Buying property in Israel – A primer for bible believing Christians
Before I get into some specifics about buying property in Israel, I would like to say that I really appreciate the name of Meranda’s Blog, “Why God Really Exists”. Ironically, one of the greatest evidences for the existence of God the Creator, is the Jewish people and the land of Israel. God told Abraham that he was going to bless Abraham and his descendants and that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham and his seed. God unconditionally gave Abraham and his seed a large piece of land in the Middle East, which has been wrested from them temporarily several times over the centuries by invading armies and nations and then returned to them. God also told Abraham that his descendants would be a “light to the world”. There has never been a race of people that has gone through what the Jewish people have gone through and remained intact as a people and as a nation. They clearly demonstrate that there is a God in heaven, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Originally referred to by the Lord as “the land of Canaan”, the land that God unconditionally gave to Abraham and his descendants stretched from the area of the Red Sea in the south to the Euphrates River in the north, which would encompass parts of modern day Lebanon and Syria. The western border is the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Border was for the most part, the Jordan River.
Modern day Israel
The borders of modern day Israel have been greatly reduced from the original territory given to Abraham, primarily in the North. There is a commonly held belief that Israel will take back much if not all of the territory they lost through the various exiles they experienced. The question is at what point in time this will happen, before the final 7 years Tribulation period, half way through the 7 years or at the end of the Tribulation period and the beginning of the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth.
The population of Israel as of September 2016, according to Wikipedia was 8,585,000. Of that figure, 6,419,000 were Jews, 1,786,000 were Arabs and 380,000 were classified as others.
Immigration to Israel
Aliyah is the word that describes the return of the Jewish People from the exile in the Diaspora back to the Land of Israel. The word Aliyah is derived from the verb “laalot” which means “to go up”, or “to ascend” in a positive spiritual sense. A person who makes Aliyah is called an Oleh, meaning “one who goes up”.
The State of Israel’s Law of Return gives Jews and their descendants automatic rights regarding residency and Israeli citizenship when they make “Aliyah”. The Israeli government also provides several different kinds of financial benefits for those who receive approval to make Aliyah. Those benefits include, Sal Klita (Absorption Basket, Rent Subsidy, Health Coverage, Ulpan classes to learn Hebrew, university tuition break, Customs benefits, Custom benefits for auto purchase or importing and a mortgage discount for buying an apartment).
In order to be approved to make Aliyah, the immigrant has to show that they are Jewish. The modern day definition of being Jewish is to have a Jewish mother. A Gentile who converts to Judaism can also be approved to make Aliyah and become an Israeli citizen.
If a person does not meet the modern day definition of “being Jewish” and does not convert to Judaism, then immigrating to Israel is not possible and visits to Israel would have to be limited to 90 day increments with a Tourist Visa.
Christians currently living in Israel
Many of the Christians who currently live in Israel fall into 2 different categories, either they work with a non-profit Christian organization with offices in Israel or they work in the Tourism industry. In both of these scenarios, the most consistent motivation for the believers is the desire to “bless Israel” in a supportive way (Genesis 12:3, Ruth 1:16,Ruth 2:11,12). The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem is probably the most visible of these organizations www.icej.org . The ICEJ has played a major role in blessing Israel over the years by helping Jews from around the world make Aliyah, providing funds to build bomb shelters in areas near Gaza, operating a home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa, other practical assistance given to Jews struggling in financial ways and the ICEJ hosts the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration during Sukkot, when thousands of Christians from around the world come to Jerusalem. I’m pretty sure the Feast of Tabernacles gathering is the largest tourist event of the year in Israel.
Many believers who are “retired” also come to Israel for extended periods to volunteer with the various Christian organizations operating throughout the land.
Buying Real Estate in Israel
If you do not meet the modern day definition of being Jewish, then your options for buying property are limited to about 7% of the land. To read more about the types of land in Israel, click on the link below.
Buying real estate in a foreign country can be extremely challenging because of all the particular nuances of that region of the world. In Israel, prices are often quoted in NIS (New Israeli Shekels) . For much of the recent past, the exchange rate between Shekels and the Dollar has hovered around the range of 3.8 Shekels to $1 dollar. Real estate prices in Israel are very high, especially in the large cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Prices in these 2 cities are comparable to what you would pay for a place in New York or California. Luxury apartments usually command at least $1,000 a sq ft. If you focus on property in the northern parts of Israel or in the Negev desert in the south, then prices are significantly lower.
The types of housing available in Israel are a little different than many parts of the US. The majority of people in Israel, live in apartments (condos), while the much smaller portion of the population live in detached single family homes, referred to as Villas in Israel. Semi-detached housing is referred to as “cottages”, which would be comparable to our townhomes where you have a common wall with a neighbor but you might have your own very small private backyard. Garden apartments are highly desirable in Israel, where a ground floor apartment would come with it’s own small and private garden area.
In Israel, the sizes of apartments are usually quoted in square meters. (1 sq meter = 10.764 sq feet). Again, much like New York, people are accustomed to living in smaller spaces. Many apartments in Israel are less than 100 sq meters in size. Also, slightly different definitions apply when speaking of how many rooms an apartment contains. In the US, we usually refer to dwellings as 3 bedroom homes or 4 bedroom homes, etc. In Israel a 4 room home for example would be defined as having 3 bedrooms plus a living room.
There are extra costs in addition to the Purchase Price, which include Purchase Tax, Lawyer’s Fee, Real Estate Commission and VAT (Value added tax – currently 17%).
An excellent resource for FAQ’s about purchasing Israel Real Estate can be found on the website of Israeli Real Estate Attorney Dr. Haim Katz.
Foreign buyers of real estate in Israel can typically obtain mortgages of 50% of the value of the property they are purchasing.
As a foreign buyer, the best thing you can do to insure a successful transaction is to secure a small team of English speaking professionals to assist you. That team should consist of an Israeli Real Estate Attorney, a licensed Israeli Real Estate Agent and a Mortgage professional. Referrals to all three types of these professionals can be obtained at www.buypropertyinisrael.com .
In future articles, more in depth information will be provided about the various regions of the country, the types of opportunities available for investment and guidelines for do’s and don’t’s when making an investment in Israel real estate.
The author of this article and Founder of www.buypropertyinisrael.com, Lyle Plocher, is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the United States, with 15 plus years of experience connecting English speaking buyers from around the world with English speaking Real Estate Agents and other industry Professionals in Israel. Lyle can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org