I moved out of my old place and I have rented a house in Istanbul. And moved in with the guy. Second time. Second time with the same guy. Because two months earlier we have moved in our new lovely place in Sapanca. Now we are living in two houses. One on a hilltop over a lake of Sapanca and the other one at the bustling metropolis of Istanbul.
I wanted to rent a house in Istanbul that would be furnished, would have a large kitchen and would be located not far from the Kadıköy Market. So that I can do the shopping at the best food market in Istanbul and then enjoy cooking. So that I can share this authentic experience with my cooking classes‘ clients. So that I can enjoy one of the nicest neighborhoods of Istanbul.
Apparently, to rent a house in Istanbul that is nicely furnished and has a large kitchen is not an easy mission. Many people prefer to rent unfurnished so this is what’s on offer. Kitchens are often times tiny little and open plan kitchens are hard to come by.
On Monday me and Ozgur came to Istanbul to see a few flats. If you are renting a house in Istanbul chances are you will be dealing with a real estate agency. There are may be three exceptions to that. First, through your personal network you will find somebody willing to rent a house which suits your needs. Second, you are lucky to spot a rental announcement places by a landlord on Sahibinden, Turkey’s largest classifieds website. Or third, you have time in hand to tour the neighborhood where you would like to rent a house, talk to owners of little grocery shops, eateries and other local business to spot potential rental opportunities that are not widely announced. Besides these three exceptions you will resort to the services of a real estate agency.
Istanbul house rental scene is dotted by small real estate agencies that focus on a particular area. You would find out the major players for your preferred neighborhood by looking at their offers consolidated on Hürriyet Emlak, a web service of a popular Turkish daily.
I spent days going through the offers and came up with the shortlist of three houses. Ozgur called the real estate agencies for the flats I had in mind but nothing looked quite promising. The one I wanted most was rented out, the landlord of the second best option had changed his mind and was not willing to rent any more, the possibility to see the third one was not clear and the agency promised to give us a call later.
My desperation was solved by Marina who’s been residing in the neighborhood long enough to get an idea of where to look. Since I know Marina on every single walk around she would point out to a banner on the windows of a house announcing the name and contact details of the real estate agent. And she would always give a short summary of her thoughts on the house condition, price and who soon it will be rented out. If she was not a professional translator, Byzantium history expert, educated sociologist, practicing cat lover and aspiring organ player Marina would have become a real estate agent really.
After the fruitless calls and even a discussion of the very need to rent a house in Istanbul right now Marina intervened, “The other date I spotted a house available from my favorite real estate agent. These guys always have nice ones. We gotta check it out”.
15 minutes later we were discussing the rental terms with the real estate agent as she was showing us the place: nice furnished house with a large kitchen 15 minute away from the Kadıköy Market. 30 minutes later we left the deposit and next day we have signed with contract with the landlord.
Fuat Bey, the landlord, appeared to be a beyefendi as they say in Turkey, a gentlemen and an exemplary of the neighborhood resident. Dignified, helpful, willingly talking about his family and kids, offering his help to get oriented in the area and giving tips of the worthwhile places to eat. I took it all as positive signs. And the kitchen which he designed himself and which was so not typical Turkish house kitchen with lots of storage space and large surface to work on.
Our first couple of days was full of setting up and getting to know the neighborhood. Handling contracts and bills for utilities, internet and phone, making a long list of missing household items and shopping for them. Checking out Koço, a legendary Greek-owned fish restaurant by the Marmara Sea, for dinner one night. Promenading the streets of Moda and joining a long queue of women in summer dresses and men wearing shorts and Havaianas to the legendary ice-cream maker Ali Usta. Then heading out for a bar in Kalamış Marina to find a salsa party going. Buying fresh fish and food at the Kadıköy market and cooking fish dinner at night and preparing a large traditional Turkish breakfast by morning. Walking along the Marmara sea and admiring the city skyline graced by the Ottoman palace and minarets of the old mosques.
This is what Istanbul is to me: happening yet laid-back and Western yet exotic – and I am happy that I rented a house in Istanbul which sets me right in the middle of this action.