions through e-mail.

Xobni founder Matt Brezina believes social media and business now have a firm partnership.

“The individual players might change,” Brezina said. “There might be a new Facebook that comes out that beats this Facebook. But the type of data they’re showing and its usefulness to people inside business, I don’t think that’s going anywhere.”

E-mail Benny Evangelista at

Posted via web from Jonathan Bowker

The International Law Partnership – Turkey – Buying Property in Turkey

Buying Property in Turkey

Buying a property in any country is a complicated process. Buying a property in a country where you do not speak the language, you do not understand the culture and you do not understand the legal system is even more complicated than normal!

Buying a property in your own country tends to appear more straightforward because you are familiar with the process and the way in which things work. When you read a guide about how to buy a property in another country you may think that it seems far more complicated than buying one at home.

Generally speaking, this isn’t so. A foreigner buying a property in the UK would find the process just as complicated and confusing as you find the process of buying a property in, say, Bulgaria or Dubai.

Our Guide to Buying a Property in Romania is designed to explain the process as simply as possible, to point out some of the key issues and problems involved and to answer some of the questions most frequently asked by our Clients.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember that this can only be a GENERAL guide. It is no substitute for proper independent legal advice. We will be happy to provide that advice upon request.

Is buying a property overseas a good idea?

For many of our clients this has been one of the best decisions of their life. The person buying a holiday home sees a huge lifestyle benefit and they often become so comfortable in the area that they later decide to retire there. They usually also see it increase enormously in value over the years. The person retiring finds a better climate, a lower cost of living and, often, a far more active social life than they enjoyed at home. The investor who buys well and takes good advice sees an asset that often performs far better than the stock exchange – and often with less risk.

Buying a property overseas is not for everyone, but it suits a very large number of people. There are now over 800,000 British households that own a property overseas (Source: MINTEL).

Will Turkey do well for you?

Well, we don’t have a crystal ball, but we do have over 20 years experience and regularly advise clients who want to put together a portfolio (large or small) of overseas property investments around the world and who are confused by the huge amount of choice now available to them. Contact us or download our ‘Buying Property as an Investment” booklet for more details.

Is the way you buy a house in Turkey the same as at home?

No. The systems abroad are very, very different from the English, Irish or US way of doing things.

Generally speaking, however, provided that the appropriate checks are carried out, in most countries there is hardly any more need to worry than there is when buying at home.

Unfortunately, very often people buying property overseas take little or no legal advice and are far too “casual” about the purchase and about the signing of legal documents. If they go about things in this way it can turn out badly. They may find there is no title to the property, that it was built without planning permission. . . or that it does not even exist! DO NOT DO THIS. For your own safety, insist on taking proper, independent, legal advice.

Can you make all the same checks that you would make in Britain?

No. As we have already said, the systems are very different. We can only do what is normal in the country where you are buying the property. We cannot turn this into an ‘English’ transaction.

Sometimes the local procedure is not as safe as our system. Sometimes it is better. It is always different!

Remember, though, that every year thousands of local people successfully and safely buy houses and apartments.
That is what we set out to do for you.

The role of the estate agent (US: realtor)

Most UK, Irish and US buyers use the services of an estate agent to help them find a property.

Most (but not all) estate agents are, of course, honest, but however honest and helpful they may be you must remember that they are only paid if the property is sold and that they are not able to give you independent legal advice.

Once you have found a property that you would like to buy you will almost certainly be asked to sign some form of reservation or preliminary/promissory purchase contract. It is far better to sign NOTHING until it has been checked by your lawyer. This can, usually, be done quickly – see below.

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

Sales direct from a seller or developer in Turkey

Increasingly, our clients are buying directly from a seller or developer, without the intervention of an estate agent.
You still need to take all the same precautions.


The Role of the Notary in Turkey (Noter)

In most countries in the world the Notary (Noter) plays a major part in the process of buying and selling real estate.
The Notary is an official who is there to put on the public record the fact that the formal documents recording the sale/purchase have been signed in his or her presence and understood by the parties concerned.

The Notary also carries out a number of checks as to the status of the property and/or the buyer and seller. The Notary may act for both buyer and seller.

The Notary will, however, almost always know NOTHING about UK, Irish or US law and, often, has limited English. The use of the Notary is, therefore, no substitute for your own independent legal advice.

