This guide was written prior to the October 2023 escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. The ongoing conflict has markedly affected the safety and advisability of travel to the region. Please consult with relevant authorities and exercise extreme caution when considering travel to Israel and the surrounding areas.
Housing prices have risen sharply in Israel in recent years. Locals were moving out of city centres due to high property costs before 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 housing and council tax discount.
Types of accommodation in Israel
Apartments are by far the most common property type in Israel, although houses outside 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 amenities such as shared gardens, fitness rooms, and sometimes even swimming pools.
More extensive 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 owner’s specifications.
Furnished or unfurnished
Furnished apartments are not as common as unfurnished ones. 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 appliances such as ovens, fridges, washing machines and sometimes even air conditioning units.
For those not looking for a long-term commitment or only planning to stay in Israel for a short period, short-term rentals are an ideal option. These accommodations are often furnished, equipped with essential amenities, and strategically located in urban centres or tourist hotspots. Prices for these rentals can vary depending on the location and the duration of the lease. Some might come with added perks like housekeeping services or access to communal facilities.
It’s also not uncommon for expats and tourists to opt for serviced apartments or Airbnb rentals, which offer flexibility and often a more personalised touch to the stay.
Finding accommodation in Israel
Most new arrivals find a home in Israel through online property portals. Finding a home through a real estate agency is possible, but many Israelis have traditionally avoided this route, as agency fees are usually equivalent to a full month’s rent. That said, if a landlord hires a real estate agent, the agent fees for most rental agreements are paid by the landlord, not 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 generally means that there is some kind of partition inside the room.
- Expats can visit property rental websites like Yad2, a popular Israeli classifieds platform for real estate.
- For those preferring serviced apartments or short-term stays, platforms like Airbnb have a plethora of listings across the country.
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 imperative for tenants to understand their contracts. Expats who don’t speak Hebrew are strongly advised to bring a native speaker along to assist.
Once a suitable property has been identified, expats must complete a rental application, typically requiring details about their employment, references and sometimes a credit check. They may also need to provide proof of income to assure the landlord that they can cover the rent. Some landlords may request a guarantor, especially if the potential tenant is new to the country or doesn’t have a steady income.
Once the application is approved, expats will need to negotiate and sign a rental agreement. Negotiations can centre around rent, maintenance fees, lease duration, and any potential renovations or modifications to the property.
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 before their departure.
- The maintenance fee (vad ba’it), which includes general building maintenance, will be higher if access to a fitness suite or gym is included.
- The price increase at the end of the year – typically included in 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.
Terminating the lease
If an expat needs to terminate their lease earlier than the agreed period, it is essential to give the landlord written notice, usually 30 days in advance. Some leases might have a penalty for early termination, so it’s crucial to understand this aspect before signing the agreement. If the tenant can find a replacement renter to take over the lease, the landlord might be more accommodating with waiving penalties.
It’s also worth noting that some landlords might offer a month-to-month lease after the initial lease term, providing both parties with more flexibility.
Utilities in Israel
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. In Israel, gas, electricity and water can be expensive, and expats should watch their usage to avoid high bills. They are usually paid every two months.
Electricity in Israel is supplied by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). The voltage in Israel is 230V, and the frequency is 50Hz; it’s worth noting that the type of plugs and sockets used are Type H and Type C. Expats should ensure that their electronic devices are compatible or have the necessary adaptors.
Electric bills are generally issued bi-monthly, and renters should set up a direct debit to ensure timely payments.
Gas for cooking and heating is commonly used in Israel. Most urban areas have a centralised gas system, while in some suburban and rural areas, households might rely on individual gas cylinders. It’s crucial to check the gas connections and safety features when moving into a new home.
Water is a precious resource in Israel due to the country's desert climate. As a result, water prices can be relatively high. Bills are issued every two months and can be paid online or at local post offices. It’s also encouraged to use water-saving techniques, such as shorter showers and using water-efficient appliances.
Bins and recycling
Waste disposal and recycling in Israel are managed at the municipal level. Most neighbourhoods will have designated areas for waste collection, with separate bins for recyclables, organic waste, and general rubbish. There’s been a push towards increasing recycling efforts in recent years, and expats are encouraged to familiarise themselves with local recycling guidelines.
For larger waste items, arranging for a special collection or dropping them off at designated disposal sites might be necessary.
- For more details on electricity, visit the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) website.
- To understand more about water conservation efforts, the Mekorot National Water Company offers resources and guidelines.
- The Ministry of Environmental Protection offers guidance on waste disposal and recycling in Israel.
Buying property in Israel
The state owns most land in Israel. Instead of selling land, the state leases it 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 can lease land owned by the state. Conversely, anyone, including non-Israelis, can purchase private property, most of which is situated in Israel’s urban centres.
Buying property in Israel is expensive, and prices are currently rising. It can be an extremely complicated process, with many incentives and deals on offer. Various mortgage types are 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
What do expats say about rental options 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 six months and three 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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