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26.07.2007

New Alanya residents reshaping the area

By REETA ÇEVIK


Alanya has experienced notable population and infrastructure growth in recent years. Since 1990 the population of the town center has increased from 52,000 to approximately 135,000 today. Approximately ten percent of Alanya's residents are of foreign origin, giving the city the highest proportion of foreign-born residents in Turkey. The region of Alanya has some 390,000 residents.

Part of the reason why the town's population has grown so rapidly in recent years is an impressive real estate boom. In the neighboring Mahmutlar district alone 2,500 foreign families have bought residences.

The evolution is reflected in the development of property prices in Alanya. Five years ago one bedroom flats could be purchased for as little as 20,000 euros; today, as locals point out, flats with such low prices are simply no longer available. During the past five years property value in Alanya has increased by 15-20 percent a year. Today the average price of a one bedroom flat is 50-55,000 euros.

As a result, the landscape of Alanya has changed radically, from a small tourist resort to a town spreading kilometers to either side of the Alanya fortress. Many who have bought property in the area have also started spending winters in town.

Hulusi Doğan, Governor of Alanya, told the Turkish Daily News that the problems caused by the strong growth of earlier years have largely been solved. “Alanya used to have a lot of problems with overcrowding and traffic. But these have been solved with notable effort from all sides,” he said.

Abdullah Karaoğlu, member of Alanya City Council and chairman of the town's tourism commission, agrees. “Infrastructure issues, caused by the building boom, have been solved. But, in fact, Alanya never had similar infrastructure problems like some of the neighboring municipalities had,” he said, referring to the sewage problems some of the neighboring municipalities in the Alanya region have experienced.

 ‘Yeni Alanyalılar'

The municipality of Alanya has done its best to accommodate the “new Alanya residents” (yeni Alanyalılar), as foreign-born residents of the city are called. The foreign residents of the town make up an impressive mix of nationalities: Germans, Dutch, Irish, British, Belgians, Finns, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Estonians and Russians among others. A few years ago, the foreign residents of the town formed the Alanya Foreign Residents Committee, which consists of 22 members from various nationalities. The committee meets with representatives of the municipality once a month to discuss the affairs related to the town's foreign residents.

The municipality's efforts to accommodate new Alanya residents include the improving access to state health care and opening an advice center for foreigners in the center of Alanya. The municipality is also in the process of designating a place for a second graveyard for foreigners. “In addition, we are preparing a guide for foreign residents on the practicalities of living in Alanya,” Karaoğlu said.

Local Turkish residents welcome the newcomers. “For years many ethnic groups have been living in Alanya. Therefore, accommodating the newcomers is not an issue for the locals,” said Nimet Bolat, Tourism and Public Relations Official at Alanya Municipality.  Care home project Alanya-based Sun-Life Real Estate is in the final stages of its home care project in Avşallar, which consists of apartments for the elderly and those with special needs. The apartments, which underwent initial construction eight months ago, are expected to be complete by January 2008.

Avşallar is a growing resort near Alanya, located between Alanya and the Antalya Airport.

Ines Ak, manager of Sun-Life, who is originally from Germany, told the Turkish Daily News that the project is unique in the way that it offers both continuous medical care and a second home in the Turkish Riviera for the elderly.

“We decided to launch the project because we noticed that many of our elderly German friends left Turkey because… organizing proper care would be too big a challenge,” Ak said. “Also their families emphasized the fact that they could not be around to look after them continuously,” she added.

The complex, 80 percent of which is complete, consists of four blocks, each eight floors high. The complex offers health service 24 hours a day for its residents, consisting of a doctor and three nurses provided by the nearby Can Hospital.

The flats in the complex have been designed for wheelchair users. They have wide doorways, smooth flooring, single-level living, call buttons to call for assistance and floor heating in bathrooms.

 Like a high quality hotel The services of the complex also include shopping and pharmacy service, a gardener, and a cleaning lady.  There is also a tennis court, a health center with massage, fitness, Jacuzzi, sauna and a healing spa pool in the complex. The site has 24-hour security, surveillance cameras and a residence guard.

“Our aim is to enable the elderly to live a comfortable but still very independent life in the Turkish Riviera. The flats offer living equivalent to a high quality hotel,” Ak explained.

