Housing

Strawberries

Rehovot has many choices of dwellings to satisfy the needs of most. One can find 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedroom apartments, private homes, duplexes and penthouses with rooftop gardens.

Prices have gone up over the past few years and there are signs that they might be stabilizing or even coming down. It is not impossible to find a 3 bedroom (4 room) apartment in a building with an elevator and parking for under $350,000. Rentals for 3 bedroom apartments usually go for $900 - $1000 per month, not including utilities and municipal taxes (arnona).

The beauty of the city is that most neighborhoods are a short walking distance to the city center. Because of the city's age, there are many beautiful tree lined residential streets 3 or 4 blocks away from Rechov Herzl. Leave your car at home and bike or walk to the city center. You will find everything you want on Herzl. Take the kids out for pizza, sit at an outdoor cafe, rent a video or stop by a health food store.

Buying an Apartment

Buying a home in Israel is a very different experience than in North America. There is no Multiple List Service that lists all properties for sale. Each agent or agency will have a list of apartments that they have for sale as well as units they know about. In Israel, the buyer and the seller each pay the agent that makes the "shidduch". The fees range from 1% to 2% and agents will either include the 15.5% VAT or add it to the amount. Make sure you know what you are signing for because once you have purchased that apartment you owe the agent the commission.

Renting an Apartment

Rentals are sometimes hard to come by and are quite often not long term. Israel lacks a stable supply of rental apartments and instead relies on individual owners who rent out their apartments. Leases are important and you should use the services of a lawyer. The standard fees for a rental commission to the real estate agent are one months rent. The same applies to the lawyer although if there are detailed negotiations the lawyer may charge more. Try and make sure that you have the right to rent for additional years if you choose. Rent usually does not include arnona (municipal taxes), utilities and vaad bayit.

For additional information on rentals, please check out the Rentals Page.

Tricks of the Trade

If an agent leads you to an apartment and you end up purchasing the unit you must pay a commission fee. There is a form that is filled in and signed for each unit that is shown listing the unit and the percentage of commission you are agreeing to pay. To avoid people finding out where an apartment is located and avoiding the commission, agents usually advertise that the apartment is "in a good area" or 'on a good street". If it is a large street with lots of apartments the agent may advertise the name of the street or sometimes they choose a nearby street.

Land Ownership in Rehovot

93% of the land in Israel is owned either by the state, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), or the Israel Land Administration (ILA). The ILA is a government agency responsible for managing the public land of Israel. They lease land for 49 or 98 years at a time. Much of the land in Rehovot is NOT leased from the ILA but privately owned by the home owners.

Since there is no listing service, agents know that clients will go from agent to agent to find the unit that they want. Some agents will claim listings by showing apartments that they do have listed but are known through local newspapers. They figure that rather have you walk away and lose one half of the commission they would like to make what they can, and show you a listing for which they only receive commission from you, the buyer. This gets a bit bizarre when agents show you a unit that is advertised in the newspaper and collect commission on the sale. This same unit would be free of commission if the buyer found the apartment on their own by reading the same newspaper the agent is reading. If you do a little of the legwork you can save thousands of dollars in a purchase.

Negotiations are not the same as they are in North America. An offer to purchase is not always a formal procedure, accompanied by a check to the buyer. It is often done on the phone or in a very informal way followed by a temporary agreement. Besides the purchase price and closing date a list is normally drawn up of what the sale includes in terms of appliances, air conditioners and wall units. Keep in mind that many Israelis do not buy an apartment until they sell their own apartment. This creates situations of long closing dates, sometimes as long as a year away from when the deal is made.

What are the "Extras"?

So, you found the home of your dreams and now you are ready to make your purchase. If you are taking out a mortgage you will need to brace yourself. Getting a mortgage in Israel is a long, stressful ordeal that requires patience and a good sense of humor.

Real estate agent
This fee is often quoted at 2% plus VAT but in Rehovot almost nobody pays that amount. The usual fee is 1% - 1.5% either including VAT or in addition.

Lawyer
You need a lawyer to negotiate the contract and make everything happen on time. Most Rehovot lawyers charge 1% plus VAT. If you are still negotiating and there is a possibility that the deal may not go through, check with your lawyer to see if the lawyer will charge for any work done. Most local lawyer figure that you will buy another apartment through them and do not charge for their time spent.

Inspection
Some buyers choose to hire an engineer to inspect the apartment. Fees vary depending on which services are needed. One company offers over 20 different services including radon checking and a neighborhood check. If your Hebrew is not up to speed, make sure the engineer gives you a report in English and does not charge extra for the English report. Engineer inspections are usually around $600.00.

Taxes
Taxes change from time to time so check with your lawyer for the exact amount.
Using your rights as an Oleh Chadash, you will pay .5% on the first 1,113,230 NIS with an additional 5% on the balance.

Parking in Rehovot

Finding parking in Rehovot can be difficult. Apartments with parking "on Tabu" (on the deed) are worth more than those without. Many residential streets do not allow overnight public parking after 5:30 PM unless they display a special permit. These permits are available from the city to allow residents to park on their street as well as certain nearby streets.

If you are not using your Oleh Chadash rights you would pay 0% on the first 594,705 NIS with an additional 3.5% on an amount between 594,705 and 737,550 shekels and 5% on the amount over 737,550 shekels.

As in any purchase you will pay the seller any prepaid amounts. Arnona (municipal taxes) are paid to the city and Olim chadashim get a discount for the first year on the amount of taxes they pay on the 1st 100 square meters. Vaad Bayit is the monthly maintenance fees that each owner pays to the building and that covers electricity for the hallways, cleaning, gardening etc. There is no concept of a reserve fund that North American condo owners pay into through their maintenance fees so if there are any unexpected expenditures each unit owner has to pay for them.

