Katamon Real Estate - House Hunting in Old Katamon

Copyright 2006 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living in Jerusalem

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Copyright 2006 by Morris Rosenthal

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There are quite a few listings in the Jerusalem Post and Kol HaIr for both Katamon and Old Katamon every week. Frankly, I can't tell the difference, and I think some of the map makers are trying to rename the neighborhood Emek Refaim, but I'm calling the area above the German Colony and the Greek Colony and below the Jerusalem Theatre and Talbiyeh the Old Katamon area. I started with a picture of one of the highest buildings in the neighborhood, so you know it's not primarily a collection of single family houses. There are some single family homes (or mansions) for sale in Katamon, but they are out of the price range of all but the wealthiest foreigners. I can tell they are being sold to foreigners, because the sign put up by one of the renovation companies in front of such a house referred (in English) to owning a piece of "Authentic Jerusalem." Old Katamon is a fairly quiet neighborhood because there aren't really any main throughways that lead anywhere. While there's plenty of car traffic from the residents, you just don't get the heavy bus and commercial traffic you get in parts of Rechavia and Talbiyeh, just a half kilometer away.
I see more palm trees in Old Katamon than in other Jerusalem neighborhoods, which I suppose is indicative of its age. Like Rechavia, Katamon is very green, though there are probably more large buildings than on the top of the hill. A six room, 140 meter duplex with heating and a private entrance was going for $550,000 in this neighborhood. On HaLamed Hey St, a four room apartment with a private entrance and a garden is going for $495,000. On Sy Agnon, you can get four rooms with a huge salon on the second floor (with an elevator) and views for $379,000, and the prices for the other four room apartments listed for Old Katamon seem to float in that basic range. When you get down to the three room apartments, I've seen real estate prices around $250,000 listed in Kol HaIr, though Israelis tend to steer away from ground floor apartments. There were a few smaller apartments listed, but without prices. I suppose somebody at some time has bought and apartment just to be near Yakar, a progressive sort of Shul with a famous Kabbalat Shabbat service and a Left leaning pulpit.
The picture to the left would be listed as an "Arab Style" house. Since it's currently in the completion stages and all of the stone work is brand new, it's built to look something like the Jerusalem architecture of the 1920's and 1930's. Unlike those older houses, I suspect it will have a multitude of bathrooms and a large American style kitchen. There were nearly a dozen listings for Old Katamon in the Jerusalem Post this week, but only two showed prices. The first was for four and a half rooms with a 15 meter machsan, air conditioning and parking. Only $450,000. The other listing was for a unique three room apartment with a private entrance, a large garden, renovated, for $335,000. They didn't point out what was unique. Old Katamon is heavily populated by Americans, as testified to by both the house prices and the accents. One guy actually asked me in American accented Hebrew if he could be of any help (translation: Why are you wandering around taking photographs of buildings?). What surprises me is that people endlessly wander around taking pictures in Jerusalem, so I think I'm starting to look like a suspicious person in my old age.
The house pictured to the right is Beit Milken, housing the Jerusalem Center or Public Affairs. It's getting pretty near the edge of Katamon, the way figure it, bordering on the Greek Colony. Whether this is an Arab house, a house built by Arabs for Milken, or a house built a long time ago in the Arab style, it clearly isn't European architecture, unless you go back to Gothic and make it as tall as it is wide. The neighborhood along Rachel Imeinu heading uphill on Cobshay HaKatomon is home to several foreign consulates and the International Christian Embassy, of undetermined affiliation. I never take pictures of consulates for security reasons, and I've actually been questioned by security while taking photographs of construction in the area of the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Glad to see that they're paying attention. Another way you can quickly access the value of real estate in a Jerusalem neighborhood is by the number of consulates and U.N. vehicles parked their at night. Diplomats and their minions seems to have high budgets for housing. In fact, media, during times of trouble, you'll see lot of SUV's with "T.V." taped onto the hood and roof in the good neighborhoods.
I'm rarely impressed by real estate developments in Jerusalem, but this one on Rachel Imeinu, called Ganei Katamon, was built only a few years back, in 1995. There are twelve or thirteen buildings like the ones pictured to the left, surrounding a central park, which in fact, is growing over a large underground parking lot. It's a shame they allow cars in the top part at all, but it's a very airy place and looks like it would be quiet, despite being less than a five minute walk from Emek Refaim and the heart of the German Colony. If you walk up Rachel Imeinu to the top, it turns into pedestrian paths, that if you follow them all the way (names change, streets jog), you can come out on Herzog, right across from Nayot. It makes the neighborhood commutable to Hebrew University at Givat Ram for walkers, about a half hour depending where on campus you want to arrive. The standalone houses in Old Katamon are priced in the "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" range, or at least, that'show I interpret the lack of price information in the real estate sections. The funny thing is that Israeli realtors seem more inclined to list prices for mid-range homes than for either the cheap or expensive stuff.

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