Apartment Hunting in Jerusalem - Short Term Rental
Copyright 2011 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info
Update: This is the second year I've rented a furnished apartment belonging
to an indivdual who only spend part of the year in Israel, through a property
agent. This year I rented a furnished two bedroom, two bathroom in Katamon
for $1,150/month, managed by Gladys Groner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You think a guy who's been coming to Jerusalem for three months every year since 1993 and has written one of the more popular pages about apartment hunting in Jerusalem would be able to find a short term renatl to live without much hassle. Turns out not to be the case. I came to Jerusalem this year on business, to expand my Jerusalem guide into a major web resource. I started by taking a short term place for 17 nights, sight unseen, to give me a chance to start working and find a more permanent location. The two things I asked the apartment owner to guarantee were wireless and quiet. Well, the wireless does work sometimes, or I wouldn't be posting this, but it turns out that my apartment is separated from the family apartment (several small children and a colicky baby) by a hollow core door. Right over the door is an air vent to a shared ventilation system. It is, without a doubt, the noisiest place I've lived since I was in college. I like to give the owner the benefit of the doubt that he just doesn't realize how noisy they are.
So I hit the Flathunting list, Craig's list, Google, Bed&Breakfast in Jerusalem, all of the resources I could think of to get the broadest possible view. Last winter I was here, I paid $600/month for a semi-furnished apartment that the owners were trying to sell, and acted as a free real estate agent for the dozen or so buyers and potential long term renters who showed up. For several years before that, I paid between $650/month and $750/month for a furnished one-bedroom, winter being the low season with the exception of the holidays at the end of December. This year, all of the quotes I'm getting have been in the $1000 to $1200 area for furnished apartments, even small efficiencies. There are places advertised for under $500 as well, but when the spread is that big and the hall smells like a lavatory of last resort for passers-by, it makes me glad I'm here on business.
I've had a hard time contacting people who have short term apartments to let this year. Most don't answer their e-mail, some don't even answer their phones, preferring to take a message and call back at their leisure. Doesn't work great for me since I don't have a phone. In the last couple days, I met with a few rental agents and a few owners, and I want to get the issues down while they're fresh in my mind, even though I haven't reached a conclusion yet.
The fist $1000/month place I visited had a nice bedroom, a decent kitchen, light, and plenty of room to work. It didn't have any high speed Internet, but it did have a telephone for dial-up. I would have rented it on the spot but for two things. The owners weren't the final deal maker, I wasn't sure "exactly" how much they were charging since the agent was supposed to have told me and we'd talked for so long (research) that I forgot. However, the real deal breaker for me was that they wouldn't take an American check, not even if I added whatever fees they wanted for cashing or bank deposit. They wanted me to show up with a handful of cash, and having lost a moderate amount of cash once in Jerusalem to a burglar (few hundred dollars), I just don't like that route.
The second $1000 place I saw was fantastic. Biggest one bedroom I've seen in Jerusalem, extra tables and a sofa, balcony overlooking a busy road, double beds and a closet in the bedroom, and a real kitchen. There was a full oven/stove unit (not super common in mid-range rentals), a washer and drier, microwave, and a large new bathroom. The apartment was advertised with high speed internet via a cable modem, but neither the cable modem nor the cable box were present. Despite that, I was ready to pay on the spot since I'd already checked that they'd accept a check, but this agent needed to draw up a lease. A lease? I haven't signed a lease in since the 1980's to the best of my memory, but OK, I waited for it to come. The lease terms included a $1000 security deposit, a 10% fee for the agent on the whole period (eleven weeks), and spelled out that 100% of the lease money should be paid on signing. In other words, they wanted something over $3,000 in checks before I could move in, although they promised the security deposit check would just sit in a drawer in their office. By this point, I was getting a little suspicious, so I swung by at night to take a look at the "old couple" the rental agent had said lived downstairs when I asked about the tenants below me. It turns out the ground floor is taken by young family with teenage sons. Do the kids play instruments, blast the stereo or the video games while the parents are at work? Do the parents take off every weekend and leave the kids to throw parties? I'm supposed to hand over $3000 and hope that it will work out alight?
So I started making the rounds again, though I have to be out of my current place Sunday, I do have an easy back-up plan in the form of an invitation from my cousin Henry. Of course, Henry owns an attack cat, and I hate imposing even when I'm welcome. After illustrating my Nachalot apartment prices page with some photos this morning and updating my original page about looking for an apartment, I hit the bricks and started calling people from pay phones. One of the women I reached (everybody I've talked to involved in renting apartments this year has been female) owns a few pension style places, large apartments that have been subdivided into individual efficiencies or 1-bedroom affairs, all in the $1000+ range per month. While it still seems expensive to me for a one room apartment about the size of a very modest hotel room, it did include high speed wireless internet, a good bathroom with a modern shower stall, and a mini-kitchenette. Also cable TV, which I can live without, since it takes more from work than it contributes. I really liked the owner of this place and hope to meet her again to talk about the business, and I'm considering moving there to try it. Unfortunately, all of her rooms are already reserved in the late December to early January period for a few weeks, so I'd have to get moving again in about three weeks.