The flats, which are displayed in a showroom in Avşallar, were built in partnership with Misa Group Construction Company, which has several other projects in the area. The flats cost approximately 88,000 euros for a one bedroom flat of 91 square meters and 108,000 euros for a two bedroom flat of 125 square meters. The prices include major appliances and air conditioning. Until September they will also include furniture. All flats have spacious balconies and sea views facing the Mediterranean. The monthly maintenance cost is around 100 euros.

The complex also offers an investment target with high value growth potential. It has been estimated that property prices in Alanya will increase approximately 15-20 percent annually in the coming years.

A unique feature of the complex is also that it is not only marketed to German buyers but to all nationalities, including the Turkish. “Our goal is to attract an international group of buyers and offer health service for every one needing it. Obviously, this is a need all nationalities have. Unlike some other real estate projects ours is open to buyers of all nationalities,” concluded Ak. 

Currently, approximately ten percent of Alanya's population is foreign. BOX Alanya improves foreigners' health services Alanya municipality introduced a new service to its foreign residents last week that makes the use of the state health care system easier. Instead of traveling to Antalya to apply for permission to use state hospital services in Alanya, patients can now process their paperwork at the Social Security Institution (SSK) office in the town center. Abdullah Karaoğlu, member of city council and chairman of Alanya Tourism Commission, told the Turkish Daily News that the new system was put into place to make the use of state services easier for permanent residents. “Before, when a foreign resident wanted to use the services of a state hospital, he first had to go to Antalya to get a paper confirming his right to use state hospitals,” said Karaoğlu. “Only after the paper work was ready could the patient use free health services in Alanya.” The practice was widely criticized by foreign residents of the town. The main complaint argued that traveling for almost two hours to Antalya while unwell was an unreasonable requirement. At present, Alanya has a population of approximately 134,000; some 10,000 of them are foreign. The arrangement posed problems particularly for the German population, many of whom are elderly and need regular medical care. Karaoğlu said that the issue had been discussed on several occasions also at the meetings of the Alanya Foreign Residents Committee. “We are happy to have solved the issue,” he said.  

 Foreigners should be vigilant when investing in Turkish property  

Residents and property agents in Alanya, which has seen a significant property boom in recent years, are calling for more vigilance by foreigners intending to buy property in the region.

Turkish police are currently investigating a case in Bodrum and Didim in which a Turkish couple and a Northern Irish man are accused of swindling more than 10 million British pounds from British and Irish property buyers. It has become clear that none of the buyers in the case used a solicitor when buying their properties.

Andy Lawler, property broker at Remax Star real estate agency in Alanya, told the Turkish Daily News that although property scams in Alanya are relatively rare, most of them could be avoided if buyers were more vigilant.

“It is particularly alarming that people who would never buy property from someone they met in a bar back home come to Turkey and decide to buy a flat from someone they don't know. People should always check the references of the agent as well as the details of the title deed from the title deed office,” Lawler said.

He added that while many stories of property scams in Turkey circulate abroad, they do not reflect the full reality. “The fact is that most property deals in the region are successful and buyers are happy with their investment. Therefore, it is simply wrong to talk about property scams in Turkey as if they are a wide phenomenon—especially as most of them could have been avoided with reasonable caution,” he explained. 

Abdullah Karaoğlu, member of Alanya city council, emphasizes the importance of using professional services when investing in Turkish property. “It is not clear why some people still buy their property from unregistered agents when there are so many professional property agencies in town,” he said. Reiterating Lawler's statement, he added that people “should also not forget that 99 percent of property deals are successful.” The Alanya title deed office had issued 7,065 title deeds by the end of 2006.

Sari Syrjälä from 2Base Real Estate explained to the Turkish Daily News that in some cases, Nordic buyers have had to pay two to three times the price of their property simply because they did not do the necessary background checks before agreeing to a deal. “Foreigners buying property in Alanya should understand that checking up on the background of the property deed (tapu) before handing over any deposit is crucial in order to avoid scams,” she said.

Terhi Alanya, who moved to Alanya from Finland in 1995 and now works for the Detur Time Services, added that some foreigners also have unrealistic expectations of property prices in Mediterranean Turkey. “If a property is marketed for 20,000 euros or less, then there must be something odd going on,” she advised.

Ines Ak from Sun Life Real Estate explained that her firm does not even promote off-plan projects. “People prefer to see ready built housing and we feel more confident selling it, especially as we have received unreasonable requests for deposits from construction companies even before the construction work started,” she explained.