Apartment Hunting in Istanbul

I’m now looking for my third place to live in the span of about 14 months. And trying not to have a heart attack while doing so.

A brief history: my first place, the one with the amazing view, was rented directly from friends.  An amazing place, but too expensive, and almost -but not quite – in the area I wanted to live.  Apartment #2 (where I am now) is just about perfect. It’s in Moda (the neighborhood I love), has a balcony for Clover, is furnished.  However, I sublet it from someone at a reduced, very affordable price, but now that the lease term is up, the price is going up 400 Turkish Lira per month.  Wowza.

So, I’m looking.  Again.

Istanbul is a very crowded city – depending on who you ask, there are between 15 and 20 million residents.  And probably at least 80% live in apartments.  So, real estate is at a premium, and gets snatched up fast.

Almost all owners use realtors (or emlakci in Turkish).  The weird thing?  The owners don’t pay them.  The people looking for an apartment (like me) pay the commission, which usually equals one month’s rent.  Yet the emlakci seem to consider the owner their client, not the renter.  Which is really, really backwards. But it’s the system, so I’m trying to accept it, as I have no other choice.

There are websites full of available apartments, or you can just wander the streets, go into any of the emlak offices, and tell them what you’re looking for.  I was told that this would be the time to look for apartments, as school is out for the summer, and people are moving. However, there are alot less places available, at least in my neighborhood, than usual.

And of course I’m used to looking two months in advance.  Here they laugh at you if you start looking much more than three weeks in advance. And they seem to think you are a pain in the butt if you ask to see a place twice before making a decision. I had a bit of an uncomfortable situation where I ended up shouting at at emlakci because he told me I needed to make up my mind.  Of course, I was yelling at him in English, and he speaks only Turkish, but I think he got the message. My friend pulled me out of the office as I was still yelling and told him in Turkish that he was  a “complete weirdo.” Yeah, we’re tough.

I’m not picky.  I have a budget and very few requirements.  Two bedrooms (hello! make your travel plans now!), a balcony for Clover (these are common) and it has to have working electricity and plumbing.  Sounds pretty basic, yes?

I’ve been excited about multiple places now, but something keeps falling through. The other day I saw a place that was completely redone, and the building is only 5-6 years old, which is quite unusual for my area.  But it has what they call here the “American kitchen.” What that means is that the kitchen is IN the salon. American friends, someone tell me if they’ve actually ever seen this design in America???? Anyway, as it was a nice place, in the right area, and in my price range, I told the emlakci that I wanted it.

I didn’t get it.  Want to know why? Not because I have a dog. Not because I’m a foreigner.  But because I’m not married. Apparently the owner is very conservative and doesn’t want what he presumes to be a hussy living in his place.  Lovely.

There’s another place I want, but someone else has an option on it. I don’t want to say to much as I feel I will jinx it, but please, cross fingers, toes, legs, eyes; pray; do chants and dances; perform voodoo rituals.  I’ll keep you updated!