Loans & mortgages

Financing the purchase of the property may take several forms. For example:

• a first (or second) mortgage from a UK/Irish/US lender, secured on your existing UK/Irish/US property
• a mortgage on your new Turkish property from a lender in Turkey (or, occasionally, elsewhere)

Turkish mortgages are different from UK/Irish/US mortgages.

The mortgage market is only JUST starting in Turkey but a few mortgages are becoming available. This situation is likely to improve quite quickly. You will, of course, have to meet the bank’s eligibility criteria.

At the time of writing typical interest rates are about 6.10% and a normal Loan to Value ration is about 75%. Most mortgages do not exceed a term of 20 years or age 75 years. Interest only mortgages are not generally available.

You should bear in mind that the range of mortgage products on offer to you will not be as wide or as flexible as you are used to in the UK, Ireland or the US.

Also, because the market is quite new, it is difficult to predict the formalities, paperwork, timescale or complications likely to be involved in taking out a Turkish mortgage.

Choosing the wrong mortgage is an expensive mistake.

Many of our clients discuss their position with us so that they can decide whether a local or an overseas mortgage will suit them best. We can then, if they wish, introduce them to specialist mortgage brokers in their own country or in Turkey so that they can arrange the best mortgage for their individual needs.

Structural surveys

As is the case with the purchase of a property anywhere, it is often prudent to have the property you intend to buy surveyed (US: inspected). We strongly recommend a survey, especially in the case of older or unusual properties or in the case of properties that have been extended or modified. Structural surveys typically take 7 – 10 days. The time and cost varies from place to place.

We can, if you wish, make arrangements for such a survey and will be pleased to advise about the merits of doing so.

What is the process of buying a property in Turkey?


The process of buying a property – whether for your personal use or as an investment – SHOULD start with thorough preparation.
This will save to a lot of wasted time AND money.

We STRONGLY recommend that you make contact with us BEFORE you go to look at any property.

That way we can deal with all of the key issues (such as those listed below) calmly and clearly, before you get involved in the rush and pressure always associated with buying a specific property anywhere in the world.

  • Who should own the property?

    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, as the case may be, the shareholders in the company that owns the property. The best choice is, often, not obvious.

    Getting this wrong can cost you tens of thousands of pounds/euro/dollars of totally unnecessary taxes, during your lifetime and on your death.
    Most local lawyers will be unable to help you make this decision as it involves an understanding of both the local AND your own legal, tax and inheritance systems.

    We will be happy to assist you in making this vital decision.

    What are the options?

    There are many ways to purchase the property. These include:

  • in your own name alone
  • in your name and in the name of your co-purchaser(s)
  • wholly or partly in your children’s names or in the name of somebody whom you would like (eventually!) to inherit the property from you
  • in the name of a limited company, whether English, Turkish or “off-shore”
  • via your SIPP/SSAS pension fund
  • via an investment fund (REIT, PUT etc)
  • via an investment club
  • via a trust
Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. The one that will be best for you will depend entirely upon your own personal circumstances.

In Turkey this is particularly important because of the restrictions imposed by Turkish inheritance law (see below). If the property is put into the wrong people’s names, the wrong people will have the right to inherit it!

We shall be pleased to advise as to the most advantageous method for you.

The ‘Reservation Contract’, ‘Offer to Buy’ or ‘Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract’

A Reservation Contract (Rezervasyon Sozlesmesi) is a contract, usually short, under which you pay a small amount of money (typically £2000, $3,000 or €3,000) to take the property off the market for a short time (typically 2 to 4 weeks). During this period your lawyers can check things out. If everything is in order you then sign a preliminary/promissory purchase contract and pay over a full deposit. If there are any problems, you pull out. Usually, if you pull out because of legal problems you will be contractually entitled to your money back. If you simply change your mind you will often lose the deposit.

An Offer to Buy is a formal written offer to buy a property. It should, ideally, be drafted by your lawyers or a qualified estate agent to make sure that it contains any clauses needed to protect your position. Once you have made the offer, if it is accepted by the seller this can create a legally binding commitment. An Offer to Buy is not a document to be signed lightly.

A Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract (Gayrimenkul satis vaadi sozlesmesi) is a legally binding contract to buy the property. It is followed up by a formal contract of sale, so to that extent it is a preliminary contract, but it is legally binding. If you do not go ahead with the purchase you will almost certainly lose your deposit and may face further action from the seller.

