For anyone seeking to buy an affordable home in the sun that's also a sound investment, Turkey ticks so many boxes. It's got the climate, the coastline, a vibrant culture, low-cost flights anda healthy economy too. But for some people it's Turkey's boxes that are the problem: thousands of holiday homes built along that vast, beautiful coastline can be harsh on the eye.
So a small but growing band of people have decided to custom-build a Turkish villa, rather than make do with something off the peg. Karen and Paul Drew from Stratford-upon- Avon enjoyed the experience so much they've gone back for more. “The problem with Turkish holiday homes is that many of them are built for Turkish people who don't necessarily have the same taste as western Europeans,” says Paul, a solicitor. “They're rather unattractive, like Lego, and some of the building work leaves a lot to be desired.”
So he and Karen designed their own home in Calis, near Fethiye. It's got four bedrooms over three storeys, lots of curves, local-stone cladding, marble floors, and striking balustrading which also breaks the mould. Realising they'd tapped into a gap in the market, they built four more and sold them for between £99,000 and £125,000 each. They've now gone into business with the Orka Hotel in Ovacik to do more of the same, and like many self-builders have learnt along the way.“The most important thing is to specify every single detail when you sign the contract with the builder: the type of marble, the size of bathroom tiles, the number of electrical sockets in each room etc – the more detail, the more you protect yourself,” says Paul.
Not all building contractors will be willing or able to deviate from the way they've built for years, so it's just as essential that you find the correct company, says Cameron Deggin, whose UK-based company, Place Overseas, act as broker between buyer and local contractor. “People are not always finding what they want in terms of design and in the past year every single property we've sold in Turkey over £500,000 has been a custom-build,” he says.
“It may take longer to get your home, but you get a bespoke one that can be 20-25 per cent cheaper than the best resale you've viewed. Most people don't go out to self-build by choice, they just fail to find something they like amongst the turn-key properties.”
Not all his clients have such deep pockets. Place Overseas is doing custom-build in three main areas: Sovalye Island off Fethiye (that's the £500,000-plus bracket with its unique beachfront plots); in Uzumlu and around Kas. In Sovalye there are only a couple of plots available – both are 300 square metres, with one facing out to open sea (£350,000), the other towards Fethiye on the mainland (£240,000). In Uzumlu plots sell from £40,000. Uzumlu, an ancient village in a wine-growing region 20 minutes inland from Fethiye, is gaining quite a following amongst those who seek something quieter and more rural than the coastal resorts.Around 40 to 50 plots of 500 – 850 square metres have already been parcelled off, and most have already got planning permission. With build costs of £700 - £1,500 per square metre, depending on the spec, it's possible to custom-build your own two/ three bedroom detached villa there form£140,000 - £200,000.
So where do you start? Although you can buy land with or without planning permission, Deggin recommends the former, even though it's more expensive, because applying for planning takes one to two years. “We offer plots and make suggestions related to the planning they come with,” he says. “For example, if the plot is 1,000 square metres with planning permission for 20 per cent, then the footprint of the property must be 200 square metres, but you can build two floors for a maximum of 400 square metres. Don't be tempted to build more than is approved or your habitation licence (Iskan) may be rejected. “We always recommend buying the land first – separately from the build costs – because your land can act as a security while your home is being built and you are applying for the title deeds [allow around 45 days].”
In the meantime the house is designed. Place Overseas uses a British architect whose designs are then vetted by a local one to check they are compliant with Turkish regulations. When the building starts, weekly photos are sent to customers. Apart from repeating the Drews' advice about specifying every detail in writing with the builder at the outset – because many builders and their clients end up in dispute – Deggin advises against purchasing land in an area where there is no planning permission yet. “Agents will tell you it will come through in six months time, but it takes two years or may never be granted at all,” he says. “A British lawyer who is custom-building his own villa near Kas nearly bought some land, but the deal fell through because there are no Iskans in that area. Yet people still build and turn a blind eye.”
There are also around 30 plots with planning permission on the Kas peninsula. Sized around 700-750 square metres, they cost £300,000- 400,000 if seafront; around £100,000 if three or four rows back. “If you are directly on the seashore, the title deed is commercial rather than residential (Meskan) which means you can't get a mortgage to pay for it,” says Deggin. “Plus you must budget for 15 per cent premium on build costs for Kas due to the rocky terrain and stone-clad local style.”
There are also around 20 plots available in the next bay along towards Antalya – Bayindir – which are larger at 1,500 square metres for £150,000. It's possible to sail directly there from Kas marina via an inlet; you just drop anchor and climb the steps to your villa.
Another “must” when sizing up a plot of land is to visit at several times of day, suggests Fiona Osmond, who custom-built a villa on the edge of Gocek with her husband Christopher. “Not only can you check for road noise, but also for orientation to sun and wind. We are at the bottom of the mountain, and get the breeze off it during the hot summers,” she says. Like the Drews, they wanted a Turkish holiday home but something a little artier than was available – and then ended up doing another. “We found an architect and a builder who are both passionate about design, and although they are Turkish they speak English, which is a must if you're going to do something like this,” says Fiona, from London. “Turkish builders are not generally great on finish so do check everything thoroughly: do the skirting boards meet, does the kitchen worktop jiggle when you lean on it? Also, visit regularly as they build so quickly – I went out every three weeks during the six-month build time so I could identify any problems quickly and get them resolved.
“We've gone for effects that have never been seen in this area: creamy Uzumlu stone with pale European sand as the grout instead of dark Gocek type; beams made from reclaimed wood from traditional houses on the Black Sea coast, and huge wrought-iron lamps. Their second custom-built property, Villa Daidalos, is a two-storey, four bedroom “chapel style” property. It's now for sale fully furnished for £465,000, and currently rents out for £1,950 a week in peak summer.
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