Realizing The Eretz Yisroel Dream: Buying a Home in Israel

Visitors to Yerushalayim can hardly fail to notice the current building boom taking place from Rechov Eli Hakohen on both sides of Rechov Yirmiyahu towards Center One and on all the parallel streets of the flourishing Romeima district, where new developments under construction are dramatically changing the landscape. The skyline is dotted with hovering cranes and towering buildings, some of which seem to literally rise overnight.
 
Formerly an industrial area with warehouses, including the T’nuva Milk Factory and the landmark Jerusalem Post building, the antiquated structures are being demolished one by one and developed into residential real estate complexes. The entire area has undergone a total transformation. This residential area is now the number one location for prospective buyers, particularly for Anglo-chareidi Jews from Yerushalayim, the United States and Europe.
 
Mr. Getter, how did you start your business?
 
Eight years ago, I started on a small scale, offering a full range of serviced apartment rentals for visitors from abroad. Many clients who formerly spent their vacations in Eretz Yisroel preferred the flexibility of staying in hotel-style apartments in the residential areas either to be near their families or to enjoy the unique energy of “living in Eretz Yisroel” and getting a real taste of living in Yerushalayim with all the conveniences and comforts that these rapidly developing neighborhoods have to offer.

 

Initially, I managed Yerushalayim properties for investors and homeowners who lived overseas, renting out and servicing apartments in the most desirable area of Yerushalayim, where the demand for both long-term and short-term rentals is constantly growing.

 

I developed a relationship with many of my clients, who became repeat customers. I was happy to meet all of their individual needs and provide efficient service to enhance all aspects of their stay.

 

Many clients enjoyed the pulse and energy of living in Yerushalayim and expressed their desire to purchase an apartment of their own, but they had no idea how to implement their “Yerushalayim dream.”

 

Unlike in their home countries, where they might buy a “move-into” home, most potential options for purchase would be in one of these new developments, which are anywhere from the preconstruction phase to various stages of construction, with completion several years away.

 

Are you a regular real estate agent?

 
The Shia Getter Group does not market for developers. We are there to represent the client. We act as a buyer’s broker, or in some cases the seller’s broker, where, for a 2% commission on the transaction, we walk the client through the tedious process, always protecting his best interests.

 

There are several individual professionals and services involved in the purchase of an apartment, including lawyers for the contract, mortgage brokers and banks for financing, architects for design and space planning, inspection companies, and hundreds of important details.

 

As a buyer’s broker, I act as the liaison, updating the client and notifying him in advance of scheduled payments. I will give the client a choice of reputable lawyers, mortgage brokers, architects, and interior design and space planning experts working in his best interests to facilitate the final purchase. Once the contract is signed, I will be on the spot to ensure that all the plans are submitted in time, working with the designer, if necessary, to ensure the customer’s satisfaction with all the small details. I am on the spot to iron out any small issues that arise during the renovations, which are magnified when the client is overseas and the contractor needs a final decision quickly.

 

We bridge the gaps between the purchase of property abroad and the somewhat more complicated transaction that is involved in the purchase of an apartment in Eretz Yisroel. As a Boyaner chossid, I always try to accentuate the positive aspects of doing business in Eretz Yisroel.

 

Language barriers can often pose an obstacle to negotiations for this significant investment. Our professional staff works as a team to guide clients through the legal and financial issues and the plethora of details involved in finalizing the purchase. We are always available, returning calls and answering questions.

 

My staff and I will convey important information between vendors and send timely reminders at each phase to ensure the buyer meets deadlines for payment schedule and submission of final interior plans. After the down payment, the client is presented with a specific payment schedule that has to be met. Our office will send reminders before the deadline to make sure that the funds are transferred in time.

 

One prosperous businessman who had purchased a luxury apartment was preoccupied and forgot to arrange for the transfer of funds to meet the deadline. The Getter Group arranged a bridge loan of $170,000 for one week so that the client was not subject to a penalty.

 

Similarly, acting as a seller’s agent, I will get the best possible deal and not take advantage of the fact that my client is thousands of miles away and unaware.

 

How did the focus of your business change from being the address for clients seeking comfortable short-term accommodations, especially during peak season Yomim Tovim, to becoming a buyer’s broker?

 

Initially, my relationship with regular clients developed to a point that they would ask my advice when considering buying an apartment they had seen during their trip. I would direct them to the necessary experts in the field to ensure that they were getting the best deal on the perfect apartment with no pitfalls. When they went home, they would often call me for follow-up questions or ask me to take care of various details.

 

It seemed like an inevitable next phase to grow the business to expand into sales and management in the rapidly growing developments, enabling clients to get the right investment, covering their bases and ensuring that they are getting full value and security for their hard-earned money.

