The coast with the most - Turkey

  Date posted: 17th of April 2011

The coast with the most - It isn't the most obvious place on the Med to build a top-end home. But the scenery is spectacular and prices tempting

Every year for a decade, Jonathan Gough went sailing in different parts of the world in search of the perfect place to build a beachfront home for himself and his family. Mallorca, Ibiza, the Ionian islands, Croatia and the British Virgin Islands he tried everywhere on a yachties' to-do list.

He was nearly tempted by St Lucia, but then, three years ago, while cruising down Turkey's southwest coast, he happened upon Sovalye Island and his search was over. This mile-long piece of wooded land in Fethiye Bay is the only inhabited island on that section of coast, but because of its listed archeological status it is packed with Lycian remains only about 50 plots have building permission.

"There was nowhere else in the world I wanted to build," says Gough, 51, a commercial construction company owner from Staffordshire. "That whole coastline is quite stunning, with pine-covered mountains dropping down to little inlets where you can just tie your boat to a tree.

"Stepping onto the island feels like stepping back in time. With no roads, it is wonderfully peaceful and feels very safe. Most owners are Turkish, but there are a couple of Scandinavians and half a dozen other British families. It's how I imagine Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, yet it's only 15 minutes by boat from Fethiye, which is vibrant all year round."

After making some inquiries about the available land; there are now only a couple of plots left; the Goughs ascertained they'd be able to build their perfect home for about GBP750,000. "This is much less than the GBP3m-5m or more it would cost to do in the south of France, although you'd be hard-pressed to find the land there to do it on anyway," he says. Gough is part of a small but growing trend for custom-building in Turkey, one that is driven by the relative affordability and availability of coastal land and the lack of homes built with the top end of the western European market in mind. "Most people don't go to Turkey to custom-build, but when they can't find an off-the-peg home to their liking, we show them some plots, talk through the options, and they realise it is a possibility," says Cameron Deggin. He is the general manager of UK-based Place Overseas (, a property company that guides buyers through the process (for a 3% fee).

"In the past 12 months, all the properties we've sold in the GBP500,000-1m price bracket have been custom-built. It may take a year to achieve, but it will also probably cost 20%-25% less than the best resale you've viewed," he says. On top of the potential cost saving, you are also able to get a home that's not on a development, adds Julian Walker of Spot Blue, a Turkish specialist. "You will usually get a unique property, with more land than the norm, so more privacy. And, of course, it is a blank canvas for all those ideas you've been fantasising about," he says.

For Gough and his wife, Judith, this involved a home tailored to the needs of the family throughout long summer holidays to be spent fishing, water-skiing and messing around in boats. They needed breathing space for house guests, with every bedroom having its own outdoor space. They also wanted a nautical feel, provided by stainless-steel balustrades, ropes around the pool-side pergola, decking and a few portholes.

"We wanted every room to have a veranda and terrace, with windows framing the sea and the amazing sunsets you get on the island. And a whole floor devoted to entertainment, with built-in bar, cinema area and snooker table," says Gough. "Above that we have a 50 sq metre lounge and kitchen-diner, then a floor with three ensuite bedrooms and, at the very top, a private 90 sq metre master suite with whirlpool bath and front and back balconies."

The 420 sq metre villa is unusually large for a Turkish holiday home, says Deggin, and Gough says the glass used throughout is unusual for the country. "Homes with lots of glass are rare in Turkey because they turn into a sauna in summer. I used double reflective glass, so the interior is cool even on the hottest days. The glass alone cost GBP20,000, but such a contemporary design wouldn't work without it."

Deggin's company uses a Turkish architect to check the designs of the designated British architect, so the plans conform to national and local building regulations. Before that, it brokers the land purchase, ensures it comes with the relevant permissions and mediates between buyer and builder throughout the process. Both Deggin and Walker advise buying the land first, then negotiating the building contract separately. There are two other plots with planning permission for sale on boomerang-shaped Sovalye, says Deggin. Both are about 300 sq metres; one, for GBP240,000, faces Fethiye; the other, priced at GBP350,000, looks out to the open sea, like the Goughs'.

If you like the sound of Sovalye, but can't wait for a custom-build, newer resales cost from about GBP750,000. Or, if boat-only access sounds a bit primitive, then the Kas peninsula offers about 30 plots with planning permission. Near the attractive working port of Kas, it's about 100km down the coast from Sovalye, and is not overrun with British owners. The profile of the area is expected to benefit from a new marina, due to open on May 1, which will attract super­yachts sailing the route between Marmaris and Antalya.

Plots here cost from GBP100,000, for a 700 sq metre patch three or four rows back, to GBP450,000 for a 1,200 sq metre seafront one. "Be aware that any plot directly on the sea here will have a commercial (meskan) not a residential (iskan) title deed, which means you can't get a mortgage on it," says Deggin, who also points out that the rocky terrain of the peninsula will add 15% to building costs. "Also, it's impossible to do contemporary designs here, as you can't have floor-to-ceiling windows. You must have a pitched roof, and you must incorporate some stonework the local vernacular."

Fortunately for Derek and Susan Wright, a traditional Mediterranean- style villa using local stonework was just what they sought, after stumbling upon Kas during a round-the-world trip in their 13-metre cruiser. They custom-built a 300 sq metre four-bedroom villa on a frontline plot after falling for "the most beautiful coastline in the Med".

"We always wanted to design our own home that would have a Spanish courtyard and fantastic views, but not be overlooked by anyone," says Derek, a retired engineer from Battersea, southwest London. "So we found a great local stonemason who hand-chipped every block of the local white granite for the walls and rendered half the house a terracotta colour to provide a warmer look than the typical stark white of other villas.

"We learnt that a successful custom-build is all about finding the right people," says Derek. He advises others planning to build in Turkey to "use a bilingual lawyer to draw up a contract with the builder that specifies every detail. Ignore anyone who says you don't need a contract, you do.

Also, ensure that, contractually, your builder has to get you the habitation licence (iskan) before he receives the final payment. Only then will you own the land and the building 100%."

The Wrights' villa, on a 900 sq metre plot, with its own pool and a beach platform with steps down to the sea, is now for sale for GBP524,000, through Place Overseas. They have bought another plot in the mountains behind to do perhaps the same again.

Land is much cheaper inland and you can get larger plots. This is what attracted David Morrison, who is building a five-bedroom villa on a 3,000 sq metre plot in the little bay of Bayindir, just outside Kas. "We wanted more space for our three young children to run around in than anything ready-made had to offer, and we can't even see another house from ours," says the 41-year-old insurance broker from north London. His villa is inspired by a Tuscan hotel and will cost GBP1m. There are plenty for smaller budgets.

Plots in the valley behind Gocek marina, 30km up the coast from Fethiye, cost from GBP53,000 (through Spot Blue) or in the wine-growing village of Uzumlu (behind Fethiye) from GBP40,000. So, according to Deggin, you could have a bespoke two or three bed detached villa there for GBP140,000, all in.

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