In fact, whichever type of document you are signing it is a good idea to get your lawyer to have a quick look at it before you do so. They are not always what they seem. See our ‘Checking your Contract’ service, below.

We much prefer it if clients start the purchase by way of a Reservation Contract or Offer to Buy. It is the safest.

Often, however, they come under pressure to sign a fully binding contract (‘Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract’ or ‘Private Contract’) at this very early stage – before anything has been checked out. Try to resist this. If there is no alternative ALWAYS get it checked by your lawyer before you sign it. Ideally, it should be subject to conditions (US: contingencies) stating that if various things do not happen (e.g. if you don’t get a mortgage or permission to build a swimming pool) the contract will be cancelled and you will be entitled to your money back.

In fact, in Turkey it is most likely (especially if you are dealing with a UK/Irish agent or a Turkish agent who specialising in foreign buyers) that you will be asked to sign a Reservation Contract (Rezervasyon Sozlesmesi) in the first instance and pay over a deposit of £2,000/€3,000, sometimes less. This contract will usually give you 2 – 4 weeks to make the necessary enquiries and sign a Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract. Where possible we prefer you to sign this type of contract as it gives us the opportunity to check that everything is in order BEFORE you part with a substantial sum of money. Some agents will, however, ask you a sign a full Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract (Gayrimenkul satis vaadi sozlesmesi) right at the outset of the purchase process. Remember that these are not really a preliminary agreement at all. They are a commitment to buy. Try to avoid signing one of these at this stage if you can.

Whichever type of contract you are asked to sign, do get it checked by your lawyer before you sign it. See above.

After you have signed a Reservation Contract

We carry out, or arrange for, a variety of checks to make sure that the property is what it seems. These will vary from place to place and from one type of property to another but would usually include:

• a Land Registry 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 onerous burdens
• 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 contract of sale to make sure its terms are fair and cover all of the necessary points
• checking that, where these are required, the proper guarantees securing the completion of construction of the property will be made available

If you want a survey (which we recommend – see above), now is the time to do it. The same applies to obtaining an approval, in principle, of any mortgage. If you wish to make alterations to the property, for example to put in a pool, this is the time to check that the authorities will, in principle, approve the project – though you will not usually be able at this stage to get a binding commitment to do so. If you have not already done so, now is the time to decide who will become the legal owner of the property (see above). There will usually also be some issues specific to your property that will need to be checked at this stage.

Be aware that, in some cases, all is NOT as it should be. Even if you are buying from a reputable estate agent or a substantial looking developer.
Once all of the steps appropriate in your case have been taken, we produce a lengthy written report setting out our findings, our general observations and our opinion as to whether we think that it is, from a legal point of view, safe to proceed with the purchase.

If you decide to go ahead, you then sign the Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract and pay over a deposit, typically in the case of a resale property 10% of the price. For property bought off plan the deposit (often 30% of the price) is usually followed by a series of stage payments as the building work progresses.

After you have signed a Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract

If you do not already have one, we will need to obtain a tax identification number for you. We will, in many cases, prepare a Power of Attorney authorising someone in Turkey to sign the tapu senedi on your behalf (see below). We may need to deal with the opening of a bank account or to obtain other official documentation needed to complete the purchase. We will need to make sure that the seller makes an application for ‘military permission’ for you, as a foreigner, to own land in Turkey. If you are taking out a mortgage in Turkey we will need to liaise with your lender. In any case, we will have to liaise with your Seller and, when everyone (and the house) is ready, we prepare for the signing of the tapu senedi.

The ‘Cooling Off Period’

There is no cooling off period when you buy a property in Turkey. Once you have signed the Preliminary/Promissory Purchase Contract (Gayrimenkul satis vaadi sozlesmesi) you are committed and you can only ‘escape’ from the contract for good legal reasons – those stated in the contract or laid down by the general law. It is, therefore, VITAL that you are entirely happy with the terms of the purchase before you sign any contract.

Do I need official permission to buy a property in Turkey

Yes. As a foreigner wishing to buy in Turkey you need ‘military permission’ This involves the authorities agreeing (1) that you are a fit and proper person to own property in Turkey (not a problem unless you are an axe murderer) and (2) that the land is not in a militarily sensitive area
Because of the huge increase in the number of foreign buyers, this process can now take well over 6 months – fine if you are waiting 12 months for your ‘off plan’ property to be built but a problem if you are buying resale and the seller will not wait. The process is, however, changing and those changes should make it a little faster, In addition, there a persistent rumours that the requirements might be abolished for certain EU citizens.
In any case, if getting military permission is a pain we can usually get around the problem by buying not in your name but in the name of a Turkish company wholly owned and controlled by you. We will, if the need arises, advise you as to the pros and cons of the various options available to you.

