House Hunting

Sometimes people write asking me about moving to Turkey and along with pretty much everyone else who cares to venture an opinion I normally tell them to rent first. I was quietly painting the courtyard wall the other day, enjoying the sunshine and happy in my new white paint and I thought, why do I tell people that? I didn’t rent and I wouldn’t rent. I’ve never rented. I buy. I think when I tell people to rent I’m just following the party line, that’s what we are supposed to say, even if we wouldn’t do it ourselves.

I guess you rent whilst you look for a house because god knows finding a house here on a whistlestop house hunting trip is damn near impossible, but renting long term to see if an area suits you is not something I would do. It may be sensible, but it’s not for me. I really like owning.

A few years ago I met this couple who were looking for the perfect place to retire to, they had rented in five countries by the time they got here and none had been perfect. They stayed here a few months and then moved on to another country. I think they’re still moving. Which is fine if travelling was the aim, not so fine if the aim was to settle down in peace. Nowhere is perfect, and the more you look for the bad and the awkward and the inconvenient the easier it is to find it. Sometimes commitment makes things work.

I’ve always worked on the basis that you only get one life, taking big bites out of it is what I plan to do. Which is why I’m looking for another house here. It’s likely to take a while because the kind of stuff I like isn’t easy to find, particularly at my so tiny it squeaks budget, but that’s half the fun.

We have a few choices given what we want to do which is basically increase the number of beds we have available for the kind of independent travellers who have been coming to stay here in Kirazli over the last couple of years. We can buy some bare land, a bache or a hobby farm and create something really rustic or we can buy a village house so long as it isn’t too big and doesn’t need a complete rebuild – rebuilding stone houses needs a pit of money.

We’re not restricted to Kirazli village itself, in addition to here we have various just off the beaten track villages available to us, hidden away in the mountains and in the foothills that ring the fertile plains all the way from Soke to Torbali.

House hunting starts with these villages, with driving out and finding them in the crumpled green hills, following old roads and climbing higher up and further in from the coast. We went looking yesterday and found some beautiful villages, full of stone houses, perched on hills and sheltered in out of the way valleys, surrounded by pine trees and silvered with olive groves.

Building is my thing, so whilst I am looking for pretty I am also looking at access issues, distance to materials and labour and I’m looking at the lie of the land, the way the winter run off from the mountains is marking the land and where problems with floods and drought can occur. And because I think I know my guests I’m also looking at transport links, distance to attractions, distance to restaurants and the feel of the villages; are they sleeping away the winter or dying economically, falling down and mainly empty or maintained and cared about. All these things contribute to making a location viable at first consideration.

House hunting in Turkey is a mix of common sense, clear eyes, imagination and dreaming, which is a weird mix I suppose. Eventually your eye learns to pick out the potential and your brain skips through its long learnt checklist. The old lessons rise up in your memory and you remember how you did this before and how it all works.

My biggest problem is restraining Nick. He naturally dreams big and he tends towards huge projects that we just don’t have the budget for this time. He falls in love with every drenched in character old building on every poplar crowned hill and he would love ten bedrooms and acres of land. I have to rein him in, this time it’s small, this time it’s tiny. There will be other times for big projects.

But I too ache and itch to get my hands on old ottoman buildings with their high ceilings and their beautifully balanced facades and old merchant houses behind high stone walls, but not now. Now is bijou, we’re aiming for small, to be perfectly reformed.

So we have found a few locations, we have some ideas, now the real work begins. The fishing. The emailing and talking, the learning and researching, the word spreading and contact calling, looking for the right property at the right price. It will take ages, and there will be many disappointments no doubt, but if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

I am addicted to houses, the only thing that stops me is money, so if I ever got more of the stuff I’d just buy more houses. I’d still buy what most people think of as mad stuff, I’d still buy weird stuff and stuff that needed years of work because that’s just how my addiction works and nothing makes me happier than turning potential into reality, making homes.

Despite being strict with Nick right now I’m seriously tempted by a beautiful wreck I have seen in far off Cappadocia; all tumbled blocks of stone and vaulted ceilings with star gazing gaps and layers of bijou rooms rising up from a well of a courtyard. Commuting to Cappadocia isn’t that hard, I’ve commuted further!

The only thing that stops me is knowing that I haven’t got the cash to do the project justice. Best go and earn some more, I need it, because I dream in stone.

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