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Foreigners snapping up İstanbul’s iconic waterside mansions due to weak lira

This photograph taken on September 28, 2018, shows a fisherman at work beside waterside mansions on the Bosphorus River coast on the Asian side of Istanbul. They are among the most iconic sights of Istanbul -- magnificent waterside mansions strung out along the Bosphorus as the waters of the strait dividing Europe and Asia lap almost at their front doors. Once the preserve of the Ottoman elite and affluent foreigners working in what was Constantinople, these mansions, known as yalis, were made famous in novels and more recently modern Turkey's hugely successful soap operas. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Rich Middle Easterners, in particular Qataris, are interested in purchasing İstanbul’s iconic waterside mansions – yalı in Turkish – near the Bosporus, especially since the Turkish lira plunged in value precipitously this summer, according to AFP.

Dozens are now up for sale because the owners seek to cash in their luxury assets.

Prospective new owners can expect to pay up to $100 million (87 million euros) for one of the premium properties — but have the chance of obtaining a Turkish passport thrown in.

Real estate brokers in Istanbul, contacted by AFP, said that out of around 600 waterside mansions along the Bosporus, 60 were currently up for sale.

The Turkish lira this summer plunged in value as markets reacted to a bitter spat with the United States, and many buyers think now is the perfect time to snap up property assets while the currency is cheap.

Sales have to be in Turkish lira — President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has banned the sale, rent or leasing of property being conducted in, or indexed to, foreign currencies.

Brokers say that in a major turnaround, prospective buyers are almost never Turkish and are likely to be from the Middle East, especially Ankara’s closest Gulf ally, Qatar.

Along with the financial incentives, another attraction of buying a property is the possibility of gaining a Turkish passport, which offers eased or visa-free travel to key destinations.

Under a decree issued last month, Turkey made it easier for foreigners to become Turkish citizens by reducing the financial and investment criteria for citizenship.

Foreigners now need to have $500,000 deposited in Turkish banks — down from the previously required $3 million — while fixed capital investment was cut from $2 million to $500,000.

And crucially, individuals owning property worth $250,000 or more are now also entitled to become Turkish citizens, compared with the previous value necessary of $1 million.

However, $250,000 is not enough for buying a yalı.

Among the hundreds of mansions along the two sides of the Bosporus, 360 of them are of historic value, according to real estate broker Pinar Ayıkcan Tuna.

For the historic mansions, potential buyers need to receive permission from both the development directorate of the Bosporus and the council of monuments for any renovations or to fortify a building’s exterior facade.

“Turkish laws require that historic buildings be renovated or restored according to the original,” Ayhan said.

Some of the mansions are still owned by members of the Turkish elite, including the two largest family conglomerates, Koç and Sabancı.

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