Istanbul is a large, sprawling city and it can be overwhelming for new arrivals seeking accommodation. Most expats looking for accommodation in Istanbul tend to choose the areas on the European side of the city, although there are also plenty of housing options on the Asian side.
Types of accommodation in Istanbul
There are numerous accommodation options in Istanbul, including apartments, houses, condominiums and luxury villas. The price of property in the city varies according to the type and quality of the residence, as well as its location, age, and whether or not it has parking facilities.
There are options for furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses in Istanbul. Many expats choose to live in housing estates, which are increasingly common.
Finding property in Istanbul
There are many online property portals which cater to all budgets and tastes. There are also many real estate agencies (emlak) throughout Istanbul. Some of these specialise in the expat market, which is useful in limiting language barrier issues.
Traffic congestion can be a real problem in Istanbul. Expats should, therefore, consider the proximity of their house or apartment to public transport and the distance they will have to travel to get to work.
Renting property in Istanbul
Leases in Istanbul are usually signed for a year. A deposit equivalent to one or two months' rent is typically required to secure the property. An agency fee may also apply if going through an agent.
In order to rent property in Istanbul, expats may need to provide a number of documents, such as their passport, a letter from their employer and proof of income. Other documents may also be needed, depending on the landlord or agent.
Utilities, including water, gas and electricity, are normally included in the rental price for short-term leases. Those in long-term rentals may be expected to pay for their own utilities. This is usually dependent on the landlord and may be negotiable.
Most landlords and estate agents may not be able to speak English and most rental agreements are written in Turkish. It’s therefore best that expats have a trusted friend or colleague who speaks Turkish to accompany them on their house hunt.
Expats renting in Istanbul will find that the utilities for most accommodation will be pre-registered in the name of the landlord and that it is the responsibility of the tenant to settle the bill monthly.
Setting up a landline telephone is an easy process, as is buying mobile pre-paid SIM cards. However, only Turkish residents can get mobile phone contracts, unless they are provided by their company.
Most companies will help expats arrange telephone connections. This is useful as telephone company agents might not speak English. When dialling within Istanbul, bear in mind that the prefix for the European side is 0212 and for the Asian side is 0216. This must be dialled before the number each time when calling from one side to the other.
Most housing estates and apartment blocks will have a kapıcı or doorman. In most cases, the kapıcı acts as the handyman and will collect garbage and take care of minor repairs. The drawback to this is that expats will be hard-pressed to find a kapıcı who speaks English. Most expats will need to rely on secretaries or other office staff to translate for them in their initial days in Istanbul.
Household services are widely available in Istanbul, and at a generally cheaper cost than in the West. Both Turkish and Filipino domestic cleaners are commonly available. Although Filipino domestic cleaners are more expensive, they are more likely to speak English.
►Read Areas and Suburbs in Istanbul for specifics about expat favoured areas
►For more on finding accommodation in Istanbul, read Finding an apartment in Istanbul: Advice from a real estate expert
"Things to note are that if you want to rent an unfurnished apartment it means exactly that – no light fittings, window coverings, whitegoods and sometimes no floorcoverings..." Read more about Lisa's experiences in Istanbul.
Are you an expat living in Istanbul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Istanbul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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