Are there any restrictions on a foreigner owning property in Turkey

Yes, but they are not significant restrictions for most people. A foreigner from a country that allows Turks to buy in their country (this includes the UK & Ireland) can buy up to 25,000 m2 of land without further formality except for military clearance (see above). For land up to 30 hectares (300,000 m2) permission is needed.

Signing the Final Contract/Deed of Sale (tapu senedi)

As soon as everyone is ready to proceed, the Final Contract of Sale/Title Deed (tapu senedi) is signed.

When you sign the tapu senedi is, normally, when you pay over the balance of the price of the property and the taxes and other fees. This tapu senedi is the document transferring ownership to you.

Unusually (and very sensibly) this tapu senedi is signed at the Land Registry in front of an officer of the registry. There is, therefore, no further delay whilst you are waiting for later registration of the title.

The whole process up to the signing of the tapu senedi will (in the case of a resale property with no mortgage) typically take about 12 – 16 weeks, though this can vary enormously. In the case of a property under construction, the pace is usually determined by the speed of construction – typically, perhaps, 18 months.

Special points for new properties

Is the property specification agreed in detail? How are you going to deal with the handover and snagging list? Are you clear about what ‘common parts’ – general facilities to be shared by all the owners in your complex – are included in the price? What are the arrangements for the management and control of those facilities? There will, probably, be other points as well.

It can be a good idea to have a new property surveyed (inspected) before delivery to establish whether there are any defects present.

What are the main dangers 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.
So this is probably a good time to put in the ‘Disclaimer clause’!

Having said that, 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?
• Does the property suffer from any defects?
• Is what the Seller and the agent have told you about it 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?
• Are you SURE the property is legal?
In Turkey there are huge numbers of properties that have no title, no planning permission or are illegally constructed. According to the Turkish Daily News (14th January 2004) there are 600,000 illegal houses in Istanbul alone! That is 60%. In the south it can be worse.
• Are you going to get full legal title to the property (kat mulkiyeti tapu) or a lesser, provisional, title (kat irtifak tapu)?
There are various types of “title” in Turkey, some of which give you only the right to occupy land rather than full ownership.
• Is the property you are buying zones as private residential property or in some other capacity – such as tourist use?
• Is this a cooperative property? These are normally accompanied by lots of problems. Cooperative developments might only give you ownership of the stones and concrete from which the building is constructed, without conferring any right to live in the property or an independent legal title!
Is the property built in an area that is specially protected? For example, if you buy a plot of land which is designated as an archaeological site (sit alan) the Museum Service can freeze all activity on the land until it has been thoroughly investigated. You cannot even cut the grass, let alone build. Similar restrictions apply to historic buildings.
• Is the property in a militarily sensitive area. Note that there are many areas – some in the most unlikely places – designated ‘military zones’, where foreigners cannot own property.
• 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?
• Is the Seller asking for illegal “black money” payments?

The price you declare in the Deed of Sale as the price paid for the property should, legally speaking, be the full price paid. This is the value used to calculate all of the taxes arising out of the transaction. Declaring any other value can lead to all sorts of problems, both locally and in the country where you live.

Despite this, in many parts of Turkey there is still a culture of under-declaration. This is part of the wider addiction to ‘black money’ – money that is kept well out of sight of the taxman.

Sometimes you will have to compromise. Before doing so you need to understand the issues and risks involved and how your position can best be protected. We will be happy to advise you on this point.

• Does the seller want to be paid in real cash money?
• Are you aware of the rules of any management scheme, condominium or home owners association of which the property forms a part? These can be very restrictive.

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

Do I have to be in Turkey to complete the transaction?

The Seller and the people buying the house usually need to attend, in person to sign the Final Purchase Contract/Deed of Sale (tapu senedi). However, if this is inconvenient, arrangements can be made for a Power of Attorney to be granted enabling another person to attend on their behalf. This should be in the Turkish form and, generally, signed in front of a Notary Public, usually near to where you live. We can arrange for this to be prepared. We recommend that you give a Power of attorney even if you intend to be present in person (which we also recommend).
How do I get the money to Turkey?

