Interview with Hüseyin Topal
People say the best investment you can make is by investing in land. I am not sure if they mean property on the land or the actual land itself, because sometimes buying and selling land can be more profitable than building on it.
Landmax is a group company in the sectors of real estate, architecture and car rental. After Famagusta and Lefke, the company has now opened a new office in Kyrenia that specialises in land investment. So we paid Landmax Realty Director, Hüseyin Topal, a visit at his new office to find out more about investing in land, rather than buying property.
- Which one gains more value in a shorter time period, property or land? How would you advise someone who wants to make an investment? How can you make a profit from land?
The answer to this question changes according to the area invested in and in how much you are willing to invest. For example, a flat in the Kyrenia area gains value quicker than a piece of land, but if we take a closer look at the numbers, flats are more expensive that land. A two bedroom flat in Kyrenia today will cost you 70-80 thousand GBP, and this has a 5-10 % gain in value annually. Land in the same area, with building permission, may be worth 1 million GBP. This will gain in value about 10-15 % a year. In other words the investment scale changes.
- You are one of the few companies that have its logo all over the island. From Lefke to Karpaz, the whole of North Cyprus is in your portfolio. What are the advantages of this strategy?
The greatest advantage of this is being able to offer lots of possibilities to foreign investors. Generally, people coming from abroad do not know much about the island, therefore we take them around the whole of the island, introduce every area and offer lots of choices they could invest in. For example, if the investor plans to buy a flat and lease it, then we show them touristic areas where there are short term leasing possibilities, or for long term plans we show them areas with a high population of students. We also show them the university area in Lefke and the coastal houses in Karpaz. This way, we can meet their specific needs. We show them every corner of the island, not just the city centres with high selling rates.
- Are there any popular areas to invest in nowadays? Which areas do you think will gain value in the future?
At the moment, the most popular area is Long Beach, İskele. It still has great potential, to me it seems this growth will continue for some time. To answer your question about future areas, I would say Tatlısu. The growth in construction that started in Kyrenia has now moved to Esentepe. Summer houses with sea views that used to be sold in Kyrenia are now being sold in Esentepe. Presently, Esentepe is following the Long Beach area. A balanced structural growth has been occurring in the Esentepe area for quite some time now and this popularity has caused a high increase in the prices of land. This area, with breath-taking views, has caught the attention of investors from Scandinavian and Balkan countries. I can say that Tatlısu, which is further down with the same views but with cheaper prices for land, will become a popular area in the next few years.
- All right, what are the criteria used during this evaluation? Who decides on the growing areas? Is it the construction companies, the municipalities or the buyers?
Cost is the determining point for construction companies. The cost of land, presence of infrastructure and views are important factors. For foreign investors, or in other words the buyers, costs come second or sometimes even third. They consider the view first. In this equation, the construction company has to provide the view but has to consider the cost of land. So, they start to look for the same view at cheaper prices. In fact, the mutual interests of construction companies and investors create the next growing area. To add to my answer to the previous question, this is why the energy in Esentepe is moving towards Tatlısu and also why the liveliness in Long Beach will gradually move towards Boğaz or Salamis. The trend moves towards the cheaper areas closest to the most popular area.
- We asked about today’s popular areas now let’s consider the past. We would like to know your thoughts on the closed area of Maraş. Do you think this area will open? If it does, what do you think will happen?
I don’t think it will open. But if we were to consider the possibility of it opening, it would make a great contribution to the construction sector. It was an incredibly popular area known all over the world, if it were to open, without any problems, its contribution to the economy would be tremendous. No doubt foreign investors would flood in. But no one wants to deal with the bureaucratic problems that will arise if it were to open. Privately owned properties will have to be handed back by the military and the consequences of punitive law suits will probably make us wish it were never opened.
- While we are on the topic, as you have such a large portfolio, is it difficult to explain the different title deeds on the island to foreign investors?
Actually, we used to find it difficult but foreign investors have also got used to it. At first we would explain the situation and they would get confused, but now with the improvements in technology, information can be accessed much more easily and they understand the system better. They have an understanding of the system and openly say, “I don’t want an assigned deed I want Turkish title deed or equivalent”
- Do you have a property in your portfolio, which can be seen as an opportunity for our interested readers?
I have land in the Bafra tourism sector with building permission. It is an area that needs housing due to the hotels in the area because the people working at the hotels need homes to live in. Providing service transfers into town is costly for the hotels and the employees would like to settle somewhat closer to the hotels. It is a good opportunity I can offer to large-scale investors if they believe this is what they would like to do. On a smaller scale I can offer a flat from a residential project that can be rented out. It is in the same area. You won’t lose money, the flats will always have tenants, they won’t stay empty and it is a good area for rental return on a property. For the large scale investors I can also advise them on large pieces of land in the Tatlisu area. Donum prices are quite good at the moment. Even only buying the land and selling it in one year can bring them 30% profit. Again for small-scale investors I can strongly advise them to buy a flat in the Long Beach area. A flat bought for 75-80 thousand GBP can be rented out weekly for 250-300 GBP.