Look out HGTV: My own experience with International House Hunters

Once I made the decision to stay in Istanbul another year, I had to dive into immediate changes: adjusting the dates of my ticket home, readjusting my budget, stop buying so many souveniers, and most of all, finding a new apartment. My current roommate and I have now lived together for two years–one in the States and one here. We’ve had some great times together and I will miss our late night chats and shopping outings, but I figured it was time to venture out on my own. So the hunt began.

In Turkey there are two options (at least that I now of) for renting an apartment: you can either rent directly from an owner, or rent from an emlak (a realtor). I was warned against renting from an owner as they did not always hold themselves to the same standards as an emlak did, but I’d also heard stories about horrible emlaks, so I just kept both options open. My friend showed me a site to look up what was available and even went with me to a couple emlaks to translate for me. When walking around one day, we found a lovely little street (lots of colored buildings and greenery, quiet, really, just adorable)which happened to have a “for rent” sign hanging on the windows of a basement apartment. We called the owner and he said the rent was 750TL and to come down to his store by the water so he could talk to us about it. After looking at other places in my price range (I was looking to spend no more than 1000TL a month), I was super excited by the possiblity of such a place.

We went to his store where he took down a bunch of my information and tole me more about the apartment: it was a basement with a bache (yard), an American-style kitchen (one that is open and has a lot of counter space), and a 2+1 (two bedroom, 1 family room). He even said he could furnish it for me for a bit more. And the best part was that the building was only 4 years old. Most buildings in the area are much older and so a basement apartment in an older building is not always the best deal. I showed him my work permit, but he said he wanted a copy of my contract from the shocol, showing how much I made. He told my friend that he would call us on Friday to set up a time to come see the apartment and that I could bring a copy of my contract at that time. This seemed to be much easier than I’d thought.

Except he didn’t call. My friend texted him that night, but he didn’t respond. We went in on Saturday with a copy of my contract, but he told us he didn’t want to see us.

“I didn’t call you,” he informed us.

“Yes, I know,” my friend responded, frustrated. “I texted you. Why didn’t you call?”

“There is no why. I get 100 calls a day. I don’t need a why.”

At that point my friend proceeded to tell him how rude he was and we left in a huff. He didn’t seem to care, though, as he told us to have a nice day. (Of course most of this was translated to me after we left the store, although I knew things weren’t going well.) This obviously did not leave a great taste in my mouth about renting from owners and after buying some ice cream to cool our tempers, we ran into an emlak that my friend knew. He agreed to show me some apartments (he spoke English with a Turkish-Australian accent) and was very nice an patient with me. Thought he did show me a couple nice apartments, I was a huge fan of the areas they were in. And he wasn’t sure if the owner of one apartment (with a wonderful terrace) would rent to a foreigner. He said this apologetically and I smiled because I knew that this was just the case sometimes.

My friend and I also went to look at one more apartment through an emlak that was listed online. It was in a great area, a large space and nice kitchen, but 200TL over my budget. He was also very nice, though his English was about as good as my Turkish. But after a day with the crazy man, it was refreshing to have two pleasant experiences.

I decided to take the apartment that was slightly above my budget and went in to pay the deposit and sign the contract. (In Turkey, you also have to pay a fee to the emlak for finding the place. It’s usually about 10% of the yearly rent total. Mine was 1500TL.) No one was able to come with me to translate, but I figured I’d make it work somehow. I was told that the owner wanted to meet me and I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t end up horribly, putting me back at the starting line. She and her granddaughter came in and thank heavens, they were both lovely. The granddaughter, who is in the sixth grade, translated the whole thing for us and they gave me receipts for everything. The owner even invited me to lunch with her. I took a raincheck, but told her that the offer was much appreciated.

The apartment is officially available the 5th of August, but I am glad to have everything in order now. Though I had a lot of help in the process, something for which I can’t be too grateful, it’s nice to feel like I now have done something kind of on my own. I have a good feeling about this apartment (the owner told me it was “lucky,” whatever that means) and I’m hoping that I can keep just keep it up.