There are important decisions to make as far as obtaining the currency to buy your property is concerned. Should you buy it now or later? Should you take an option contract to guarantee your right to buy at a certain rate in the future or should you “forward buy” (committing yourself to the purchase at a set rate but paid for largely on delivery)? Who should you use to transfer the funds?

Getting this right can save you a lot of money! On a €300,000/£200,000/$350,000 purchase it can easily amount to a saving of €3,000/£2,000/$3,500.

We can discuss these issues and, where appropriate, refer you to currency brokers. We are not currency brokers and do not attempt to research all of the options available. Instead we refer you to people who have given our clients good service in the past.

Many of our clients ask us to transfer their funds for them. Why? Well, our bank and currency brokers are doing this all the time and so make fewer mistakes. We will also often (but not always) be able to eliminate bank charges in relation to the transfer. These can amount to hundreds of pounds/euro/dollars, even for a small transfer. But, most importantly, because of the very large volumes of currency we transfer, our currency brokers guarantee that we will receive a better exchange rate than our clients would if they dealt with them direct. We also have a special arrangement under which we do not send the brokers we deal with a single penny of your money until after they have proved that their bank has sent the money abroad. This gives you complete protection against the risk of the broker going bust whilst in possession of your money – something that happened to a major broker 2 or 3 years ago. All this makes our sending the money on your behalf a really good idea.

What about paying the taxes due?

We will arrange for the payment of any property transfer taxes due in relation to the transaction.

Is there a Land Registry system in Turkey?

Yes. In fact, in Turkey, the system is unusual in that the Final Purchase Contract/Deed of Sale (tapu senedi)is signed at the Land Registry and so no further administrative steps are required to register your title.

What taxes will I have to pay as the owner of a property in Turkey?

As a non resident of Turkey you will have to pay certain taxes in Turkey and you will also have to declare any income and gains in the country where you are tax resident.

Please download our ‘Guide to Taxes in Turkey’ booklet for more information.
What other ongoing obligations will I have in Turkey?

These will vary depending upon who becomes the legal owner of the property. We will be happy to advise on this point.
Should I make a local Will?

This is, generally, a good idea. You will also need to amend your English/Irish/US Will. We will happily assist you with both of these tasks.
What happens to my property when I die?

This is a complex subject. Please download our ‘Dealing with an Inheritance in Turkey booklet.
Why do I need The International Law Partnership?

You will need advice on a range of issues that will be very different from the advice needed by a person from Turkey buying a house in Turkey.
You will need to have the Turkish system – and its implications – explained to you. You will need to plan your affairs taking into account the combined effect of the legal and tax systems in your own country and those in Turkey. The local system may produce the most unexpected and undesirable results if left on its own.

As we mentioned in the section on preparation, it is vitally important to choose the best form of legal ownership for the property. This can save you thousands of pounds. The interaction of your own law and Turkish law, particularly with regard to taxation and inheritance rights, calls for careful consideration. This is especially so as the cost of rectifying a wrong initial decision is often as much as, if not more than, the whole expense of the purchase in the first place!

Giving all this advice calls for specialised knowledge of both legal systems and, increasingly, also of European Union legislation on property, tax and inheritance. Of course, it also requires language skills.

A local lawyer cannot be expected to be conversant with foreign legal & tax systems and will almost certainly not be in a position to advise non-Turkish clients appropriately and fully. He or she will, often, not think about the problems that their ‘normal’ procedure may create for foreigner buyers.

The local lawyer may also not speak English, at least to the standard needed to have a sensible discussion with you about complex technical matters.
It is, therefore, potentially very expensive not to seek the assistance of a specialist lawyer able to advise on Turkish legal matters within the context of your own law and your own legal and tax system.

The International Law Partnership is the ONLY firm of solicitors that deals ONLY with international transactions and that can offer you, under one roof, the services of a team of lawyers from many jurisdictions, including Turkey.

How can The International Law Partnership help me buy a home in Turkey – and what will it cost?

The work we can do for you

We offer you the choice of four services. You may want to use just one of these services, or several.

Preliminary Meeting

We strongly suggest that you arrange a meeting with us before you go to look for property. This way we can discuss all of the key issues – including which areas might best suit your needs, the types of property available, who would be the best owner for tax purposes, how the property should be paid for, mortgages, inheritance issues and how to minimise your tax liabilities – calmly before you get into the rush and pressure involved in buying.
The meeting can also cover whatever other issues may be important to you. It can be face to face, over the telephone or by video conference.
To arrange a meeting just telephone us. The meeting will typically take an hour to an hour and a half and we will follow it up with a letter confirming the points discussed.

