We sat down with Karen Ormond, a 50-something family solicitor from Oxfordshire, to ask her about her experiences moving to and living in Turkey, where she has lived for three years.
Hello Karen, thanks for talking to us today.
No problem – what would you like to know?
First of all: why Turkey? What prompted you to move?
My husband Derek and I first visited Turkey in the late 70s, when we were young and foolish, and before we had kids. We caught local buses and travelled along the south coast on the cheap: living on bread, olives and feta, and camping, sometimes sleeping under the stars. It was probably the best holiday we had, and we never forgot it. Someone told me that 'everyone has a summer', and that was definitely ours. Just magical.
We always talked about going back and maybe renting somewhere for a summer but life and work and kids (we have two boys 21 and 24) got in the way. One day in March, almost five years ago now Derek was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was caught early and he responded to treatment brilliantly but it gave us all a terrible fright, it felt a bit like the rug was pulled from under us and our lives were changed overnight. We did a lot of talking as a family and decided that we needed to devote more time to each other, and we also wanted to cross a few things off a 'bucket list'. Derek wanted to go back to Turkey so as soon as his treatment finished we went on holiday for a month.
We stayed in Fethiye, which we'd remembered fondly from our trip almost 25 years ago. It had changed so much, but the atmosphere was the same, and the food, and the weather, and the glorious Oludeniz Beach. We had a fantastic family time and the month turned into nearly two as we couldn’t bear to leave! When we finally returned home we had another family talk and we decided that we (Derek and I) would move out there permanently. Derek had taken early retirement and I’d been thinking about it for a while after a lot of stress at work. The holiday was the final push.
How did you go about finding your property?
We did a lot of research on the internet hours and hours. We were worried about losing our money out there because Derek knows someone who is still waiting to see whether he’ll have his money returned to him after a dodgy deal, so we looked into the best way to buy somewhere safely.
You do read a lot of horror stories on the internet and a few people told us we were daft to even consider [buying a home in Turkey] but a few things kept jumping out at us, like using a lawyer and a reputable developer. In most cases where people had lost their money they had jumped into something quickly or been tempted by a very cheap deal or an untested developer. I am a lawyer, and naturally very cautious and I believe that if something looks too good to be true, it usually is!
I looked at thousands of properties online, took notes, scribbled property reference numbers on bits of paper all over the house and chatted to people at a few agencies. Eventually I ended up talking to Cameron [Deggin Place Overseas director]. He was fantastic: listened to us – both of us; I made Derek call him too and that was really important.
I had concerns about the process and I really didn't want to be pushed into anything I didn't want to do, for example, I didn't want to buy off plan, and I didn't want to use an unknown developer. Cameron was really patient with all my questions and concerns and we both had a good feeling about his company.
Long story short about a month after first contacting Cameron we went on an inspection tour with his company. We were initially a bit cynical about this, to be honest, after hearing about similar trips where you’re harangued about making a purchase. So that was another concern. Happily, our fears were unfounded, we had a great and really productive trip with Aykut, the Fethiye rep, who took us all around the area and talked about its history and the idiosyncracies of each area, what we could expect to buy there for our money and where she best shops, restaurants etc were. We looked at around eight villas before deciding which one we wanted, a small villa in Ovacik, that was almost nearing completion.
What would you recommend to anyone going on an inspection trips?
Just to keep an open mind, really. We had made a list of the four properties we wanted to see, one in particular we were both very keen on. But after three days you really start to get a feel for the properties and the area and as it turned out the home we chose wasn't even close to what we were looking for. It's easy to be fooled by a picture on the internet so just keep that in mind. The property that we were especially keen on looked amazing online but turned out to have a particularly ugly view of the back of another house.
I would also warn people that the inspection trips are hard work, it's not a mini break and it’s not a holiday! We were out all day and it was really tiring. We packed a lot into our few days there. Although we did have a meal at the fish market with Aykut one night which was just fantastic. If you’re ever in Fethiye you must go there.
Tell us about your property.
We bought a 4 bedroom home in a small complex in Ovacik, Fethiye. It has a private pool, large terrace, two en suite bathrooms and is quite 'Mediterranean' in look. It was nearing completion when we bought it, so we were able to customise the interior a bit, choose our own colour schemes, that kind of thing. We also changed the layout a little, creating more of an open living and kitchen area. We’re really happy with it. There's plenty of room for the family when the boys decide to stay (one is working and the other is at uni and comes out during his holidays). My mum has been out a couple of times for longish visits. And of course lots of our friends come and visit - it actually seems quite rare that it's just myself and Derek there.
