A reader who missed my home-buying workshops asked if I could write an article summarizing the program. Great idea; let’s jump right in:
Buying an apartment in Israel can be a thrilling and yet daunting experience, as you find yourself out of your “comfort zone,” confronted with many challenges stemming from language and cultural differences. To successfully navigate the process of purchasing a home in Israel, you must take it one step at a time:
Step 1: Budget
Determine how much money you can spend. When creating a budget, keep in mind that closing fees, including acquisition taxes, real estate agent, mortgage broker, appraiser and lawyer, can add up to 8% of the purchase price.
Step 2: Location
Suppose you want to buy a home in Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim has over 75 neighborhoods! Where to begin? Take a deep breath. First, let’s determine where you will feel most comfortable. Are you observant? If so, would you define yourself as Yeshivish, Centrist, Modern, Chassidishe? Answering these questions, you have already pared down your neighborhood choices to a manageable number. Second, let’s focus on location; issues to consider include proximity to friends and family, religious and cultural institutions, shopping, transportation and parks.
Step 3: Usage
How will you use the property? If as a vacation home, then you may want to be within walking distance of the Kotel. Or perhaps the kitchen size or room count might be secondary to the need for a sukkah balcony. However, if you are buying the property as an investment and planning to rent it out, proximity to the Kotel or the existence of a sukkah balcony might not be as important, as the premium paid for such benefits is usually not recouped in the apartment’s rental rates. Another point: If you purchase an apartment for your own personal use, it may be a marvelous idea to buy a renovated unit. However, if you plan on renting it out, you may prefer to spend less money and buy an un-renovated apartment, as most tenants do not treat their homes with the same kid gloves as would an owner.
Now’s a good time to create a list of your apartment priorities in descending order, including apartment size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, parking spot, sukkah porch, garden, views, etc. Once you have prioritized your wish list, we can determine how much it will cost to fulfill your dream.
Step 4: A Good Lawyer is Worth his/her Weight in Gold
You have found the right apartment; the next step is to choose the right attorney. Unlike the United States, there is no title insurance in Israel, nor is there a standard industry contract, so you need to retain a seasoned attorney who is current on all real estate issues in your neighborhood.
Step 5: Post Closing
Once you own the apartment, you must ensure proper oversight of your property. If it will remain empty between your trips to Israel, I highly recommend hiring a property manager to collect the mail, pay your bills, represent your interests at building meetings, and regularly inspect your apartment.
The issues we discussed above may sound daunting, but don’t despair. There are excellent and honest real estate professionals who will diligently represent your interests. If you surround yourself with the right people, they will help you avoid potential pitfalls and make your home-buying process a positive experience.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous articles, please visit his blog at www.myisraelhome.com.