Housing in Istanbul

Now after a long flight from San Francisco, I am back in my hometown Istanbul for the winter break. In this post I would like to explain you the differences between housing in Istanbul and most of other US cities.

First of all, we (the residents of Istanbul) like living in downtown. We usually have 5 to 6 floor apartments, owning a country style villa in the middle of the city with it’s own garden is a very rare situation and usually a sign of luxury and richness. There is one other important factor that increases the value of your house dramatically, a view of Bosphorus… If you ever see that fairy view of Bosphorus you can understand why.

Oh so you wonder about the most expensive houses in Istanbul? They are definitely the old mansions on the shore of the Bosphorus whose prices range between 1 million dollar to 100 million dollars and most of them are not for sale anyways. They are usually historic mansions and the owners are not even allowed to modify them because of their historic importance.

Well speaking of downtown, a city like Istanbul, which has more population than the whole country of Sweden, does have multiple downtowns for sure. Most touristic historic downtown is the Sultanahmet. So being close to those downtowns is also a plus for your housing.

So compared to suburb residental life of US cities, Istanbul is quite different. Altough there are new luxury suburb areas with american-style housing formations, they are quite new and rare for Istanbul.

From my observations, in most of the US cities downtowns are usually commercial areas and after work hours people drive to their suburb houses. In Istanbul people drive to their houses in downtown but it can take more time for us to reach home because of our lovely traffic. Also Istanbul is quite big in landscape as well so it can take up to 3 hours drive from one end to the other end of the city.

Another difference is the number of homeless people in downtowns, I don’t know most of the US cities but in San Jose the downtown is full of them and they really look weird. In Istanbul it is really less than any big american city and they don’t look as weird as the ones I saw at San Jose or San Francisco. I also noticed that raising kids in downtown in most of the big american cities is a big challenge where as in Istanbul it is quite normal and usual.

Lastly the neighbour relations in american culture looked pretty weak to me, in Istanbul most of the neighbours really talk with each other, visit their neighbours and spend some time together. Gossiping about other neighbours is a tradition for most of us :)

I hope you can see those differences with your own eyes some day.

5 Comments so far

  1. Jack Joyce (unregistered) on January 6th, 2006 @ 5:53 am

    I recently sold a suburban home and moved to a large rental house in the Olmsted district of Buffalo, NY. Walking instantly emerged as the pastime of choice as it could be conducted along the length of Elmwood Avenue on a lively three mile stretch linking the art gallery and Hoyt Lake to downtown with is burgeoning loft and industrial conversion living spaces. It is refreshing to simply leave the apartment, a lovely ship-like space with cozy rooms off a passageway, to which we moved when the house produced a January heating bill of $800, and head out into the day without becoming enmeshed in the automobile ritual. Downtown Buffalo is a manageable repository of interesting architecture centered on the magnificent art-deco city hall. Known as the Heart of the SuperShore (the S shaped shoreline embracing Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Erie) Buffalo is a richly textured and manageable urban environment. To you an Istanbuler/Instanbulite,Constantinopolitan/Bospuroni Buffalo might seem as just one neighborhood. I have been listening to The Fracture Zone by Simon Winchester in which he endeavors to understand and explain the fault line between Near East and West that is the Balkans. Naturally enough he finishes the book in Istanbul and I went surfing to see some images of the city. Your remarks struck a chord as I share your affection for urbanity and the urb.

  2. Melis Senerdem (unregistered) on January 7th, 2006 @ 11:44 pm

    One more thing on housing Istanbul is sth you should be pretty familiar from the Bay Area: gentrification!

    The pace is unbelievable. Look at the rents in old neighborhoods like Cihangir, Cukurcuma, Galata and even Yildiz… Rarely below one grand for tiny apartments with no heating. Yet there is a big chance you get a breathtaking view at your ease. And some characters as neighbors.

    Asian side of town has a long way to go in this sense but I can say it already started around Moda and Kadikoy.

    It is understandable, the population on the European side is triple the size of that on the Asian side. You do the math…

  3. J Mario Garcia (unregistered) on January 12th, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

    Hi Mert!!

    How are you doing?

    It was great to read your opinion about Istanbul.

    I would like to ask you some questions. I’m planning traveling to Istanbul, actually I have booked the flight tickets and the hotel (Romance Hotel) but these last days I’m a little bit scared about H51N virus …

    I’m wrtiting to you from Spain and belive me, the news from Turkey here are hard to believe. It’s like it wasn’t recommendable to travel there. I talked to the Embassy people a couple of days ago and they told me that the only problem area is the region close to Iran.

    Could you, please, let me know about the real situation there and, especially, in Istanbul?

    By the way, since my girlfriend an I will be traveling one way or the other, could you, please, tell what are the places you consider we shouldn’t miss when traveling there?

    Many thanks and take care,


  4. Al (unregistered) on January 15th, 2006 @ 3:34 am

    San Jose is very different from San Francisco. I didn’t know that homelessness is also a huge problem in San Jose as it is in San Francisco. Talking about housing and prices, I had a house in a highly desirable location in San Francisco that has Golden Gate views and awesome views of Marin headlands and the ocean leading into the bay. By the time it was sold in 2000, the value has gone up to 100% more than the purchase price. Still, buyers were lining up. That goes to show how much people would pay for a great location and ocean/bay views. Then the dot-com bubble burst…but the prices here are still very very high now even for condominiums. Two-bedroom/two-bath condo averages US$750,000.

    As for rental properties in Turkey.I hear from friends living there that it is indeed on the up and up so that people are don’t have much choice but to find a mate to divy up the rent with. It’s pretty normal here also in the county of San Francisco. Rents for a studio flat can be as high as $1,600 in good areas like Pacific Heights.

    In both Istanbul and San Francisco though, if residents are lucky enough to have bay or Bosphorus views, either city is unbeatable. San Francisco has hands down cleaner air and in many ways, a more organized, coherent urban area. It is not as true of a ‘melting pot’ community as Istanbul is and of course, history wise, Istanbul is richer and was once the seat of two powerful empires. I love Istanbul in the summer with all the al fresco dining and hanging out spots on both sides of the Bos shore. I plan to be back there but I am also concerned about avian flu. What is the real deal there now?


  5. Mert Ulas (unregistered) on January 18th, 2006 @ 11:40 pm

    First of all sorry for the late reply…

    @jack joyce: Buffalo sounds very nice, hope I can visit there sometime. Thanks for your comment.

    @Melis Senerdem: That’s right rents are on the rise but still rents in Bay Area are higher compared to Istanbul.

    @J Mario Garcia: Well I guess there shouldn’t be any problem for tourists. The disease killed 5 people in Turkey until now. The virus is in its 2nd stage meaning that it can infect animal-human (not human to human thanks god) And most of the people that died had a physical contact with the dead animals that were infected by the avian virus. So my advice would be to stay away from the dead chickens and try not to consume any chicken or turkey while your visit to Istanbul. About the places to visit, there are so many but you can check some of them at here.

    @AL: Actually when I came to San francisco from San Jose, I said “ok this is a city which has a spirit unlike San Jose”. Also there a similarities between two cities such as Bosphorus view/Golden Gate view and up and down hills on both cities. So I really like San Francisco actually. Hope you can visit Istanbul again soon, well the avian flu does not affect the daily life in here at all but people are concerned about it and afraid that it will spread and become a real threat.

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