Housing prices have risen sharply in Israel since the outbreak of Covid-19. Locals were moving out of city centres due to high property costs prior to this, when the housing market was stagnant, and the continually increasing prices now are therefore bound to cause an even greater stir.
To decrease their housing costs, most expats and locals living in Israeli cities rent their accommodation and often live with housemates. Those who immigrate to Israel due to their Jewish heritage are usually entitled to a discount on both housing and council tax.
Types of accommodation in Israel
Apartments are by far the most common property type in Israel, although houses outside of the city are a feasible alternative.
Property standards vary considerably in Israel. Many low-end apartments have not been refurbished since they were first built in the 1970s or 1980s, while new developments frequently offer a shared garden, fitness room, and sometimes even a swimming pool.
Larger properties suitable for families tend to be found in suburban areas. Most of these are modern properties, many of which are custom built to meet the specifications of the owner.
Furnished vs unfurnished properties
Furnished apartments are not as common as unfurnished but, if renting a furnished home, expats should not expect it to contain as many facilities and furnishings as are expected in other countries. Most homes are unfurnished and come completely bare. Expats should be prepared to pay for an oven, fridge, washing machine and sometimes even an air conditioning unit.
Finding accommodation in Israel
The majority of new arrivals find a home in Israel through online property portals. It's possible to find a home through a real-estate agency, but many Israelis have traditionally avoided this route as agency fees are usually equivalent to a full month's rent. That said, in the case that a landlord hires a real-estate agent, the agent fees for most rental agreements are to be paid by the landlord and not by prospective tenants.
When looking for an apartment in Israel, expats should note that ‘one room’ means just that: a studio apartment. ‘Two rooms’ means a living room and a bedroom. Apartments are often advertised as having ‘one and a half’ rooms, which usually means that there is some kind of partition inside the room.
Renting accommodation in Israel
Expats will most likely be dealing with a private landlord when signing a contract for an apartment in Israel. It is extremely important for tenants to understand their contract. Expats who don’t speak Hebrew are therefore strongly advised to bring a native speaker along to assist.
Most rental agreements are for one year, although landlords usually have no problem with tenants who leave sooner, provided they find a new tenant to replace them. Expats should always check this with their landlord if there is any chance they may wish to leave before their lease expires.
Before signing a lease, expats should consider the following:
The expected condition that the apartment should be left in when moving out – some landlords may demand that the tenant repaint the apartment prior to their departure.
The maintenance fee (vad ba’it), which includes general maintenance of the building and will be higher if access to a fitness suite or gym is included.
The price increase at the end of the year – this is often written into the contract.
Expats will be expected to pay the first month's rent upfront and the equivalent of at least another month's rent as a security deposit. The deposit is returned at the end of the tenancy once the home has been inspected and any damages have been accounted for.
Expats renting property in Israel should note that in most instances they'll be expected to cover the cost of utilities such as gas, electricity, water and refuse collection. Gas, electricity and water can be expensive in Israel, and expats should watch their usage to avoid high bills. They are usually paid every two months.
Buying property in Israel
Most land in Israel is owned by the state. Instead of selling land, the state leases land for extensive periods. This land is reserved for Jewish Israelis, as well as Jewish foreign nationals who are entitled to move to Israel. Only expats given special permission by the Israeli Land Authority are permitted to lease land owned by the state. Conversely, anyone, including non-Israelis, is able to purchase private property, most of which is situated in Israel's urban centres.
Buying property in Israel is expensive and prices are currently on the rise. It can be an extremely complicated process, with many incentives and deals on offer. There are also a variety of mortgage types available, and expats are advised to do considerable research before committing to any purchasing decisions.
Expats should obtain a letter of pre-approval before looking for a property. This is a letter from one’s bank to confirm how much money can be borrowed. It is usually valid for three months, but can easily be extended. Getting this early can save expats time once they have found a desirable property.
►For an overview of expenses, read Cost of Living in Israel
►For info on money matters, read Banking, Money and Taxes in Israel
"For expats who have disposable income, there are abundant rentals in the major cities, either for families or individuals, especially those who don’t mind having roommates. Short term rentals for 6 months and 3 months are also abundant." See what else Aviva has to say about expat living in Israel in her interview.
Are you an expat living in Israel?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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