Luxury villas on demand by Arabs threaten natural beauty around lake in Turkey’s northwest
Burak Coşan – SAKARYALuxurious villas around Lake Sapanca have been threating the natural beauty in the area, with many of the houses being on demand by Arab tourists and investors in the northwestern province of Sakarya.
The number of villas overlooking the lake has been increasing steadily in the last five years and they are being constructed in forests, with many of them standing empty due to their high prices.
Turks’ interest in the luxurious houses has decreased previously, giving way to Arabs to purchase villas that stand in the midst of green nature and the lake in Sapanca.
Speaking about how constructions were being carried out on the high hills with intense tree population, a construction official, whose identity wasn’t disclosed, said the lands belong to private owners.
“Property certificates were given to the areas on top of the hill nearly 150 years ago. Thus, the forested area is not being destroyed. There may be a high number of trees, but there are private-registered lands,” he told daily Hürriyet on July 23, adding that the constructions were being carried out with the rules being taken into account.”
“The constructions are being made in accordance with the permissions given after the municipality opens the area for construction. No trees are being cut down in the forest areas. Those who are determined to do so receive heavy fines. They may even go to jail,” he said.
The area around the lake is filled with signs reading “For Sale” due to an imbalance between supply and demand in the region. Some of the villas are on sale for $1 million, but there are some being sold for lower prices such as $200,000.
Even though there is insufficient demand for the villas, the constructions have been ongoing nonstop. Real estate agents active in the area said even Arabs were slowing down with the purchases.
But Arabs began losing interest in the region after two major incidents, with one being the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been orchestrated by the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, and the other being the current crisis in the Gulf region.
The prices of the villas weren’t as high as today, according to a real estate agent, whose identity wasn’t disclosed, but they increased after the interest shown to the area.
“The prices increased so much that it became extremely difficult for Turks to buy villas here,” he said, while another real estate agent said some construction companies went bankrupt due to the lack of demand.
“If the area is not brought under control, there may be serious grievances,” he said.
In addition to buying property around Lake Sapanca, investors from Gulf countries become partners in projects directly, before being involved in the building process.
According to another real estate agent, cases are ongoing between some Arabs and construction companies over landslides taking place.
“The soil in one of the hills in Sapanca is not very hard. Landslides occurred around several villas there. Complaints were filed because of that. Situations like these effect buyers,” he said.
Arabs have instead started looking into properties in the Marmara province of Çanakkale because of lower prices, a real estate agent said.
“There are villas belonging to rich Turks who are living close to Sapanca. They are mostly Istanbul’s elites. However, wealthy Arabs did major investments in the region in the last five years. Business is slow, but elite Arabs are still interested in Sapanca. Those with a lower budget are leaning toward Çanakkale. We can say that the intense interest in Sapanca decreased because they are moving to many places in Turkey,” he added.