While the world waits to see how the coronavirus pandemic will affect real estate trends worldwide, Israel’s real estate is seeing a boom in interest—from investors purchasing properties as long-term investments, to families expediting their aliyah and purchasing a home in the face of COVID-19 and rising anti-Semitism.
Israeli real estate lawyer Debbie Rosen-Solow works primarily with the Anglo community of new olim and investors making real estate transactions in Israel. In the field for 20 years now, she expressed “seeing amazing trends and finding it a little bit overwhelming that there is so much interest right now.”
“I have clients who started the process of purchasing a home, and I wasn’t sure if they’d follow through because of the coronavirus,” Rosen-Solow told JNS, noting that “documents have taken more time with consulates and banks closed, so processing has been more difficult.”
“Not only are they following through,” she reported, “but many are expediting their aliyah dates because they are feeling more anti-Semitism in their communities, and because they believe that Israel has been handling the corona situation so well. They feel Israel is on top of things and in Israel, every person really matters, whereas in America the public policy was affected by business decisions over the importance of a person’s life, especially the elderly.”
In one of the organization’s recent virtual programming, Rosen-Solow led a webinar about purchasing real estate in Israel with more than 300 people tuning in.
Other trends that she reported include properties that used to be rented out through Airbnb coming onto the market fully furnished. And while mortgage interest rates have gone up slightly in Israel, banks have been “a bit more flexible and lenient” in the process of loan approval.
‘Properties will only go up in value’
In another show of increasing interest in Israeli real estate, Natan Silver, a U.S.-based investor and investing consultant, recently opened a WhatsApp group for potential buyers and renters in Israel, finding that despite market failures and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, “there’s still a high volume of potential buyers, renters and investors, and the real estate market in Israel is going up.”
With the mix of the “idealism of a Jewish person owning property in Israel, yearning and desiring to return to our land,” and positive real estate trends over the last year, he told JNS, purchasing apartments anytime in Israel is a safe investment in the long term.
In the United States, Silver said, “people are holding back on selling, afraid of having to sell their properties for a lower price.”
But in Israel, he countered, “everyone was expecting prices to go down; however, for that reason, everyone immediately ran to the market in Israel to see what’s going on. So sellers are seeing an increase in demand, and all of a sudden they are upping their prices now.”
While Silver estimated that “prices will drop” in American real estate as banks shut their doors to loan requests, there will be no similar trend in the Jewish state.
“Israel is a great place to invest because the risk is very, very low compared to other places—there hasn’t been a decrease in prices in over 10 years, and the positive immigration and birth rates are one of the highest in the world,” he noted. “There is simply not enough development to match the demand, and for simple statistical reasons, properties will only go up in value.”
Outside of the coronavirus, another recent news item that has led to a greater interest in real estate, said Rosen-Solow, is the planned application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria in July. Currently, foreign investors enjoy a tax exemption (amounting to up to 10 percent of the purchase price) when purchasing property there, though it is unknown if this exemption might still be available after July.
Becky Richter, a client of Rosen-Solow from Monsey, N.Y., told JNS that her family is rushing to purchase a property in Agan Ayalot near Givat Ze’ev “so we can avoid foreign taxes, as it is over the Green Line,” and out of fear that the “dollar’s value will drop.”
The pandemic, said Richter, “has given us a push to use our money while it still has value. Also, of course, we see we are on the wrong side of the ocean when it comes to policy dealing with coronavirus.”