Keep in mind that you will likely write a check in NIS but the purchase amount is quoted in dollars. You will need to figure the best way of converting the dollars on time at the best rate.

Lawyers

If you are an Anglo and have limited Hebrew skills it is advisable to use a lawyer who speaks your language. Below are a list of a few lawyers that I have heard about. We used Ari Edelman and I found him to be honest, thoughtful and great guy to deal with.

Ari Edelman
arna@012.net.il
Tel. +972 8 9491510
Fax +972 8 9455584

Menachem Moshanov
Tel. +972 8-9472391

How to Find a Home

Besides using real estate agents there are a number of other ways of finding a home in Rehovot. There are two publications that are distributed for free in Rehovot that contains listings of apartments and villas for sale. Gal Gefen (they have a web site which has localized listings but we found that many of the listings were old) is a magazine type publication and Shalosh Plus is a tabloid size. There ads are listed according to city and number of rooms in the apartment. A FOUR room apartment is a THREE bedroom unit. The normal way of counting rooms is the number of bedrooms plus one for the living room and kitchen. Apartments are measured in square meters and because of the system might be one figure on the deed and another in reality. More recent units include parking, machsan (locker) and a portion of the common area (stairwell and lobby) in the total size of the apartment. 100 square meters in one apartment may not be 100 square meters in another.

Our Favorite

Our favorite agent is Benny Sheiba. We used him for a unit we made an offer on and found him to be reliable and honest. He speaks English and is not overly aggressive as some of the other agents we used. You can reach Benny at 052 280-2198 or via his web site.

There are a few web sites that also list property for sale. www.yad2.co.il and www.homeless.co.il are both great resources for finding apartments. Yad2 is also a good place to look for cars. We have found that owners will advertise their apartments at very high amounts largely because there are no published lists of units that have been sold with their prices. This creates a situation where owners, not knowing how to prices their units and not having the advice of a real estate agent, look at the published lists of units for sale and ask similarly inflated prices as their neighbors. After attempting to sell at an unrealistic price the asking price may drop. If you are there at the right time with the right offer the apartment can be yours.

Mortgages - How to Save Some Money

One of the worst parts of buying a home in Israel is dealing with the banks to get a mortgage. Navigating the system can be difficult if you do not know the ins and the outs. Now there are mortgage advisors who guide you throuh the system. They typically take a fee which is usually more than made up by a lower mortgage rate. Ariel Vered has been involved in both the US and Israeli mortgage markets and is familar with the Rehovot area. He is fluent in English and Hebrew and can assist you in making the right decisions for your individual requirements.

He can be reached at: ariel@israelmortgage.net Krantz & Associates, Financial Advisors www.israelmortgage.net

How to Read an Apartment Classified Ad

To use an Inspector or Not?

For an inexperienced home owner, an engineer can pinpoint possible issues that will need repair sooner or later. Inspectors, together with your lawyer, can also identify issues with illegal additions or enclosures that may result in fines or back taxes. Some buyers choose not to pay the $600 +/- fee and inspect the apartment themselves. They will also compare it to other units in the same building to ascertain if the unit had any additions.

When you start your search you will need to know the lingo that is used in the classifieds. Some of the words used are acronyms so try and figure it out or ask a seasoned apartment hunter.

2 room, 3 room 4 room or 5 - Take away 1 and you will have the amount of bedrooms. So, a 4 room apartment is a 3 bedroom unit.

2.5 - the .5 means half a room. Sometimes it was a mirpeset that was enclosed or a larger room that was divided into two.

Koma Vav - 6th level. Israelis count the levels starting from the 2nd floor. So, koma bet is not the 2nd floor but rather the 2nd floor ABOVE the ground floor.

3 of 4 - 3rd level of a 4 level building.

Beli - "Without" as in the apartment is on the 3rd level of a 4 level building "without" an elevator.

Kneisa - Entrance. Many apartments have 2 or more entrances and are usually named Kneisa Aleph, Bet, Gimel etc.

Mirpeset Shemesh - a balcony that extends from the building as opposed to mirpasot that are often part of the building.

Parking on Tabu - Parking can be an issue n some buildings and if your unit comes with parking on Tabu it means that you own the right to park your car in a particular spot. It does not allow you to use the parking space to build, only for parking.

Dude Shemesh - Solar powered water heater that usually also contains an electric heater to heat water on days when there is not enough sun to warm your water.

Gamish - To be arranged, or flexible. Closings are often 6 months to a year away from a sale so make sure you are looking at a property with a closing that suits your purpose.

Mazgan - Air Conditioner

Mazgan Merkazi - Central air conditioner

Mini Merkazi - Small central air conditioner

Machsan - Storage locker

Soragim - Security bars on the windows

Prices

Because there are no published listings of sold units one can only estimate the going prices. Listed prices in the classified ads can be deceiving because at times there can be a large gap between the asking price and what units actually sell for.

New apartments usually sell for more than resales and although they usually come with amenities such as parking and machsans (storage lockers) they are often smaller than the older apartments.

Many Israelis will not use agents to sell their homes. Instead they will post on web sites and take ads out in local newspapers to advertise their home for sale. Below are a list of some of the Internet sites that are used for buying and selling.

Quick Links


The Rehovot Internet discussion list is another great way to learn more about daily life in Rehovot. Subscribe through Yahoo Groups and e-mail other Rehovot residents.

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