Alexander the Great walked on Turkish shores, as did the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Saint Paul passed through on his way to Ephesus, the second largest city in the Roman Empire dating from the third century B.C., and one of the seven wonders of the world. Historians today consider Anatolia, or Turkey as we know it, to be one of the cradles of western civilization.
The American Constitution is modeled on the ancient Lycian League whose parliament building from the fifth century BC is currently being excavated at Patara, a 20’ dolmus ride from the Mediterranean coastal resort of Kalkan. St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, born not in the North Pole but in Patara, Turkey, was the Bishop of Myra until his death in 350 A.D. His church and ex-tomb continue to attract pilgrims to the Turkish town of Demre. Turkey boasts an impressive array of historical sites and archeological digs for those interested.
Modern Turkey is a vibrant nation of 70 million inhabitants and tourism is the leading source of income, followed by textiles. 21 million visitors came to Turkey in 2005. Turkish candidacy for EU membership has significantly increased awareness of the country as a tourist destination and as an investment.
What do Spain and Turkey have in common? Sunshine and warm winters! Plus Turkey has affordable housing and a low cost of living. Just as home buyers flocked to Spain in search of a better quality of life, now many are buying property in Turkey for the same reasons:
- unspoilt beaches
- scuba diving in crystal clear azure waters
- delicious food
- hospitable people
- low cost of living
- cheap property.
Property prices have increased substantially over the past 5 years but are still good value starting at £33,500. Build quality is high and apartments and villas are more spacious than is generally the case on the Costa del Sol. On the Spanish coast, GBP 150,000 might buy a small apartment in a middle-class area. That same money will buy a nice 3-bedroom villa with private pool in Turkey.
Buyers can find a vast assortment of freehold apartments and villas along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts from Ayvacik to Antalya. The most popular choice is the Turquoise Coast, and the most famous photo of Turkey widely publicized in travel photos is of the Olűdeniz peninsula near the southern coastal town of Fethiye. Small British communities replete with pubs can be found all along the coastline, but especially in the Fethiye area. Germans, by contrast, tend to congregate around the Antalya area (golf & all-inclusive clubs like Club Med).
The most crowded, lively, overbuilt and least aesthetic town is Bodrum; Marmaris, with its beautiful pine forests stretching down to the beach, is a close second. The cheapest property can be found around Altinkum near Izmir, the most expensive in Bodrum and in the small, charming and romantic resort town, Kalkan that nestles into a half-moon bay surrounded by mountains.
Some direct comparisons
Purchase & sale costs: IVA or VAT is 3% and is split between buyer and seller. As a buyer you pay 1.5% compared to the Spanish 7% IVA. A lawyer is not obligatory but is certainly advisable and far cheaper than the lawyer/ notary fees charged in Spain.
Taxes: Another decided advantage of Turkish versus Spanish property is the capital gains tax – or lack thereof. If you sell a home in Turkey after 4 years you pay NO capital gains taxes. In Spain you currently pay 35% capital gains taxes regardless of how long you’ve owned your home.
UK pensions are not taxed in Turkey
'Council' tax or property tax, paid twice yearly, is a minimal percentage of the property’s value (0,3%) but new buildings are exempt for 5 years..
Mortgages: A big advantage in Spain is the availability of easy and cheap mortgages to finance your property. Mortgages are practically non-existent in Turkey, you pay cash or finance outside the country.
Weather: The weather in Spain and along the Turkish coast is very similar. Temperatures range from about 12 degrees in the coldest of winter to 38 degrees in late July and August. The tourist season runs from April 1 – October 31.
Built up area: The Costa del Sol is far overbuilt and much of the surrounding landscape has been destroyed. This is not yet the case of the Turkish coastal areas, although an immense amount of building is going on. Building restrictions limit both the height of a building (new buildings may not exceed 6 meters = 2 floors) and the size of the footprint on a lot (usually 15% but depends on the community).
Shopping: Big shopping centers and chain stores as found on the Spanish coast are not prevalent. Only the largest towns have one or more such centers. Local supermarkets carry some imported goods catering to foreign palates but the selection of goods to buy is not nearly as wide as is found on the Spanish coast. However, food is generally inexpensive and vegetables are plentiful. Most people shop in the weekly open air markets and buy meat from their local butcher.
Health services: Health services are better and more easily available along the Spanish coasts than along the Turkish coastlines. It is not as easy in Turkey to find medical personnel speaking English and hospitals / clinics in the coastal areas leave a lot to be desired.
Language & people: Most Turks who come into contact with tourists speak some English although it is not as prevalent as English on the Costa del Sol. Turkish are known for their hospitality and friendliness but sometimes too much friendliness masks a vested interest in selling you something. Nonetheless, it is easier to have close personal friendships with Turks than with Spanish.
Cost of living: Living frugally in Turkey you can make it on €400-600 / month, all included. Living luxuriously with an ADSL internet connection, movie channel TV subscription, daily household help, daily alcoholic beverages and dinners out can easily triple that. A meal can range between €13-20, including one glass of beer or wine. Some areas are more expensive.
Foreign Currency: There are no restrictions on the import, exchange or export of foreign currency.
Activities: Spain is renown for its plethora of golf courses. For the non-golfers, there is tennis, horseback riding and other entertainment. Golf on the Turquoise Coast is limited to two fine courses in the Antalya area, and riding is not as easily available as on the Costa del Sol. Most activities are excursions or watersports: sailing, cruising, scuba diving, snorkeling, sky diving, paragliding, fishing and so on.
Online support: There are many websites and active forums devoted to expats living in Turkey or thinking to buy property there. The Turkish Embassy in London has a very informative and up-to-date website about every aspect of buying and renting out property.
Getting there: While travel from almost anywhere in the EU to Spain is easy and cheap, this is not the case for travel to the southern coastal areas of Turkey. From the UK there are 2-3 charter airlines that fly from April 1 – October 30 for around 265 sterling return. EasyJet is planning to start cheap flights to Istanbul but you still have to fly to the coast, either to Izmir, Bodrum, Dalaman or Antalya. There are cheap charter airlines within Turkey for this part of the trip (Atlas Jet, Onur Air) and a few others servicing major German cities (Air Berlin, SunExpress). The disadvantage is that you can’t just pop over to the coast for a few days at a cheap price. In winter there are no charter flights, your internal flight is limited to Turkish Airlines!
The popular UK TV series on Channel 4, 'A Place in the Sun', has aired programs about Brits retiring and/or starting businesses in Turkey. For those wanting to learn more, ‘A place in the Sun’ magazine, May issue on sale April 13, features a Buyer’s Guide to Turkey.
Written by someone who owns property in both places!