Counsel with a consul: Turkey

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Counsel with a consul: Turkey

In the third part of our series looking at the lives of British Consuls posted across the globe, we talk to Willy Buttigieg MBE, Consul at the British Embassy in the city of Izmir...

I have been British Consul in Izmir for over 20 years and have seen a lot of change in that time. One thing that comes to mind is the increase in Brits who have moved out here, or have at least bought property here.

Turkey may border the more volatile Middle East, yet it is a stable, secular and democratic country with much to offer. A physical and cultural bridge between Europe and Asia bordering 12 nations and four seas, it's a country of vast history and culture with numerous cities, beaches and areas of historical interest and natural beauty to explore. Factor in the relatively short flight time (it's only a four-hour flight from the UK) and it isn't difficult to see why Britons are now the leading foreign nationals buying property here and make over 2.5 million visits to Turkey every year!

While Turkey may be a familiar country to some of us, it is still a foreign country and there is much to find out before you decide to relocate. Obviously, there are some general issues for anyone thinking of going to live overseas (health, taxation, voting, pensions etc), and you can find advice on these at

Then there are also some specific things to be aware of. Not everyone is going to speak English for starters, especially in Izmir, and you should certainly take out comprehensive medical insurance. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will not be valid and medical treatment for British nationals is not state-funded and can be very expensive. It's probably worth pointing out that Ministry of Health officials have stated verbally that implementation of a proposed compulsory health scheme may start in the near future.

Buying Property in Turkey

You may have seen stories hitting the headlines about problems property buyers have experienced in Turkey, and I myself know of some of the main issues from talking to the British community here. You also have to remember that Turkey has only recently (2003) opened up the purchase of property to foreign nationals and there are still restrictions.

So, some basics. Firstly, the reservation contract is very different to the UK. This takes the property off the market usually for 2-4 weeks, allowing time for your independent legal advisor to do checks. Reservation fees vary from €2,000-€6000. If you do not continue with the purchase due to legal problems then you should ensure your contract entitles you to a refund!

Legal advice is a must. Always obtain the services of an independent lawyer before committing yourself to purchasing property. I define “independent lawyer” as one who has no connection with either the seller or an agent of the seller. To prevent some of the problems I have seen, such as double-selling, your legal advisor should check the title of the property to ensure that the person selling the property is the owner; the land is registered in the name of the seller; there are no charges on the property; necessary building permissions and licences are in place on the property; the conditions laid down by the seller are acceptable; and that all documents should be available in English.

TAPU/Military checks

Your legal advisor will arrange for your documents to be handed in at the local Title Deeds Office (TAPU) plus arrange for the relevant military checks to be completed. Turkey has a close relationship with the military and clearance for a foreign national has to be approved by the Turkish Military before you're allowed to purchase any property. Checks are made on the individual and on the proposed property/land to ensure the person is suitable and the land is not within a military zone or restricted area. This normally takes up to three months.

Both you and the seller, or the seller's legal representative with power of attorney, should attend the TAPU Office and sign the contract before title deeds can be handed over.
Know what you are signing – ensure that a translator is available if communication is in Turkish! Then you will be issued with a title deed (also called a TAPU), in your name.

Top tips

• Employ an independent lawyer
• Agree fees in advance and ensure the contract includes all necessary checks
• Research your developer/location/ amenities/estate agent/builder
• Ensure you have a translator at all meetings
• Rent first – ensure Turkey is right for you
• Check you are able to obtain residency permits, i.e. ensure you can financially support yourself without working
• If purchasing off plan ensure stage payments are clearly defined
• Ensure your contract includes all the smallest details
• EHIC cards cannot be used in Turkey as there is no reciprocal agreement between the UK and Turkey for health treatment. It is essential that you purchase health insurance.
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