Some foreigners complain about the arduous process of buying property in Turkey, about the delays and red tape caused by Turkey's military-ruled past. Others say that the process is easy, or certainly no more difficult than what other foreigners experience in most exotic markets. What's the truth here?

Well, to be honest it is a little of both: barring a few restrictions, foreigners can buy property in Turkey freely. There are delays caused by red tape coming from the military's involvement in the process, but nothing more than foreigners will find buying in many countries around the world. Let's dissect the buying process in detail, and then you can make up your own mind.

Turkey and foreign ownership of property

Since 2002 (2005, really, but the law was passed in 2002) citizens of most EU countries (except Cyprus, Belgium, Slovakia and the Czech Republic), as well as those from Canada, the US and some countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa have been allowed to buy property in Turkey. The restrictions are as follows:

  • Foreigners can buy land of up to 30 hectares. Special permission must be received from the authorities on anything larger
  • Under article 87 of the villages act, foreigners cannot buy property in municipal zones with less than 2000 inhabitants.
  • Under the Military Prohibited and Security Areas Act foreigners are not allowed to buy property within areas designated military zones.

All in all, Turkey can't be classed as restrictive towards foreigners buying property, but it is hardly the most open either.

Red tape and jumping through hoops

Red tape for foreigners' buying property in Turkey comes from the fact that every purchase has to be approved by the military to make sure the purchase does not endanger "national security" in any way.

To obtain permission, a copy of the deeds must be sent to the nearest army headquarters along with translations of the buyer's passport(s). Permission for the sale usually takes six to eight weeks to come through, at which point the transfer of title deeds (TAPU) can be done at the local land registry.

While this in itself isn't an overly long process in the scheme of how long such processes take in buying property anywhere in the world. But of course, this on top of the rest of the process common to buying processes in most countries; may be seen as a hoop-jump too far by some buyers.

Then, in what is seen as another additional hindrance, all foreign purchases must be notarised by an interpreter, by law. Further, both parties must be present at the entry of title, whereas in many countries a solicitor can represent the buyer.

While some buyers see these things as necessary, and are glad at the feeling of increased security in the purchase process, others can find it annoying, and again it may put some buyers off.

When the transfer is done at the land registry, it takes nine days for them to process it, and a further three to nine months for the Turkish government to return the deeds for transfer to the buyer.

While it is often shorter, this means that at worst the Turkish purchase process can take up to 10 months.

Change is coming

Exactly 30 years after the coup that gave birth to present-day Turkey, September 12 2010 will go down in history as the day the Turkish people overwhelmingly chose democracy over military rule. The Turkish people voted yes to the constitutional reform bill, allowing the government to enact its latest phase of reforms; more major than any that has gone before.

The reforms include increasing the freedoms of women and the people as a whole, increasing fiscal restraint, but most importantly the reforms will remove the last of the military's involvement in running the country, by putting the military under the control of civilian courts.

While there has been nothing definite on this yet, this could well mean that property sales no longer need to be approved by the military, shaving 8 weeks and a lot of additional hassle and worry off the buying process.

The reforms will also make it easier for the government to "create economic and social policies", which, given the current administration's desire to increase foreign investment, could see the process improving even further.

Final answer

Compared to many countries in the world, the buying process in Turkey is on the side of easy, with arguably the most difficulty lying in finding an interpreter to translate passports and notarise the deal.

Is it easier in time? The shortest time a foreigner can complete it is certainly not the longest in the world, but it is far from being the shortest either. Ten months is long for a property purchase, but most purchases will be completed in about 6 months.