You’re looking to buy in a new project in Israel, you’ve checked out the various new projects that are being marketed in the area/s of your choice and narrowed down the search to three or four developments. Each one sounds pretty much the same: “5 rooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, balcony, storage room, and two covered parking spaces”, so how do you decide which property is right for you?
There are ten important factors to consider in determining the desirability of a home in a new project in Israel:
- Location, location, location – a traditional turn of phrase used by experts in the real estate industry. This is hard to tell when the location is merely a construction site with lots of different developments going up, or even worse, a mountain waiting to be excavated. Get yourself a map, or go to Google Maps and mark up exactly where each project is to be located within the area. (Most development marketers have a map, ask them for a copy or try to find one on the website of the local municipality.) Now find out where the closest shopping area is. What are the school/kindergarten options in the area? Is there a synagogue in walking distance? Where are the closest parks? Restaurants? Sports centers? What else is in the vicinity? Mark everything up on your map so you gain a good understanding of where each project is vis-à-vis the various facilities and amenities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How accessible is the location by car? Foot? Public transportation? Is the street likely to be a quiet or busy one? Is it to be a thoroughfare? What will the elevation of the building be?
- Plans – make sure you understand the layout of the apartment and how big the rooms are actually going to be. Two 5-room apartments could have very different layouts where one is significantly more practical and suitable to your needs than the other. Try to see the potential in each home and figure out which one would work best for you. (Read more on “Understanding the Builder’s Plans”)
- Price – make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Find out the price of the actual apartment in question and ask what extras you will have to pay. Sometimes you are obligated to pay for the builder’s legal fees and several other ‘surprise’ items. Additionally, try to get an idea of how flexible the price is. In some cases, there is very little room to negotiate, while in others there could be as much as 3-5% to talk about. If a builder has just started marketing the new project in Israel, he may be more flexible on price in order to gain momentum. If he has just a few remaining units, he may well be uncompromising on price, or on the other hand, he may be willing to go down, for the sake of quickly finishing and moving on to the next project.
- Developer – try to find out as much as possible about the developer (‘kablan‘) or construction company. Where has he built before? What else and where else is he building now? How much money has been borrowed to build this development? How long has he been in the business? What reputation does he have? How flexible is he in terms of making changes to the property during the construction phase? What is said about the quality of his workmanship? Materials and finishings? After-sales service?
- Mother Nature – By this, we refer to the view from the apartment, the outdoor space, and the exposure to light and air. Make sure you understand which direction the property in question will be facing. What are the implications of this position? When will there be sunlight in the apartment? Which rooms will be light and which dark? Which rooms will be warm and which will be cool? What will I be looking at from my bedroom window and what is the view from my balcony? Is the view here to stay or will a new development pop up over there? What outdoor space am I getting? The same 100 square meters of garden in two different homes could look very different in reality. One could have a large patch of grass at the back of the house, while the other could have a wrap-around garden which gives you a bit on this side, a little on that and a tiny patch at the back i.e. no significant area if the kids want to pay ball.
- Status– Find out exactly what stage of construction each new project in Israel is at. If you want to make changes you’ll need to know what has been done so far? Is it too late to make modifications? What can/cannot be done now? Will there be additional costs for making my changes at this stage? Find out also about stage of sales campaign? When did sales begin? Has the builder sold at least 50% of the project yet? What units are available for purchase? There are usually some units in a project that have advantages over others. In most cases, the best apartments sell first. Which project has the best units left?
- Mifrat Techni – these are the technical specifications of the apartment detailing the materials and finishing’s that the builder uses and supplies in the process of construction. Features include types and sizes of floor tiles, doors and door handles, windows, kitchen cabinets, electrical, water and gas points, toilets, sinks and faucets, banisters, bars, screens, among other items. It is very important that you familiarize yourself with what you will be receiving in your new property and ensure that there will be flexibility if you want to make changes or upgrades. It is amazing to see the wide range of quality between different builders’ Mifratim, so don’t make any assumptions. If you don’t understand what the Mifrat is telling you, ask your lawyer to explain or hire a professional who can go through point by point with you and help you negotiate with the builder.
- Neighbors – One of the greatest advantages of buying a home in a new project in Israel is that you can actually choose your neighbors. Ask the builder to give you an idea of what types of buyers have bought into the project. Where are they from? What age group are they? What is their religious affiliation? Try to gain a picture of the types of neighbors that you are likely to have in each project. In some cases, the builder may be willing to disclose names and contact info of other buyers.
- Accessibility – If you have small children in strollers, elderly parents or a wheelchair-bound family member, you should think very carefully about accessibility in the property. Find out exactly how many stairs there will be to get into the house or apartment building. Is it possible to build a ramp? Perhaps the builder can do it for you. Is there an elevator? is it a shabbat elevator? How close is it to my front door? Is there any other way to gain access to the property?
- Outdoor conveniences – Almost all homes in new projects in Israel come with storage space (‘machsan‘) either inside and/or outside of the home and designated parking and garbage areas. Familiarize yourself with what you get with the apartment in question. How large is the storage area? Where is it located in relation to the apartment? How may parking spaces will you be allocated and where are they? Are they covered? Side-by-side or one behind the other? How far a walk is my parking space from the elevator? Where do I throw my garbage? How many people do I share this area with? How close is this to my house? (Tip: you don’t want to be the closest unit to the garbage area, especially when there is a garbage strike in the middle of August!)
Try to find out as much as can vis-à-vis these 10 factors. Clearly, no single new project in Israel will score top marks in all factors but try to assign each project with points for each factor and then see how the scoreboard looks. Which project came out overall the best? Which factors are most important to you? What can be changed and what is completely out of your control?
After addressing each of these points, the decision-making progress should become a lot easier and hopefully, the answer will be clear. Good luck in choosing the new housing project in Israel that is best for you.