Finally, I stopped by a genuine, one-room Bed and Breakfast in Katamon. It's a single room that is downstairs from the owners apartment, with a wood stairway going up, which I assume one of us uses if I opt for the Israeli breakfast. I believe it's built in their old storage area, or maybe they bought what was once a shared storage room from the building. Very small, but filled with books, formerly the room of a family member. The rate was in the $35/night area for long term without breakfast, maybe slightly more, and again, the availability was limited, with chunks of time in late December and early January already reserved.
In the meantime, I'm waiting to hear about my lease and deposit questions from the really nice one-bedroom I mentioned above, and I'll try calling around the local places that I haven't gotten through to yet one last time in the morning. One of them is very interesting, starts at $300/week but will probably come down to $1000 or under for a month or longer stay. I'm always happy with deals where I can try something out and find out if theirs an elephant in the closet before I commit all my peanuts. Here's hoping for a happy ending tomorrow:-)
Unhappy ending, they really did want nearly $2500 in rent and commission up-front, plus a $1000 check for a security deposit. The agent assured me they've never cashed a security deposit check, but why should I trust them if they don't trust me? Also, the cable wireless morphed into gleaning off the landlord's wireless, which is working out lousy in the place I am now.
So, I got back on the horn this morning and went and saw a place at the very top of Nachalot, bordering a construction site. I mean, a big construction site, with several rock breakers working away at a foundation in a hole around 100ft deep. Despite that, the apartment was very nice and roomy, not much of a kitchen but a large living room area with a high speed modem and plenty of room to stretch out. I think they wanted $300/week or $750/month, but the availability was really chunky, starting a week from now. The young couple living there now with an infant were apparently paying for another place at the same time and might have been interested in moving back there, but she told me it was cold. I'm not a hard enough man to let somebody move with a newborn to a cold place on my account.
The next place I saw was on an apartment tour arranged by an agent with several inexpensive places that come and go by the week. They're all very lived in, to put it mildly, and I'm getting too old for lived in. While everything is included, it was another cash up-front deal, with a $500 security deposit thrown in, though I didn't see anything in the place worth $500, or not everything put together. I suppose it may be security against breaking up the plumbing or something. On the tour, I saw I guy trying to heat a place with an open toaster oven.
Finally, in desperation, I tried looking at an efficiency converted from a hotel room in a tower in the center. The idea of paying just $600/month for a place on the 19th floor sounded really neat, and I've never lived in any sort of tower before in my life. I'm guessing I've never lived any higher than my last apartment in Northampton, MA, on the third floor. The units were small, but not tiny, and the windows actually opened. I would have taken the place on the spot except the agent had another person deciding on it, so I looked at another unit on a lower floor. It was then that the heavy bass from a stereo or very loud TV started coming through the wall. OK, one strike against it, but I told them I'd be their Sunday to take one room or another because I don't want to impose on relatives. I got home and remembered that towards the end of my friends timberframe roofing job, I started becoming afraid of heights, badly. So now I'm not so sure. I'm getting tempted to revert to my original ambition, travel light, and actually extend my web guide to outside of Jerusalem.
I moved into an efficiency apartment in the heart of Rechavia last week, on Ramban. The landlords were looking to rent it mid-term, five or six months, for $400 a month, with the tenant paying Arnona and electric. I took it for ten weeks (with an option to leave after a week if it's a disaster) with everything included for $750 a month. The apartment actually included a TV and basic cable since the cable company doesn't disconnect the line when they take away the box, but no Internet or phone. I asked the neighbor downstairs if he'd be willing to let me share his secure wireless in return for my paying his whole Internet bill for the period, but he couldn't spare the bandwidth:-) So, I ordered a phone line, and I'm waiting for the installation guy as I write this. I went with HOT, the communications consortium known for cable which also competes with Bezeq, and has 150,000 or so phone line subscribers in the country. The deal, if I understood it, was I get 2,000 minutes a month free for six months, but I'll get charged an early cancellation fee of about $40. I had to present both my passport and an international (ie, non-Israeli) credit card to get the deal. HOT has an office right in the central bus station, which is pretty convenient. I originally went there to see if there was a true cellular Internet option in Israel, which I assume exists, even though nobody admitted to knowledge of it:-) In the meantime, I've been walking around the corner to Rechov Azza where there are about a half dozen cafes and bars with unsecured wireless connections. Had a tall espresso in Cafe Rechavia last night and used their wireless for an hour.