By Shia Getter
At the recent Calcalist Real Estate Conference, new housing minister MK Uri Ariel said, “If you don’t have money, you don’t have to live in the center of Israel. Not everyone has to live between Gedera and Chadera!” The newly formed government is signaling clearly that housing prices in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas will continue to rise. They are saying, in other words, “We have no intention of taking any action to stop the demand from outstripping supply. Cheap apartments will be constructed up in the Galil (like the new chareidi project in Har Yona, in Nazereth, or in Tiberias).
New projects like Achuza, Pisgot Yerushalayim, Schneller, and the new Givat Ze’ev have all seen incredible demand for the apartments well before the first shovel of dirt gets moved out of the ground before construction can begin. The Israel statistics office documented this month a 12% rise in demand for apartments in Yerushalayim over the past year.
Anyone thinking of buying a real-estate investment in Eretz Yisrael should consider the advantages of buying “on paper.” By purchasing an apartment from the developer before construction has begun, you get a brand-new, modern apartment in pristine condition for a better price, and can often custom-design it so the layout is just the way you envisioned it. But buying on paper also comes with its own set of complications if not done properly. Here are a few vital points to consider before buying on paper:
What’s a few hundred thousand between friends? You would never lend $10,000 to someone you barely know without some sort of guarantee that you’ll see it again someday, right? Unless you have plenty of extra money to spare and a few hundred thousand dollars is chump change for you, never give your hard-earned savings to a developer without getting a bank guarantee that your deposit is safe—no matter how attractive the deal sounds!
Remember the “Heftsiba fiasco” in Bet Shemesh seven years ago? People lost many millions of shekels because they gave the “well known” developer money backed by his reputation alone—and they went bust. (Side note; he’s already out of jail, and investors still haven’t gotten their money back!)
Some more-advanced investors buy a given amount of property for a substantial discount before the final permits are ready. Thus, the developer has no ability to guarantee the money.
Before you enter into such an arrangement, and if you understand the substantial risks you are taking in exchange for the higher return, make sure you are getting assurances and securities of value. At our firm, we have relationships with top attorneys in this field, and work hard to ensure our clients get a good partnership agreement plus security assurances before the monies are released to the developers of the project. Better safe than sorry!
1 + 1 + ? = Know your costs. While deciding how much you can afford to spend on your apartment, it’s important to be aware of the many hidden expenses that you’ll have to include in your budget. When buying on paper, you’ll have to take into consideration the cost of the seller’s attorney in addition to the cost of your own lawyer, mas rechishah (purchase tax), the bank guarantee fee, real-estate-agent and mortgage-broker fees, and the cost of inflation for building materials. That’s right, there’s a little known clause in Israeli real-estate contracts called “madad” that links your final price to the rate of inflation at the time the project is finished for all building materials. Over the course of the 3–4 years it takes to finish construction, the madad can go up as much as 9–12%. Altogether, you may end up paying as much as 19% more than the final price of the apartment! That can come to almost half a million shekel ($120,000) in hidden costs on a regular Jerusalem apartment selling for over 2 million shekel. There can be significant financial penalties or worse if you can’t cough up all these fees by the time of closing.
Better safe than sorry. In the United States and England, the concept of a buyer’s agent has existed for years, but has gained tremendous popularity in recent years, given the volatile real-estate market. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a buyer’s broker or buying agent is essentially a liaison between the buyer and the real-estate agent and sellers.
I founded Israel’s first professional buyer brokerage service, serving as the advocate for the buyer’s best interest, navigating the murky waters of the Israeli real-estate market, banking and legal systems, and government bureaucracy, and dealing with real-estate agents, price negotiations, and selecting the right location and quality. Clients using the Shia Getter Group know that they are in good hands. Knowing that you aren’t going to be taken for a ride takes off much of the pressure of the decision to buy an apartment in Eretz Yisrael. Yidden from around the world are now able to sleep better at night knowing that they have someone in Yerushalayim who has their interests—and only their interests—in mind as they navigate the sometimes rough road of buying their own “dalet amos” in Eretz Yisrael. v
Shia Getter is the CEO of the Shia Getter Group, a full-range real-estate services firm in Jerusalem catering to the Anglo investor. He is a noted expert, columnist, and author of Everything You Need to Know About Buying Real Estate in Israel. He and his professional team manage many upscale Jerusalem properties and have helped countless people buy, sell, and renovate property in Israel. Shia Getter will be in New York and Los Angeles June 30–July 9 and has some availability for consulting with serious owners and potential investors who want to buy property in Eretz Yisrael while being properly advised. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call Sarah at 718-473-3950 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.