 

Many clients go to contract and make the down payment while they are visiting Eretz Yisroel. They have picked out the apartment of their dreams and have hired an architect to plan out the interior and submit final plans to the contractor after they go back home. The architect is unable to meet the deadline and the contractor threatens to complete the interior with the standard finish if he does not receive finished plans immediately. In one such scenario, I was able to step in and call up a different architect and have him submit the final plans to the customer’s specifications without causing them any aggravation.

 

As a professional broker with the experience of hundreds of transactions, I represent the best interests of the client. My neutral position, not affiliated with the seller, the lawyer or the bank, and familiarity with all the ins and outs of the Israeli real estate market, protects my clients from unscrupulous practices that could add up to significant extra costs for foreigners unfamiliar with the language and fine print. I can also present the buyer with an unbiased, honest perspective of each available option on the market.

 

At the outset, my services may seem costly, but the protection of an expert can save the buyer several times that amount.

 

What happens if the estimated move-in date is two years later, and when the time comes the apartment is still not ready?

 

There is usually a clause in the contract with a six-month window, so that if the apartment is still not ready to move into after 30 months, the developer will have to subsidize rent in an alternative location.

 

The client says that he is ready to buy an apartment for the price being quoted, but he does not like surprises. How can you assure him that he will not be hit with additional expenses for hidden costs?

 

Knowledgeable of local market trends and real value, I am there to negotiate details of the fine print and ensure a minimum of hidden costs.

 

After the location of the apartment, you want to consider the ramifications of all aspects of the apartment, such as the exposure to sun and wind, so that it will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I have developed a good working relationship with several of the developers and contractors of the new developments. If I have sold other apartments in a particular development, I can include upgrades and extras, like a storage room or parking spot that other buyers have already negotiated in their contracts as a bonus for the client or special payment terms.  

 

Some developments have their own exclusive interior designers with whom I am connected and I can offer the clients upgrades with no extra charge.

 

The Madad, the built-in inflation index, and the fluctuation of the dollar, which are always factors in the purchase of an apartment, tend to confuse the overseas buyer who is unfamiliar with all these aspects of controlling the final price of the apartment.

 

I will make sure there is an address and recourse if and when things don’t go according to plan.

 

I can notify potential buyers about pre-sale special deals and opportunities, and, being on the spot, I have my fingers on the pulse of market trends.

 

One client was ready to purchase a duplex in an exclusive luxury development. I sought out the general manager of the project and was able to negotiate a better closing price, saving the client $50,000.

 

Our goal is to work the client through the process so that it does not become tedious.

 

What example can you recollect as a buyer’s broker of helping a client?

 

Being on the spot, we are able to check out floor plans and site plans and go down to City Hall to inspect in detail the proposed site plans of developments that are being sold on paper. We can verify if there will in fact be lawns and gardens, ample parking, and other features that the developer is marketing.

 

One prospective customer pulled out of a purchase in a new development that will only be ready in a few years. He had specifically wanted to buy an apartment with gardens and a recreational area, and after inspecting the site plans in City Hall, I confirmed my suspicion that there was no room at that location for the spacious landscaped gardens that had attracted this customer to that development. The customer made his purchase elsewhere. 

 

Who are the potential buyers?

 

People approach us to assist them in purchasing apartments as an investment, as a second home, or as a primary residence. If the property is for investment purposes, the buyer will either opt to rent it out as a long-term rental or, if they plan to visit frequently, they may choose to make it available for short-term rentals – daily, weekly or monthly – which is in demand in Yerushalayim. If they are planning to come and live in Israel, our services become much more fundamental, as we ensure that all aspects of the plans and interior design customized for their specific living requirements are perfectly implemented. We will advise them about potential projected income for long- and short-term rentals.

 

What whets the appetite of the prospective buyer?

 

The increasing popularity of this short-term rental area, with all its conveniences and amenities, brings prosperous visitors from abroad, many of them potential buyers.

 

The vibrant life in the area which visitors experience, enjoying the unique atmosphere and pace of living day-to-day in Yerushalayim, whets their appetite for planting more permanent roots and taking the bold step of purchasing a home of their own in Yerushalayim.

 

A visitor who spends Yom Tov in the area and walks around all the developments under construction may decide that he will purchase any available apartment as long as the price is right. Uneducated in the nuances of different features in Israeli apartments that can pose permanent advantages and disadvantages to the quality of life, we may challenge his “perfect” choice and suggest a better alternative.

 

How can you help a potential buyer who has already experienced the lifestyle in the area?

 

I will review with due diligence every apartment that is an option, checking for the view, kivunim – how much seasonal sun they are exposed to, if the apartment is hot in the summer or cold in the winter, and noise levels (if buses come down the street, if it is located next to heavily trafficked public buildings, etc.).

 

The apartment may have a magnificent view which the seller assures is permanent. We can check permits and confirm if a high-rise development will be built across the street and completely obstruct the view.

