x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Turks make buying land easier, sparking Arab interest

Estate agents in Turkey report high numbers of Arab nationals looking to buy property after the law changed allowing greater foreign investment.

Construction cranes stand among skyscrapers in Istanbul. Estate agents in Turkey are now receiving inquiries from Arab nationals keen to buy property in the country. Kerem Uzel / Bloomberg News
Construction cranes stand among skyscrapers in Istanbul. Estate agents in Turkey are now receiving inquiries from Arab nationals keen to buy property in the country. Kerem Uzel / Bloomberg News

Turkey used to treat its property market rather like a playground squabble.

The law stated that if Turks were not allowed to buy property in another country, that particular country's citizens were not allowed to buy property in Turkey.

This made it almost impossible for some foreigners to buy property and difficult for Turkey to attract foreign direct investment from the Gulf.

Because of this so-called reciprocity law, citizens of most Arab countries, including the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq and Kuwait, were not allowed to buy property in Turkey.

That was until a few weeks ago, when the reciprocity law was abolished, and estate agents in Turkey say they are now receiving floods of inquiries from Arab nationals keen to buy in the country.

"We have got more than 2,000 inquiries [so far] this year and we are expecting to have at least 10,000 inquiries this [full] year," said Arda Obuz, the managing director of Turesta, a property sales, management and consulting firm in Istanbul.

"[Arab nationals] love Istanbul, and Turkey is a Muslim secular country, secure and democratic. Istanbul is a European city with Muslim motifs, and they feel very comfortable in Istanbul," he said.

Mr Obuz said the process of buying a property in Turkey was "remarkably straightforward" and that the transaction could be completed within hours for domestic residents and two weeks for foreign buyers.

Turesta is looking to hire Arabic-speaking staff to manage the number of inquiries from Arab nationals. Previously, foreigners would need to seek special permission to buy more than 2.5 hectares, but this limit has been increased to 30 hectares.

"People are ready to buy all different properties, especially by the seaside," said Sedat Gönüllüoglu, the Turkish tourism and culture office's attaché in the UAE. "We are trying to organise work permits and resident permits for people who buy properties."

Agents say Arab nationals are looking at properties for a number of reasons, including buying holiday homes on the coast or as buy-to-let investments.

"Arab investors are regarding Turkey as a safe haven for social life and for investment," said Mr Obuz.

The number of Arab tourists visiting the country has burgeoned in the last year after the Arab Spring, which led to many traditional holiday hotspots for Arabs becoming less popular.

"We have seen a significant number of inquiries this year. The story has been hotting up in the past year," said Kelly Macfarlane, the owner of Didim Sun Properties, located in Didim on the Aegean Sea. "One year ago, we would have not had a single inquiry from anybody from any Arab country."

Didim Marina, one of the biggest marinas on the Aegean, can accommodate more than 1,000 vessels.

Despite the growing wealth in the town, Ms Macfarlane said she had received requests from a wide range of buyers.

"Everyone has the image that Saudi Arabians are all oil princes, but they are just ordinary people that want to make their money work for them," she said. "There's huge demand for rental apartments in Didim and there's not enough supply."

rjones@thenational.ae

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