Our fee is a fixed £500/€750/$950 + UK VAT.

Preliminary check of your Contract or Offer to Buy

If you are asked to sign ANYTHING we strongly suggest that you fax it or email it to us first.
We will then phone you back and:

• Discuss whether it is necessary to sign anything at all at this stage.
• Go through the terms and legal effect of the proposed contract with you.
• Advise you whether the terms are fair and reasonable.
• Suggest any changes we think are necessary.
• Try to negotiate those changes, there and then, with the agent or developer concerned.

You will then be clear about what you are signing and the consequences of signing it. This is not as good as giving us time to carry out a full investigation but it is a great deal better than nothing at all.

We can normally provide this service, Monday to Saturday, ‘while you wait’.

We will charge for the work we do on a time basis. You will appreciate that some contracts are much longer than others and that some need more modification than others. A typical fee for a short(ish) reservation contract would be £150/€225/$285 – 1 hour’s work and the fee for a 5 page preliminary purchase contract might be £300/€450/$500 – 2 hours’ work.

Our ‘International’ Service

This service gives you advice about ONLY the INTERNATIONAL legal and tax issues arising out of your purchase. This leaves you free, if you wish, to use a local Turkish lawyer to deal with the actual purchase of the property.
We will, for example:

• explain the way the local system of property purchase works
• discuss the special issues to look out for when buying a property in Turkey
• guide you as to some of the things you should make sure your Turkishlawyer looks into
• discuss the tax and inheritance issues and any other relevant problems arising out of the interaction of the English and Turkish legal systems.

Once we have done this we will confirm our advice to you in writing and also brief your Turkish lawyers by writing to them covering the key points we have discussed and explaining your wishes.

You can choose the Turkish lawyer yourself or we can, if you wish, introduce you to one. This will, wherever possible, be a lawyer who has already given good service to our clients and who we know speaks satisfactory English. In making this introduction we would simply be introducing you to the lawyer as a client. You would then deal directly with that lawyer, not via us. We do not accept any responsibility for the advice given by that lawyer, his actions or inactions. We make no extra charge to you for introducing you to the lawyer as he will share a part of his fee with us to reflect the work that we have done.

This service goes into much more detail about your proposed transaction and covers much more ‘international’ ground than our preliminary meeting.
Our fee for this service is 0.5% of the value of the property, with a minimum of £750/€1,125/$1,425. For properties over £500,000/€750,000/$950,000 there is a scaled reduction in our fees.

Our Property Transfer Service

In short, this service covers everything needed in an ordinary property purchase: establishing your requirements; checking the contract documents; producing a full report concerning your proposed purchase; liaison with you, your Notary, the estate agent (US: realtor) and/or the seller etc.
Our fee for this work is 1% of the price of the property, subject to a minimum. In the case of a resale property the minimum is £1,500/€2,250/$2850. In the case of a property under construction/renovation or being sold for the first time the minimum is £2,000/€3,000/$3,800. New property is more expensive because it involves more work and because we may be dealing with your case for 2 years or more. In each case there is a scaled reduction in our fee for properties over £500,000/€750,000/$950,000.

Which service will be best for you?

For your convenience, at the end of this guide we set out the features of each of these services in tabular form so that you can compare them and decide which is best for you.

Revising our Estimate

We try to stick to the estimated charges set out above but if the transaction becomes unusual or unduly complicated for any reason, we reserve the right to revise our charges. For example, we have had situations where one of the parties has died part way through the transaction, or divorced, or for some reason has refused to cooperate in the sale. Or where the sellers or buyers have fallen out between themselves. Or where the property has become the subject of a court case. Or where there have been defects in the title or planning situation. Or where there has been delay in the construction. Or where the money has been lost or delayed in transit by the bank. Or where you wish to negotiate substantial changes to your contract.

Payments on Account of Fees & Expenses

We require an initial payment on account of our fees and expenses. We ask for further payments on account as the work progresses. If you do not make the payments requested we reserve the right to stop work!

What does the whole purchase cost?

Our own charges are normally only a very small part of the overall cost of buying!

