• Investment advice
This article was updated on Tuesday, 12 January, 2021

2021 Istanbul investment guide

2020 saw a booming property market in Istanbul. Earthquake fears, low interest rates, and government incentives all fed a credit fuelled buying frenzy. So what exactly happened in 2020, and what can we expect to see in 2021?

Earthquake fears

With interest rates at an all time high, at the start of 2020, nearly 25%, investors preferred savings accounts. This caused a slowdown in local demand, ensuring a marked decrease in prices during 2019. A small earthquake at the end of 2019, changed the mindset of investors and homeowners. 2020 started with homeowners looking to upgrade their old non-earthquake proof homes to modern apartments (note Turkey only introduced the Earthquake construction laws in 2004). This caused quite a stir in the brand new and off plan property market. The end of 2019 saw a gradual decrease in the Central bank’s interest rate, from an all time high of 19.75% in July 2019, to 12% by the end of 2019. By the end of 2019, the property market had reversed most of its losses.

Central bank interest rates

With a sliding economy in 2019, the Turkish central bank continued to reduce rates at the beginning of 2020. However, the pandemic at the beginning of 2020 and the resulting lockdown saw a sudden halt to the entire economy of Turkey. With the number of Covid-19 cases reducing, the lockdown came to a gradual stop in summer 2020. With this, the government felt the need to put a jolt into the economy. Interest rates came down drastically – from 12% in January 2020, to 8.75% by June 2020. The government didn’t stop there – they offered payment free mortgages to the Turkish consumer, with zero payments for the first 12 months of the loan. This was offered with most state as well as private banking organisations. In addition these were only made to brand new property, under construction or completed within the last 12 months. Stock levels in good locations never fell quicker.

Interest rates now sit at 17% as of Jan 2021.

January 2020 – low stock levels

Today “central” Istanbul stock levels of brand new apartments are exceptionally low, and demand is expected to increase. The Izmir earthquake in late 2020 as well as the pandemic, has focussed the mind of many Turks. Suburban parts of Istanbul, where stock levels were always too high, and demand too low, continues to suffer from the same historic problems.

What we expect in 2021

City centre – Sisli and Besiktas

The traditional “central” parts of Istanbul, Sisli, Besiktas, Kadikoy, Bakirkoy, and Zeytinburnu, suffer from undersupply of brand new property. This chronic undersupply will continue into 2021 and beyond. “New” high rise permits in Sisli are now very difficult to come by, whilst in Besiktas, Zeytinburnu and Bakirkoy, high rise permits were never given beyond 15 stories. This height is expected to be even harder to come by in 2021. The Greater Istanbul Municipality (IBB), coupled with the Turkish government, prefer “horizontal” architecture as a solution to the overly dense nature of today’s Turkish neighbourhoods. Sisli and Besiktas saw average price rises of 18% and 23% respectively over 2020.

Istanbul’s premier business district starts in Sisli (pronounced Shishli) and extends North to Mecidiyekoy, Levent, 4. Levent and ending in Maslak. Sisli is prime city centre and in exceptionally high demand for residential and commercial space. Development in this region is rare and usually quite expensive as vacant land no longer exists. 

Bomonti is a region which was a ghetto just five years ago. Today, it is an elite residential region, with skyscrapers like Anthill, Divan, and Bomonti Hilton (the largest Hilton in Europe). The residential towers average in excess of $4,000 per square metre.

Bomonti’s popularity gained with the construction of two road tunnels, one which leads directly to Besiktas, and the other leads up to Kagithane. Two very important tunnels. In addition, Taksim is 9 minutes away, Nisantasi (a very elite area) is a 10 minute walk away, the Taksim metro (M2) is a five minute walk. Bomonti today is an important, yet still growing region.

Expect these areas to out perform 2020.

Kagithane – Seyrantepe – Istanbul’s rapidly expanding technology district

Whilst most people know Seyrantepe due to the famous mall, most people are not aware of it being called Seyrantepe. International buyers are miscommonly told this region to be Maslak or the Vadi district. These two zones are gradually merging, along the Cenderre river banks. Starting in Seyrantepe, incredible developments have cropped up along the river, working its way south towards the Halic river. Whilst prices have topped out in Seyrantepe, moving further south offers an opportunity for real value. On average, prices increased by 22% in the district.

