Turkey's "Doc Martin" helps expats navigate a new home
Marie Coggin sits down with the man expats know as Doc Martin to find out drives his one-man mission to help Turkey's expats navigate the labyrinthine Turkish bureaucracy.
I was thrilled to meet up with Martin Redman, aka Doc Martin recently. Martin, or at least his helpful Facebook page: Doc Martin's Surgery for Expats in Turkey, will be recognisable to the majority of expats with apartments or villas in Turkey, whether in Bodrum or further beyond.
His website and page provide expats with information ranging from big subjects like how to buy property in Turkey, to know-how about registering foreign mobile phones or importing a car into Turkey.
Martin tells me that he adopted the alias of Doc Martin in homage to the famously cantankerous television character, describing himself as a 'miserable old bugger'. I found Martin far from miserable, and perfectly at ease with his life here in Bodrum where he's been living for the past eight years.
When he bought his Turkish villa in 2008 to use as a holiday home, little did Martin envisage that he would move into it a couple of years later on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve! I exclaimed. Why would anyone choose to make such a life-changing move on Christmas Eve, even if Christmas isn't celebrated as such in Turkey?
He told me that in his former, workaholic life in the vehicle glass and replacement industry, he’d suffered a couple of mild heart attacks. They were minor enough that he thought he was suffering indigestion. But when he realised his condition was a little more serious than he first thought, he made a decision – the holiday he had booked for Christmas Eve to his Bodrum villa would, in fact, become the start of his new life in Turkey.
However, 'workaholic' Martin is not the type to while away his retirement on a sunbed. Within a year he found himself helping friends to gain their residence permits (Ikamet) in return for the odd beer or lunch.
I came across Martin on Facebook, where he would post helpful comments in response to people inquiring as to what had happened to their applications. Martin would pop down to the sorting office and unearth their Ikamets from a pile in the corner with the post office staff presumably pulling their hair out, seemingly incapable of sorting out their own sorting office.
The obvious thing was to set up a Facebook page, and Doc Martin's Surgery for Expats in Turkey soon attracted a membership of 13,000.
Martin modestly describes himself as a “collator of information,” and all that wonderful information that he continues to sift through and collate has now migrated over to his blog page.
Many of you may wonder why we wouldn't rely on the British Embassy or Consulate for such information, but those of us who have lived here for a while realise that the source of the most up-to-date information will be the last person who has had to negotiate an application.
Turkey's bureaucracy is the source of much bewilderment and bemusement to all, including the Turks. It’s notorious for its fluid, ever-changing policies seemingly designed to keep both civil servants and civilians on their toes. However, Martin and I agreed that a lot of these processes have become rationalised and more efficient over the past decade, in particular the handling of resident permit applications, which have migrated from uniformed police to government clerks.
Having managed to grab some of Martin's time, I thought it a good opportunity to quiz him on aspects of property buying in Turkey, given the amount of people and situations he naturally comes across.
I asked him what advice he would give to anyone thinking about buying a villa in Turkey and/or moving out here? Without any hesitation whatsoever, he said, “do it!”.
Reflecting on the concerns that people might have making such a big step, I asked him what was the biggest mistake that people make when buying a property in Turkey? Martin mentioned not spotting the 'kat mulkiyeti' or 'kat irtifaki' boxes on the title deeds (tapu) and avoiding any debts or charges on the tapu (ipotek).
Loosely, if the 'kat irtifaki' box is ticked on the tapu (title deeds) it means the house does not have a valid habitation certificate, although an amnesty has just been introduced by the government in order to help legitimise such dwellings.
Martin also mentioned that it was a good idea to pay no more than a deposit when buying property off-plan. He added that there shouldn't be any need to fear being “ripped off” when buying villas, or apartments, in Turkey if one performs the proper checks on the title deeds to ensure there are no debts.
A resale property can also lessen the chance of any possible future difficulties. The worst scenario he has come across is one where people have bought a property in someone else's name only to find that the hitherto 'trusted' friend has raised finance against the property. Why would anyone do this? There are some areas where foreigners are not allowed to buy and, in their keenness, or madness, have got round this by placing the property's title deeds in a Turkish person's name.
I asked Martin what irritated him most when helping people with their queries. Online, I have seen him answering the same questions over and over, having already advised that the answer they were looking for was clearly documented in his compiled files.
Not surprisingly, he said he gets rather fed up with people abruptly leaving a chat session that has extended well into the night without even a 'cheerio'. And failing to use that little word 'thanks'.
Well, thanks Martin, for doing all that donkey work for us and finding the answers to all those perplexing questions that we all experience from time to time living out our lives in our idyllic Turkey home. Many of us have benefitted, and it came as no surprise to me to come across a photo of Martin with the British Ambassador of the time, the popular Richard Moore, as a guest at a luncheon in recognition of his contribution towards assisting the expat community.
Happily for Turkey’s expats, the former workaholic forced into early retirement plans to continue staying busy and alert by helping others.