As a general guide, in the case of a RESALE property, the TOTAL costs (our charges for our Property Transfer Service, land registry fees, Notary’s fees, taxes, bank charges etc) normally come to about 6% of the price of the property.

In the case of a PROPERTY UNDER CONSTRUCTION, the TOTAL costs, excluding any VAT or equivalent payable on the property, normally come to about 5% of the price of the property. In Turkey new properties are subject to tax at 3% which, just to confuse you, is sometimes (but not always) included in the price of the property as quoted to you. If you are buying a new property it makes sense to ask whether the price includes the tax. 3% is a lot of money!

In both cases, if the property is less than about £50,000/€75,000/€95,000 the overall percentage will be higher. If the property is over about £500,000/€750,000/ $950,000, the overall cost will usually be a little lower.

These can, of course, at this stage be only the most general of estimates. We will give you a more detailed estimate of the likely overall cost once we know more about your particular purchase.

If a transaction does not proceed to completion – for whatever reason – we charge at our current hourly charging rate for the work actually undertaken.

Finally, all or part of these charges may attract Turkish or English VAT at the current rate.

Extra work

Other work may be needed. For example, you may want:
• to take out a mortgage to help buy the property.
• to buy through a Limited Company or to set up a Limited Company to buy the property.
• a valuation (appraisal) or survey (inspection).
• us to negotiate the price of the property or other contractual issues.
• us to arrange for a Power of Attorney authorising someone to sign the Final Purchase Contract/Deed of Sale (tapu senedi) on your behalf. Note: You will then also have to pay the charges of the person who attends to sign and pay the taxes on your behalf. We will give you an estimate of these fees when we know more about your particular needs.

Other examples of extra work are explained in our Buying a Property Questionnaire.

This extra work is charged for over and above our standard charges. If any extra work is needed we will notify you before we undertake it and agree with you either a fixed price for that work or another way of charging for it.

Why are your fees so much higher than for buying a property in the UK?

Because there is a lot more work involved! The average purchase of a new property, for example, involves about 20 hours’ work, most of which is invisible to you.

This is partly because the process is often more complicated and partly because our clients, who know little about the country, its legal system or its culture, need a lot more explained to them than they do when buying a property in their own country.

Are your fees higher than I would pay a lawyer in Turkey?

A local lawyer may well cost you less than we do. Their salary bill and other overheads are a lot lower but, most importantly, they usually cover only a small part of what we cover in dealing with a property transaction. Some local lawyers, however, take advantage of the international buyer and charge fees higher than ours – and for doing a lot less.

How does using the International Law Partnership differ from using a local lawyer?

There are a number of ways:

Although we are thoroughly familiar with the local laws and practices (because most of our lawyers are qualified as lawyers in other jurisdictions and our staff work very closely with lawyers from all of the countries we serve) we are also used to the requirements and expectations of the Anglo Saxon client. These are often very different from the requirements of a local Turkish client.

Because we view transactions through the eyes of a foreigner we will often explain things to you that the local lawyers would not explain because they think they are obvious. They may be obvious to them, but they are often the exact opposite of what you would expect in your own country! Better still, we explain in clear English!

Most local lawyers will (quite understandably) know little or nothing about UK, Irish or US law. They are, therefore, quite likely to suggest a solution that would work well for a local person but which is disastrous (for example, in terms of taxes payable or inheritance law) in your own country. Our teams of specialist lawyers from different countries exist to provide that international overview. This can save you a LOT of money.

In most of the countries that we deal with lawyers are much less regulated than they are in the UK. For example, they may not have to have negligence insurance or be required to keep your money in a separate client account. These are significant safeguards for the client.

In many of the countries that we deal with it is difficult or impossible to obtain compensation from your lawyers if they make a negligent mistake. This is something that you take for granted when dealing with an English solicitor.

How do I take things forward?

If you would like us to represent you, please telephone, email or write. Our contact details are on the front cover of this guide.

We can then have a brief discussion over the telephone and, if necessary, make an appointment so that we can meet to look at the matter in more detail.

We are used to acting for Clients from all over the world and, generally, find that it is not necessary to meet in order to deal with the purchase of a property in Turkey. Of course, we are delighted to meet to discuss matters personally if this is convenient for you.
Revised January 2007

The International Law Partnership LLP
Solicitors & International Lawyers
Holborn Hall
193-197 High Holborn
Tel: 020 7420 0400
Fax: 020 7836 3626
© The International Law Partnership

Posted via web from Jonathan Bowker