While the new M7 metro line opened in Q4 2020, the pace of development has quickened now that the potential of the new line is realised. The M7 metro line runs east from this region into the city centre at Sisli, and terminates at the Bosphorous in Besiktas. This line is of crucial importance to Istanbul as it will be the first East to West metro line link for the city centre.

The new Airport is also easy to access from this region, with a direct highway link from Kagithane to the airport – the D020. The airport is to be served by a metro line due to open next year, and with a station in Kagithane (M11 Gayrettepe – Istanbul Airport metro line).

Expect Kagithane to perform high double digit growth throughout 2021 in areas outside of the prime regions – i.e. urban regenaration areas outside the Vadi Istanbul mall region.

GOP and Eyup

Districts which line these central districts are expected to pick up the slack of the city centre. Regions like Eyup and Gaziosmanpasa provide easy access to city centre locations. Government expenditure on metro lines, the most recent being the M7 metro and T5 tramline, has seen even more private investment in these areas. These districts have plenty of space for further construction. Couple this with extremely unsafe stock under “urban regenaration” orders, and a decent supply of mid range property will continue to feed the market. GOP saw prices rise by 20.44% and Eyup saw increases of 31.13% in 2020. Expect both regions to continue this heavy growth in 2021.

Coastal route – Atakoy, Bakirkoy, and Zeytinburnu

The coastal route provides enticing sea views as well as excellent transport links to all parts of Istanbul. The region also provides a fantastic lifestyle to residents with excellent and varied amenities of all kinds. These regions are prime for the upper and middle classes. 

The front line has seen heavy development of mega compounds – these are without doubts future landmarks of Istanbul. These provide full uninterrupted sea views across the Marmara sea, the Prince’s islands, and across the historic peninsula.  They are once in a generation developments, with no further land remaining for compounds of these kinds.

The uber modern Marmaray train line provides high speed access to all parts of Istanbul, and runs without interruption under the Bosphorous, the Anatolian side, and all the way to Ankara as a high speed trainline. This has made these regions even more attractive to frustrated commuters. 

Despite being in the upper bracket in terms of price, these developments are prime for investment. They will be easy to rent, and with strong demand from the local and international market, the resale value will always be there. Supply however is quickly running out as most compounds have completed, and are more attractive to the end user. Further supply and permits will be extremely hard to come by, resulting in strong capital gain in 2021.

Bakirkoy saw prices rise by a whopping 31.62% and Zeytinburnu by 22.99% on average. We are not expecting rises beyond these figures in 2021, as prices are already at a premium.

The crossroads of Istanbul – Bahcelievler and Topkapi

These regions are always attractive to the middle classes of Istanbul. Providing easy access to the E5 means multiple transport options to all parts of the city, but most importantly to the city centre and business district. The region is traditionally heavily dense, with narrow streets, and lack of underground parking the main issues. 

This changed over the last five years, with old warehouses and factories moving to the suburbs of Istanbul, large compounds have replaced them. This has driven growth in the area, with prices remaining reasonable considering the location. The regions averaged a price rise of 18% in 2020.

The region is quite mature, and no new government investment is expected until before 2023 – hence prices may remain stagnant in 2021 and indeed 2022. Good capital gain can be made in off plan projects.

Media Highway and Atakent

Moving further west, “Media Highway” (Basin expres), continues its regenaration apace. Three metro lines, one which opened in 2020 (M7), continues to fuel heavy construction around metro stations. This planned government expenditure on rail lines is a welcome respite from the older planning of build the homes first and then the infrastructure. An approach which has caused Istanbul’s infamous traffic issues. Today, Media Highway provides ample stock – but expect this stock to dwindle once the M9 and M3 metro lines open. Both are expected in early 2022.

Key facts about this crucial region:

Media Highway currently has around 20 developments from the cheap to the expensive, under construction to recently completed.

Atakent and Halkali in Kucukcekmece has always been a safe haven for the middle classes. Its rapid expansion throughout the 2010s out of Atakoy has transformed rocky land into a paradise of compounds, private schools and hospitals, many malls, and excellent infrastructure. Today, Halkali is the terminal for the country’s national and international high speed train network, as well as Marmaray, M1a metro, and the new Istanbul airport M11 metro line. This is further fuelling demand for what is a prime example of what proper town planning can do in Istanbul.

