When Ros and Tony Lockhart started searching for a retirement home abroad, the resort of Kalkan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast was far from their thoughts. They focused instead on the northern French town of Hesdin, birthplace of the author Abbé Prévost.
“We were on the point of buying the 17th-century house where Abbé Prévost once lived,” says Ros. “Then in late 1999 we came on holiday to Kalkan and we immediately thought, ‘What on earth are we thinking of? This is where we should go.’”
At that time there were no homes for sale in the town, “and not even an estate agent”. The Lockharts by chance met a developer who had just built a small apartment block. Within hours of meeting him they snapped up three apartments, two of them as rental units. “Several friends who initially told us we were crazy also bought in Kalkan within the next year,” she says.
They have never regretted their decision even though Ros concedes that Kalkan “has changed from the sleepy little place with no roads” they first saw more than 10 years ago. Their timing was serendipitous, coinciding with a property and tourism boom in Kalkan and across Turkey that has not run out of steam in spite of the global credit crunch and its after-shocks.
Today, the cobbled streets of the old town rising from the marina accommodate a gamut of estate agents together with rooftop restaurants in renovated Greek houses (Kalkan was a Greek village until the enforced transfer of Greek and Turkish populations in 1923). Above the translucent blue waters of Kalkan bay, the climb up the foothills of the Taurus range overlooking the resort has become a honeycomb of limestone-clad villas where olive groves used to hold sway.
“What makes Kalkan a unique location is that it can’t grow, unless it would be over the top of the mountain. But the core appeal is that it is small and beautiful,” says Gonca Ozel, comparing the resort with larger-scale centres in southern Turkey such as Bodrum and Antalya. Ozel, who has sold property along the Turquoise Coast for 10 years and runs Kalkan Exclusive Properties, says British buyers make up about 80 to 85 per cent of the market. Although British buyers of mid-range homes priced between £100,000 and £400,000 have been hardest hit by the tighter mortgage credit conditions, she still sold 11 properties in this range last year.
“Mid-range buyers usually purchase their second home with a remortgage, which is quite difficult to obtain from UK banks at the moment,” she says. “Rates are still quite high in Turkish banks so it is not reasonable to expect to get the mortgage from Turkey. Some buyers wanted to sell their home in the UK but the UK house market is very slow, so that closed another door.” Nevertheless, the stellar Turkish economy, which grew almost 8 per cent last year, combined with its sound banks, are reasons to persevere with a search.
Ozel’s own preference would be to stay within the old town and to look at older properties rather than newly built villas.
Among the homes on her books is the imposing four-bedroom Villa Incantata, which has an asking price of £400,000. Combining the heft of a US metropolitan mansion with locally handmade carpentry and traditional wrought iron, it occupies a 1,250 sq m plot, with panoramic views of the bay. The garden, close to a third of an acre, is terraced on two levels, and is a riot of bougainvillea, plumbago, trumpet vines and hibiscus.
Another house with a comparable vista over the bay is Villa Matricha, the pet project of Ali Öztürk, owner of Kaptan restaurant, who a year ago opened the resort’s first wine and tapas bar. It has four bedrooms and bathrooms, a 72 sq m swimming pool, built-in stone barbecue and is offered fully furnished for £495,000. Öztürk says his own status as a restaurateur-cum-developer is not unusual in Kalkan.
Although the prices that homes can fetch in some segments of the market have tightened and the volume of sales has slowed, the price of land continues to soar. “An apartment price will increase around 5 to 10 per cent per annum but the land price at a good location will increase at least 25 to 30 per cent,” says Gonca Ozel, while Ros Lockhart recalls that a neighbour’s 1,000 sq m plot that was bought for £12,000 eight years ago has just fetched £55,000.
While land-price inflation is an unfortunate by-product of the boom, it has nonetheless brought advantages: the quality of newly built villas has improved. Buyers have learned to beware of giving agents or developers power of attorney for their housing deals, and no one is likely these days to undertake any deal without employing a lawyer.
Villa Gunbatimi, being sold by British accountant John Phillips and his Anglo-Turkish wife Tomris Atabay, combines cool minimalism with quirky individualism. Seemingly carved out of the limestone hillside, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a series of external rectangular columns, the two-bedroom villa pays homage to the architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright.
In a town where a stunning vista is almost obligatory, the view from the terrace over Kalkan bay is unlikely to be bettered, and the sea is only two minutes’ walk away. The villa is surrounded by landscaped greenery and stands close to Villa Mahal, a boutique hotel that regularly figures in lists of the world’s top 10. Offers are sought in the region of £500,000.
● Warm and welcoming local population
● Remarkable climate with at least seven hours of sun a day for 250 days
● Array of classical sites within easy reach
● Stable economic conditions
● Electrical and water supplies subject to periodic disruption
● 90-minute journey by car from the airport
● Maddening driving habits of the Turks
● Growing risk of burglary
What you can buy for …
● £100,000 will buy you a two-bed apartment with reasonable view of sea
● £1m will give you the choice of top-notch luxury villas – and you’ll get some change
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