Living in Turkey : Housing
Make yourself at home in a land of contrasts
Turkey is a land of huge contrasts. Rich and poor, young and old, ancient and modern, East and West. Living here is a privilege and an awesome cultural experience!
Century old Greek style villas, brand new multi-million dollar apartment complexes, palatial Ottoman mansions, single room shacks. Countryside, village, town, city and metropolis. Seaside resort summer houses, mountain and forest getaways, farmhouses, houses with gardens, gated communities, inner city low rise and high rise apartments. Turkey has it all!
This hub introduces some of the different housing available in Turkey and has a particular focus on our experience of living in inner-city and suburban apartment buildings.
We have foreign friends who have been through the process of purchasing and renovating property in Turkey. If you are interested in moving to Turkey or buying an investment property here, we can put you in touch with trustworthy foreign and Turkish real estate agents, architects and tradespeople. Explore this hub on Housing in Turkey and leave your comments.
What's your ideal home?
Where do you prefer to live?
Like most countries, there is an urban drift and Turkish cities are growing in population at an incredible rate. The signs at the entrance to my city, Izmir, welcome you to a population of just over 2 million. In reality it is closer to 4 million and growing.
Cities provide lots of opportunities and a hope for a better life for many, but some people are returning to their hometowns with the current economic crisis. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is helping the poor seize the chance to bid farewell to the city.
Cities of the Future - Squatter sites
Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities, finds the world's squatter sites -- where a billion people now make their homes -- to be thriving centers of ingenuity and innovation. He takes us on a tour.
Especially interesting in this video is the squatter community in Sultanbeyli, Istanbul and the rights that squatters have (about 12 minutes into the video).
Summer house resorts - Escape the rat race and relax by the sea
Buying or renting a summer house in Turkey can be cheaper than other popular European summer vacation spots. This video advertising summer houses in the party city of Bodrum shows typical architecture of coastal villas.
Other types of houses
Different types of dwellings
Some of our friends have bought or built houses in gated communities. Some have rented in single dwellings with a garden. Some in semi-detached 2 or 3 storey houses. Some friends have even bought small farms, mainly orchards with a variety of fruit trees - apples, pommegranates, mandarins, figs and olives.
Some of our friends have lived in houses where what was originally two dwellings sharing a common wall have been joined. This produces an interesting symmetrical house with two of everything including stairs. Usually one kitchen is converted to a lounge and extra bathrooms are converted to storage rooms.
Living in Turkish apartments
Our current lifestyle
We haven't lived in any of these environments in Turkey yet. Our experience is living in inner city and suburban, small apartment blocks with one or two apartments per floor.
Our first apartment was in the center of the city. It was easy walking distance to a language school, restaurants, shops and transport to the rest of the city. It was also in a red-light area. The night activity didn't bother us, but some of our friends were afraid to visit after dark.
While it was like living in a concrete forest, if we leaned out over our back balcony we could see a glimpse of the harbor. There were some trees in the back yard of the ground floor too. The beautiful Izmir Kordon was just five minutes walk away and we spent many evenings enjoying walking by the harbor.
Our street was narrow and supposedly one-way. The old house on a corner of the closest intersection at least twice had vehicles run into it.
Deciphering a Turkish address
Making sense of the numbers
Turks almost never give you their address when they invite you to visit. They will meet you instead at a prominent landmark nearby and take you from there to their home. This may be because of their relational culture or it could be that their addresses can be confusing.
We lived on the 3rd floor (Kat 3). That is, there was a picture framing shop on the ground floor (zemin kat), and two neighbors between them and us and another above us. Therefore we had 5 levels in our building and this was typical for our street. Daire is Turkish for apartment. Ours was number 4 and the whole building was called Gül (rose) apartment. Many streets are known by just a number. Some newer streets and main avenues have names. Our street was 1464 and with about 80-100 closely packed buildings, we estimate that we had about 1000 neighbors. Our street address was 1464 Sokak Gül Apartman No 17 D4 K3 ...suburb, postcode, city, Türkiye.
Sok. (Sokak) = Street
Cad. (Caddesi) = Avenue
Blvd. (Bulvar) = Boulevard
K (Kat) = Floor
D (Daire) = Apartment
Apt (Apartman) = Apartment building
Blok = Block number in group of apartments in a site
Site (... Sitesi) = A (usually gated) group of houses or apartment blocks
Learning the language helps
We met about three families in the year we lived in our first neighborhood. Being a young foreign family in an inner city block of mostly non-family apartments and not knowing a lot of the language made getting to know people difficult. Since moving away from there, we have seen much more of the family two floors below us than we did in that first year. We didn't bother changing the address on some unimportant mail so it gives us an excuse to visit with our old neighbors. They are always excited to meet with us when we get a letter.
Finding an apartment
Look for the sign in the window
An English speaking Turkish friend had helped us find that first apartment. We spent a day wandering around that part of the city, looking for places that had signs in the window, calling the appropriate real estate (emlak) agents and viewing the rooms. Usually yellow, the signs say Satalık meaning for sale or Kiralık (to rent) and have the real estate agent's contact info. Sometimes you will see the words Sahibinden meaning from the owner.
Real estate agents charge one month's rent for helping you find an apartment and usually there is an equivalent amount or more required for a bond.
We found five to rent within our budget and chose the best. The rent per month was about the same we had been paying per week in New Zealand. Of course it was a slightly smaller place, but we made it home.
Deciphering real estate adverts
Understanding a property listing
If an apartment is advertised in a real estate window, it will usually have the floor area in square metres (metre kare) which includes balconies. A listing with a number plus another number means it has that many bedrooms plus a lounge (salon). Many Turks keep their salon for formal occasions and have one of the bedrooms used for everyday living as a family room.
