The scenic Bosphorus strait flows through the heart of Istanbul, connecting Asia and Europe. Geographically, politically and historically significant, it also happens to be the most in-demand locale for luxury living in Turkey’s most populous city.
The Bosphorus waterway runs between the Black Sea on the north, Marmara Sea on the south, and Asia on the east and the continent of Europe to the west.
“The most desirable towns [along the Bosphorus] are Yeniköy, Bebek, Kuruçeşme and Tarabya on the European side, and Kandilli, Vaniköy, Anadoluhisarı and Kanlıca in the Asian (or Anatolian) side,” said Yüksel Ayikcan of AYIKCAN Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International.
Seaside mansions along this prominent strait are a serious investment. “Be ready to spend between 28 million and 300 million Turkish Lira (US$9 million to US$100 million) for seaside estates,” Mr. Ayikcan said. “The price range for a nice seaview villa is 15 million to 150,000,000 million Turkish Lira (US$5 million to $50 million).”
Mr. Ayikcan notes that surrounding neighborhoods which are not directly on the water do have a slightly lower entry price, starting around TRY6.1 million (US$2 million).
The estates and mansions along the Bosphorus reflect the city’s longevity. Ottoman-era palaces are perched next to contemporary mansions along the water, and Victorian- and European-style architecture can be found woven throughout the neighborhoods.
Residences echo the details of impressive neighboring buildings, such as the early 19th century Hatice Sultan Palace, the grand Baroque-style Ortaköy Mosque and the Yildiz Palace, Istanbul’s second-largest palace.
What makes it unique?
Elegant and historic, the Bosphorus has long been the the most desirable residential area. Strict building codes prohibit new construction along the shoreline, which safeguards the natural beauty and gorgeous water view that make this area so unique.
Ozlem Atalay, of Pamir & Soyuer Real Estate, added that, “The strait has yalıs (waterside villas) which line up along the Bosphorus. Some of these yalıs are historical buildings dating back to the 17th century. If they are wood and well-preserved, they are likely to be more valuable than the concrete ones. If they have an outstanding history, for example if a paşa (high-ranking Turkish officer) or well-known family lived in the yalı, then they are more prestigious.”
No new developments are permitted within the Bosphorus area, so supply is very limited, she explained. “However, when we do see random house sales in the market—especially historical ones where pashas or celebrities lived—they catch the attention of the media,” Ms. Atalay said.
And it’s not merely a pretty facade, though. The 19-mile long Bosphorous is also one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, and landmark mosques and palaces are a draw for visitors, too.
Well-heeled locals can be found dining out at top restaurants, such as Zuma, a Japanese izakaya-style spot by way of London; the top floor of Besiktas Plaza at Vogue, which offers unparalleled views; Lacivert known for its fresh seafood; Sortie for seaside views; Aija, which is set in a mansion, and the Wine Spectator-recognized Topaz restaurant.
International private schools include the Robert College of Istanbul; Tarabya British Schools, a high school; and the Lycée Francais Pierre Loti for preschool through high school students.
Travelers desiring a five-star stay can book a room at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, the Four Seasons Istanbul Hotel at the Bosphorus and the Shangri-La Hotel.
Who Lives There
According to Mr. Ayikcan, Forbes-list-level business people occupy the shores of the Bosphorus. Among the high-net-worth neighbors are businessman and philanthropist Rahmi Koç; billionaire Şevket Sabancı; Murat Ülker, the chairman of Turkey’s largest food producer, and Ferit Şahenk, who is Turkey’s richest person and the chairman of Doğuş Group.
Turkey’s former prime minister, Tansu Çiller also resides in Yeniköy, along with singer and composer Sezen Aksu, singer Kenan Doğulu, and the actress Beren Saat.
Not just for notable locals, Mr. Ayikcan said that, “During the last few years, foreign investors have turned their attention here, especially from Middle Eastern countries. The most expensive property was sold in 2015 to Qatari businessman Abdulhadi Mana Al-Hajri for roughly US$106 million.”
REIDIN, a Turkish real estate market information service, reported that the Real Estate Confidence Index across Turkey is down 28.5% from last quarter.
As for Istanbul, Ms. Atalay noted that, “Yes, for sure, we can say the market is slowing down. It is affected by the political climate due to rising tension both within in the country and with its neighbors.”
However, this is not putting a halt to sales either. “Currently, there are government incentives, such as tax reductions regarding house sales, and the banks are also providing mortgages with rather lower interest rates and longer maturity terms compared to the previous months in the overall residential market,” Ms. Atalay explained.
The Bosphorous, she pointed out, has always had its own very specific buyers, and remains a niche market.
Mr. Ayikcan agreed that the outlook of this in-demand enclave remains upbeat “Bosphorus is the most exclusive neighborhood in the city, and having one of the mansions is a symbol of prestige. Even during the slow economy, the properties on the Bosphorus are the most desirable ones,” he assured.
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