How to Buy A Home in Israel - Moving to Jerusalem

Copyright 2006 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living In Jerusalem

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I'm building this page to explain the basic real estate terminology used in Israeli newspapers. I used Kol Ha-Ir for the paper with the most extensive Jerusalem real estate listings. Before getting into some of the nitty gritty of shopping for a home in Israel, a few general warnings. When you buy a home in Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Israel for that matter, you are buying what the contract or the bill of sale specifies. Don't try to do it yourself, you need a lawyer. One of the items the lawyer will investigate is the Tabboo (an old Turkish word) which is the equivalent of a title or property registration. It doesn't get much worse than buying an apartment and finding out too late it didn't belong to the seller. Second, when I say you really only get what's specified in the contract, I mean it. Israeli's have been known to remove everything but the walls when leaving an apartment, we're not just talking about taking the light bulbs, but the fixtures as well.

Third, almost all apartments and houses in Jerusalem are part of a multi unit building, so the Vad (the building council consisting of your neighbors) is an important element. The Vad doesn't just handle issues like collecting money building repairs and for garden work, it can be responsible for communal building heating systems. With the price of fuel oil up this year, many buildings have decided not to heat this winter, leaving every man for himself using electric or kerosene heaters. Also be aware that you'll be assessed a real estate tax (Arnona) by the city you live in, based on the livable square meters of your dwelling and a rate for your neighborhood. This can amount to thousands of dollars per year for family apartments in expensive neighborhoods. You may be surprised to see your 100 meter apartment shrink to 90 meters when the bill for Jerusalem arnona shows up. That's because some sellers, especially contractors who've built new homes, inflate the square meter number with a weighted proportion of common space, like the landing you share with a neighbor on the stairs, or with unusable space, like the walls.

A few preparatory notes about the ads for apartments in Israeli newspapers. As short as the ads are, and always without pictures, if the ad doesn't include a major feature your looking for, like a mirpesset (porch or balcony), central heating (hasakah), or an elevator (maalit) it probably doesn't include them. Another disappointing feature is that only a fraction of the real estate ads include prices. I'd estimate about 20% at best, one in five. The rest of the sellers want you to call so they can judge if you're a rich American or Frenchman before putting out a starting price:-) While you won't see it in an ad, a Shahmy is a a real estate assessor. Also, I'd estimate that over 80% of new apartments are sold on the hoof, before the construction is complete. In other words, the contractor wants your money to pay for building the place he is selling to you at a profit. It's always been done this way in Israel.

Finally, a partial list real estate terms for Jerusalem and Israel in general. I'll add the actual Hebrew to my lousy transliterations when I get the chance, but the important thing is to be aware of what to look for.

Mirpesset Sheeroot | Service Balcony - This is a small, usually narrow and enclosed porch, with room for a washer and dryer or sink.

Mirpesset Succah | Succah Balcony - This is a porch big enough to but a succah on, so it's usually at least 2 meters wide.

Succah - Some ground floor apartments or stand alone houses have a paved area set aside as a succah with a framework supporting walls and a mesh-work for roofing. New constructions is sometimes advertised as being with a garden or succah, meaning they'll pour concrete on the garden if you choose the succah.

Dood Shemesh (or Daash) | Solar Hot Water - House comes with a solar hot water heater installed

Dood Chashmaal | Electric Hot Water - House comes with an electric hot water heater (many have both)

1/2 room | Apartments are listed by the number of rooms, not counting the kitchen or the bathroom. However, a large kitchen with room for a full size dining table might be counted as a half room, as might be any other odd space in the apartment the seller doesn't quite have the nerve to call a full room.

Koma (the letter Qof) | Floor - Most ads will specify what floor a unit is on, some even give the number of stairs from the entry, but rarely down from the street to the entry if the building is sunken. The ground floor in Israel is Karka (ground), and the second floor is called the first floor (aleph) and so on.

Mishoopezet | Renovated - May mean fully renovated and modernized, may mean a slap dash pain job

Doresh Mishoopatz - Requires Renovation - May simply be outdated, as in the 1950's, but probably in rough shape

Trissim - No english equivalent, or sort of horizontal blind system made of heavy plastic or coated metal which doubles as shutters for security or for shutting out light and noise. Some trissim are electric, others manual, using a pull rope.

Machson | Store Room - Not always a real store room, sometimes a common area in a basement or outside shed

Machson Key Cheder | Store room as room - If the machson can be used as a real room, many people do just that, or make you aware that it's possible

Pinat Ochel (Peh"Aleph) | Eating corner - An alcove you can cram a table or a bar type thing with stools into for eating

Eeshoorei Binyah | Building permission - Somebody has filed all the paperwork and received city approval to expand the house, often vertically, by building on the roof.

Miflassim | Levels - Same word is used for the reservoir level, Miflas, but here it means split level

Nadlan - The Aramaic word for real estate used in Hebrew, it's a acronym for Neches D' Lo Nazooz (property that doesn't move)

Nof | View - Views are often in the mind of the beholder, and they change often with new buildings going up all the time

Mioorah - Light | Should have some sun exposure through windows or glass doors

Geena - Garden | Usually means an attached garden belonging to the unit being sold

Yechidah Nifredet | Standalone Unit - May mean a standalone machson, or a room somebody built in the yard that's not attached to the house.

Maalit | Elevator - Frequently a Maalit Shabbat, an elevator that's programmed to go up and down and stop at all the floors by itself, so it can be used on Shabbos

Chaniot | Parking - A parking space comes with the unit

Kivunim | Exposures - Literally "directions", an apartment can have multiple exposures, up to four, and the good exposures may be listed by compass direction

My next Jerusalem real estate post will start looking at the price ranges for neighborhoods and the numbers of rooms. Israeli papers sort apartments by the number of rooms and the neighborhood, with the number of rooms taking precedence. This means if you're a price shopper, you have to look through every page of the real estate section, finding the neighborhood you're interested under each possible number of rooms. Although it's rarely specified in the ads, you really need to know something about the neighborhood you are moving to. For example, a non-religious person will not want to move to a Haredi (ultra-orthodox) neighborhood where the streets will be blocked on Shabbos and Yuntiff (Yimei Tovim) and playing a radio or TV during these periods would drive the neighbors crazier than they already are. On the other hand, a Haredi individual wouldn't want to move to a Heeloni (non-religious) neighborhood with secular activities and dress. Many neighborhoods have high percentages of ethnic groups, which make it easier to fit in if you don't speak fluent Hebrew.

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