The lı/li/lu/lü suffix on Turkish words means with. Sız/siz/suz/süz means without.
Satalık = For sale
Kiralık = For rent
Konut = Residential
İşyeri = Commercial
Bahçe = Garden
Manzara = View
Yakın = Close to
Çelik kapı = Steel door - a heavy thick secure door
Kapacı = Doorman
Asansör = Elevator
Turkish apartments are usually completely bare when you rent them. No curtains, carpets or light fittings. The bathroom might have a water heater. Built-in storage is rare.
Furnishing a Turkish home
Creating your living space
Like the many contrasts in Turkey, there is a wide range of choice when it comes to furniture for your Turkish home. From the cheap custom wood drawers that an eight year old fixes plastic handles to as an after school job, to the exquisite hand crafted pieces found in the richest of homes, Turkey has furnishings for all budgets.
Impressing guests with hospitality is important. Elegant storage units to show off expensive china adorn most formal lounges. They are usually accompanied by a matching large expensive looking dining suite and perhaps a large screen TV even though this room is rarely used for daily life.
To make you feel at home, Turks excel at making you comfortable. Just inside the door is a small cupboard for storing shoes called an ayakabalık and you will be offered slippers (terlik) to wear when you visit. You might see your hosts formal lounge, but they will often entertain you in their family living room. Here they might have comfortable couches that turn into comfortable beds called Ã§ekyat. With these, living rooms can double as guest rooms and a Ã§ekyat usually has built in storage for blankets and pillows. Nesting coffee tables are in abundant supply and are quickly produced when they serve you tea (Ã§ay) with savory and sweet snacks.
In the bedrooms you will find the usual drawers and cupboards, but also under-bed storage for the off season.
You can find easily most household appliances and the stores will deliver and install them for you. Long guarantees are offered on some brands. Until recently clothes drying machines were rare. Household goods stores are in abundance.
Enjoy Turkish Style
Ceramic tiled or parquet wooden floors are often decorated with beautifully designed carpets. From the floor up, Turkish homes are furnished full of style.
Buy Turkish Carpets on eBay - Treat yourself
Buying a Turkish carpet direct from the factory or shop in Turkey is one of the best experiences in hospitality and bargaining, but if flying to Turkey to get a carpet is not an option, buying a carpet (a beautiful and practical work of art) from eBay is your next best bet.
Usual apartment layouts
Inner city apartments generally share two walls with adjacent buildings and so the street facing side will have the kitchen (mutfak) and formal lounge (salon) with bedrooms (oda) on the other side. A bathroom (banyo) or two occupy the middle. Laundry is done in the bathroom. Laundromats are not common.Light wells in the center of large apartments let in some additional natural light. Often there is a balcony (balkon)front and back. Some apartments have these covered to add a extra room. If you hear snoring on hot summer nights, it could be your neighbor sleeping on their balcony.
Relocating to a new place
Asansörlü means an apartment building has an elevator. It is also the term used by a moving company that has an elevator for taking furniture up and down on the outside of the building.
Movers usually take half a day to move a basic household. They work a great speed, wrapping furniture in old blankets and string and packing all the small stuff into boxes or big cardboard or plastic barrels. They need the barrels and blankets for their next customer so most of your apartment is unpacked and set up before the end of the day.
Living on the edge of the city
Our 2nd apartment was one of three in a "site" in a suburban neighborhood. It stood alone with windows on all sides and with two aparments per floor we shared just one wall with our neighbours. We had sea views and our back balcony overlooked a mandarin garden.
The suburbs tend to have more air around the buildings and more parks. Our neighborhood had five nearby, giving us green spaces without the responsibility of lawn mowing and gardening. This was a more family friendly neighborhood and we met more people in the first week than we had in the first year in the heart of the city.
Getting to know your neighbors
Neighbors often bring food to share just to be friendly or for special Islamic holidays and feasts.
The usual response is to be thankful and to return any plates with similar gifts. They also invite you to celebrations such as weddings (nikah/duğun) and circumcisions (sünnet).
Turkish Recipes - Eating like Sultans
Turkish food is not just kebabs. Even if you don't live in a Turkish community, you can experience the wonderful cuisine. Buy some Turkish cookbooks and start to enjoy the taste of healthy Turkish food.
Convenience and commerce in the suburbs
Even in suburban areas, the ground floor of some buildings are used for shops and offices. Usually real estate, restaurants and cafes, stationery, hair stylists and tiny convenience stores. In Turkish they are called a bakkal and stock a limited range of items you would find in a supermarket. They often have a delivery service and will bring anything they stock to your door or a basket you lower from your balcony to the street. A bakkal is a source of local knowledge and gossip and if they don't have something you need, they can probably get it for you.
Our local community also had a preschool, two primary schools (one with double shifts), a secondary school, police station and a local government office.
Further information about housing in Turkey - Links to relevant websites
- Turkish Housing Development Administration (TOKİ)
TOKİ meets 5-10% of the housing needs of Turkey. The social housing program of TOKİ targets the low and middle-income people who cannot own a housing unit under the existing market conditions.
- Poor seize chance to bid city farewell
The Taşkıran family are one of the many disillusioned by the promise of the big smoke and now embarking on a return to their rural homeland. The financial crisis is a last straw for most and Istanbul municipality's sponsorship of anyone ready to head
- Strange way to share inheritance found in northern Turkey - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
A house split in half due to an inheritance dispute has become a neighborhood attraction in the town of Pazar, a district in the Black Sea province of Rize.