The districts of Media Highway saw the following average rises – Bagcilar : 19.46%; Kucukcekmece : 35%; Bahcelievler : 18%. We expect exceptional growth in price rises in property that is located within 800 metres of a metro station – especially Halkali.

Basaksehir and Bahcesehir

These two regions are investor favourites, but the important attributes of location, early phase of construction, and brand name builder, are very important here. This combination ensures resales are always fast, for a quick exit route no matter what the market conditions. The cheaper options will never provide a decent return, and resales take traditionally longer in my experience. In recent research, we found that return on investment levels reached 30 years, making it much more logical to rent in the region then buy.

Basaksehir and Bahcesehir are the closest satellite towns to the new airport, with a government objective of growing both into a population of one million plus. Parallel to this plan is to grow it with a master-plan – hence the broken thinking of the past of building first, bringing infrastructure later, is not in place here. Basaksehir is home to one of Istanbul’s biggest malls (Mall of Istanbul) and Istanbul’s biggest state hospital (3,000 beds). The metro linking the region to the city centre is already operational with construction for expansion already having started. Bahcesehir also has a metro construction linking it to the city centre at Sisli. These are all large scale public and private investments adding up to billions of dollars.

Basaksehir saw a whopping 50.36% price rise in 2020. This rise surprised all but has resulted in exceptionally high prices for what is primarily in internationally driven region – we expect prices to rise by single digits, or even reverse in 2021.

Esenyurt –  A classic case of oversupply

Esenyurt continues with the classic case of oversupply in an area that does have healthy demand for budget real estate. Esenyurt is a clutter of skyscrapers, giving it an impressive skyline. However the district is a target for low demographics and has a large international population. Resale has traditionally been difficult here due to the combination of these reasons. Rental return is also exceptionally low, averaging 2-3%.

The serviced apartment and branded complexes are the safest concept in this region. This is where a management team will be within the complex, and this is generally available on projects built by major developers. The smaller developer does not have the experience or know how to provide this type of service – this does not mean small development, but the type of developer that set up fairly recently and would not have the knowhow.

Esenyurt saw an average price rise of 28% in 2020, which is not bad. However considering some parts of Istanbul saw gains of 60-70% on a Turkish lira basis, puts this gain into perspective.

Beylikduzu –  An idyllic western town of Istanbul

Beylikduzu is an exceptionally large district made up of the southern portion of the E5 between the two lakes of Istanbul. This gives it a huge coastal line, making it a family holiday home favourite. In fact, traditionally the coastal lines has been a holiday home destination for middle class Turks since the 90s.

Much of the rise in Beylikduzu has been driven by “branded” projects in Yakuplu and Beykent. Standard buildings have not seen the same rises. Beykent has heavy demand both internationally and locally, with its private schools, malls, and private hospitals. Its proximity to the E5 make it an important satellite town for commuters, who rely on the metrobus system to get to the city centre fast. Beykent saw an incredible 41% gain in 2020. Due to height restrictions, a well controlled level of supply exists, and we are expecting to see 30-40% gains in 2021.

Yakuplu is situated on the coast and has boomed due to the ever expanding and popular West Istanbul Marina. Yakuplu saw a 54% boom in 2020, and we are expecting this to continue due to a lack of supply in the region.

Buyukcekmece – a retirement and villa town

Buyukcekmece is the penultimate district in West Istanbul. Whilst the district does have a busy and congested town centre, much of the region is made up of holiday homes and villas. Holiday homes are centred around the coast line neighbourhood of Mimaroba. New secure compounds have lined this coast, providing access to sandy beaches and incredible views across the sea of Marmara and the Buyukcekmece lake. Due to the heavy restrictions on construction in this area (in terms of height and density), supply has not met demand – giving the town an amazing 42% gain in lira terms.

Villas are expensive in all parts of Buyukcekmece, but especially so in Buyukcekmece. Much of the villas are set back in the north, in the Alkent neighbourhood. These villas have seen an average of 54% price rise, an incredible return for what are already expensive prices.

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