Can you tell us a bit about the buying process and how difficult or easy it was?
The process is complicated to an outsider but as Aykut and his team have done this a million times it was reasonably efficient and hassle free.
Basically, we met with a lawyer and signed a contract and put down a holding deposit of 1000 Euros. We also signed over Power of Attorney, which I was initially reluctant to do but the alternative would be to learn Turkish and move to Turkey and try and navigate the bureaucratic process myself! It just means that our lawyer can apply for military clearance and then for our TAPU in our absence. We also opened a bank account and went to the tax office to obtain a tax number. I think it took just over a month for our military clearance to come through and then the TAPU was obtained within a week after that.
We had a couple of niggles when we moved in with the water pressure doing odd things but the developer was fantastic and sorted that out for us within a couple of days.
What’s day to day life like in Ovacik?
Mostly very quiet! It suits us. Sometimes we potter in the garden, which was quite bare when we moved in three years ago but is now looking quite lovely. We usually have a quiet morning then head out for a lunch or just a coffee. Sometimes I go to a coffee with a local friend. In the afternoons we often go on a jaunt to the beach or for a walk. That’s all providing we have no one staying, if we do the schedule can be a bit more hectic, with extra excursions, shopping trips and lively meals out.
In the evenings we usually have dinner on the terrace by the pool, which is lovely and we often remark that back home we only managed to eat outside a handful of times a year. Here, we’re much more outdoor oriented.
Any downsides about moving to Turkey?
Yes, a few. But nothing we hadn't anticipated. We do miss family members, we don't see the boys as often as we’d like, and we both have elderly parents that we worry about. We left behind a close group of local friends who we miss, but as I said we do get a good lot of visitors each year. Also, we've made friends here, too.
Oddly, despite the weather being a big reason for moving here, we miss winters a little! Especially in the build up to Christmas. But I’m sure if we moved back tomorrow we would remember how much we disliked those bleak winter mornings.
Another difficulty has been the language. We do have a tutor who comes to the house once a week but I am embarrassed to say we haven’t learned as much as we should, which can make life difficult sometimes, especially trying to sort out the odd bit of paperwork. Our lawyer is always available to act on our behalf but it’s an expensive way to operate. Fortunately there are English-speaking staff at our bank which really does help. When we first moved here we found it quite difficult but once you get into a rhythm and everything’s set up it’s not so bad.
What do you like best about your new lives?
Where to start? The weather naturally. Although sometimes it can be a little too hot, Ovacik is great because you get a breeze off the sea. Knowing each day is going to be warm and sunny does fantastic things for your state of mind.
The food, markets here are fantastic, we buy all our fruit and vegetables at the big Fethiye market along the canal on a Tuesday. Or sometimes we get the boat that goes to Gocek on a Sunday to go to the market there, it takes around an hour and you get two hours there; enough for shopping, lunch and a bit of a potter round. There are also lots of lovely meze-style cafes everywhere you go, serving up koftes, stuffed vine leaves, gozleme, kebabs ... I could go on and on! I can’t lie – the food was a major draw. Everything is fresh and tasty here.
As I think I said before, we've made new friends here. There are a few expat groups (even a gardening group) and everyone is very welcoming. It can be a bit cliquey but we’ve made some lovely Turkish friends too through a volunteer group I’m involved in to try and assimilate a little.
And finally, the landscape here is so beautiful. While I miss the English countryside sometimes, there are plenty of lovely spots here. We often drive to Patara Beach, or to Kayakoy to look around the abandoned village (and have lunch food is always top of our list), or try and find a new beach, or walk along the beach, the choices are endless.
Do you plan to live here forever?
We’d like to think so, but who knows what the future holds. As I've mentioned we both have elderly parents so we will need to consider them in the future. We kept our house in Oxfordshire, which we let out to some friends, so we can easily move back if need be. Housing prices have risen significantly here since we moved here so we’d have to think carefully as to whether we’d want to sell or hang onto the property for a few more years if we did move home. But for the foreseeable future, we're both so happy here and no, we don't intend to move.
Published with the courtesy of Karen and Derek Ormond (Interview with Amy Ridout for Easy Move to Turkey magazine 5 February 2013)