 

A client has spent a wonderful Yom Tov in a serviced apartment and would like to buy an affordable apartment as a second home, but he does not want to wait several years. Is that possible?

 

Absolutely. There are existing homeowners who put their apartments up for sale and they are available for immediate occupancy. A two-bedroom apartment in this area is within reach with a down-payment and convenient mortgage terms.

 

This same client may tell me that he has heard from one of the permanent residents that there is an apartment for sale in the building for a very attractive price. I will often tell him that that particular apartment has been on the market for a while and is not desirable because it is on the eighth floor, has no elevator, and every winter, when it rains, there is mold on the walls and in the closets.

 

What is a kevutzat rechisha and what is your opinion of them?

 

In simple terms, a kevutzat rechisha, or purchasing group, is a group of interested buyers who get together and buy property from a landowner which they develop on their own. This is often done by appointing a designated organizer, who merely acts as an agent, with the group being the entity that undertakes to develop the property. This phase in itself translates into considerable savings for each individual buyer, because now there is no developer who gets a cut in the profits.

 

Purchase groups have their advantages and drawbacks, but when implemented successfully they can result in significant savings and optimum satisfaction.

 

With years of professional experience, and hundreds of satisfied clients, and with several of Israel’s top lawyers advising us, we boruch Hashem have the expertise necessary to guide a group through the necessary legal and financing procedures, procuring the necessary bank guarantees to ensure that all members of the group are protected. I do not create these groups, because I only want to bring my clients apartments that are the best choice, and selling their projects outright would put me in a position of having to sell all apartments even when specific units have drawbacks that I would not recommend to clients.

 

What I do, however, is advise clients for whom this is appropriate and who understand the nuances of how these kevutzot work on where units are being sold, which units are the choicest available, and why they should not be scared away from this, because the savings can be significant due to the buying power of a group.

 

Our professional staff works as a team and is always available, returning calls and answering all your questions.

 

What is the response you have had from satisfied clients?

 

The letters speak for themselves. Here is one:

 

Dear Shia,

 

I am skeptical by nature. When I met with you last year in Monsey, you made a great impression on me. I felt that you knew your business well, were confident and experienced, and had well established connections in real estate in Eretz Yisroel. Despite all of this, I questioned myself many times whether I am getting real (financial) value for the fees that I am giving you.

 

This year, I traveled to Eretz Yisroel, met with you, and saw a number of properties there. There was no way that we could settle on an appropriate apartment while I was there. You picked up seamlessly after I left, working hard to find an appropriate apt.

 

For each property we looked at, your staff did real comprehensive research, often finding out the secrets early on. If it was deemed appropriate, you would personally visit each prospect and examine it as if it was your own investment. Your main focus was if this was appropriate for me. You always analyzed the real costs and came up with the best options. It was amazing that you did not hesitate to nix a deal if you had any doubt about whether it would be perfect.

 

I also noticed that when you spent time with me, you were very focused on my needs, even though the amount I was spending was small compared to the other accounts that you service. You always responded timely, and your office was a pleasure to deal with.

 

Here’s another letter:

 

I have had the pleasure of getting to know R’ Shia Getter over the last year. He is an individual who is not only extremely knowledgeable with regard to the buying and managing of real estate in Israel, but even more importantly, R’ Shia is a mentch in every sense of the word.

 

In my dealings with R’ Shia, in all aspects I have found him to be an honest and ehrliche ben Torah who strives for excellence both in business and in middos tovos.

 

Recently, R’ Shia has undertaken to author a book detailing the intricacies and the various aspects of buying real estate in Israel.

 

The book, “Everything You Need to Know About Buying Real Estate in Israel,” published by Feldheim, is not only written in a format that facilitates easy reading. It is also highly informative and a valuable contribution to the process of purchasing real estate in Israel.

 

However, of special interest to the Torah community is R’ Shia’s sensitivity to the needs of the Torah-true purchaser of land in Israel. R’ Shia guides the reader through the labyrinth mazes of red tape which are virtually indecipherable without R’ Shia’s clear and concise explanations.

 

The book is also flavored with various Torah thoughts and anecdotes from our sages on the importance and the value of purchasing land in Eretz Yisroel.

 

I highly recommend this book and also highly recommend R’ Shia Getter as a man of integrity and honesty.

 

May Hashem continue to bentch all of his dealings.

 

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

 

Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, New Jersey, USA

 

• • • • •

 

All guests traveling to Eretz Yisroel for the Yomim Tovim to Shia Getter’s serviced apartments will find a copy of his book when they arrive.

 

It is a zechus to own property in Eretz Yisroel, but it usually takes an expert to guide potential customers to the right choice that fits their needs.

 

Shia, often referred to as “the man who gives out all the secrets” to successfully buying a home in Eretz Yisroel, will be visiting the United States next week and will be available for private consultations in the comfort of your home. He can be reached at 718-473-3950 or mail@shiagetter.com.