Making Emotional and Intelligent Investment Decisions

Real estate in Israel can be an emotional as well as an intellectual investment decision. Many Jewish families around the world choose to buy a home in Israel, as a holiday home, with a view to retiring here, or so that their children can make Aliyah, or even “just in case”. Managed well, it can also be a profitable venture.

Owning a property in Israel is a sensible long-term investment, particularly when it is rented out to quality long-term tenants. Creative Estates manages a portfolio of diverse properties throughout Israel’s central region, from Haifa to Bat Yam. Our clients appreciate that we take care of their home as if it was our own, shouldering both the financial and the physical responsibilities.

From finding and vetting tenants and negotiating the rental contract, to managing contractors and liaising with the building management committee and insurance companies, our legal expertise is particularly helpful. We understand overseas investors’ tax liability and ensure that income and property taxes are paid on time. Insurance, utilities bills, rent collection and banking are carefully managed, and we submit monthly reports charting the return on your investment.

Saving you Money and Sparing you Headaches

As a professional property manager with many years’ experience, I am frequently asked whether the benefits of hiring me outweigh my costs. The short answer is yes:  My clients tell me that I save them money and headaches, because property management in Israel is more complex and time-consuming that they realized!

The real value of a property manager comes when something goes wrong. A burst water pipe in the building – typically on a Friday afternoon – is our problem not yours. We have a team of contractors standing ready to make emergency repairs, and we have experience in dealing with insurance claims to ensure that all the costs are covered. We’re here to protect your investment, and that includes organizing regular inspections of your property to ensure that it is well-maintained and weatherproof.

A good property manager knows how to keep your tenants happy and how to find new tenants when they leave, to ensure that your property is never sitting empty. As a native South African who has lived in Israel for most of my life, I know how to manage local contractors, and how to negotiate rental contracts and insurance policies to protect your interests. As a lawyer, I am familiar with regulations regarding rentals, landlords’ and tenants’ legal rights and obligations. Together with my maintenance team, I also manage holiday homes for many of our clients, keeping their beach-front properties in tip-top condition and getting everything ready for their vacation visits.

Spotting the Best Investment Opportunities

At Creative Estates, we stay up to date with all the latest real estate projects around Central Israel, so we can advise you on the best locations to buy properties. Buying properties off-plan in new developments can increase the return on your investment, but they require careful scrutiny throughout the construction process. With new train lines currently under construction throughout the region, we can tell you about the neighborhoods that will soon become prime commuter communities with excellent rental potential. Creative Estates can also help you to rent or sell your existing property in Israel, working with the top local agents and getting you the best possible price.

Shaun Isaacson is a qualified Israeli Lawyer, MBA and Real Estate Agent, and CEO of Creative Estates Israel. You can contact him in complete confidence for investment advice or a price quote for managing your Israel property at shaun@CEIsrael.com

Maintaining your Swimming Pool in Israel

Swimming pool maintenance is a major part of our summer program at Creative Estates Israel, but we actually maintain over 20 swimming pools all year round for our Israel property management clients.

Open air swimming pools require constant maintenance and attention. Your pool should be a source of pleasure and relaxation, not a source of stress and hassle! We help our clients by preparing their swimming pool for use at the start of the summer, or indeed at any time when they or their guests want to use it, and by checking and maintaining it all year round.

Essential tasks include cleaning and filtering the water, checking the chemical levels, maintaining the tiles, the membrane, and the area around the pool. Covers and fences also require maintenance, particularly during the winter, to make sure that they are not compromised. If something falls in the pool and goes unnoticed, it can clog up the filter and cause major mechanical problems later on.

We work with Israel’s leading swimming pool installation and maintenance company to manage all the pools on our properties. They install the latest hi-tech gadgets into all our pools so that we are alerted if there is a problem. For example, our clients have remote control via their smartphone to check the acidity, salt and chlorine levels in their swimming pool, and they receive weekly reminders for maintenance tasks that should be carried out. When they are away from their properties, they pass these reminders on to Creative Estates and we take care of the cleaning, filtering and troubleshooting.

Many of our clients have installed the latest cover alarms on their swimming pools, which alert them remotely if someone opens the cover on their pool while they are away or if someone forgets to close it. Again, our team are always on hand to check on what is happening and make sure that there is no safety issue with their swimming pool while they are absent.

If you have a property in Israel with a swimming pool and you want to make sure that it is professionally maintained, or if you are considering installing a pool, Creative Estates would be happy to advise and give you a competitive quotation.

7 Essential Israel Property Maintenance Tasks

Some landlords are just happy to sit back and collect the rent from their rental properties, but good property management companies understand the importance of carrying out regular maintenance checks to protect their clients’ investment. Failure to do so can result in costly floods, tenant complaints and lost rent.

These are just seven of the essential property maintenance tasks that Creative Estates carries out on behalf of its clients in Israel, alongside their regular financial and management tasks.

1. Checking for Leaks & Water Damage

Even the arid climate of Israel has a rainy season! Creative Estates always checks each property for cracks and gaps in window seals at the start of the winter, and also after heavy storms, to make sure that the drains on gutters and balconies are not overflowing and causing a build-up of water. Inside the property, we check pipes, boilers and under sinks, looking for early signs of problems and fixing them before they cause water damage. We also flush each of the toilets to ensure that they are working correctly and not wasting water.

2. Extermination of Pests

Ants, cockroaches and other pests can drive away tenants. Regular extermination treatment with environmentally approved and pet-friendly chemicals is essential to keeping any property in Israel pest-free.

3. Bathroom Caulking

Over time, the waterproof seal between baths, showers, basins and walls can dry out and crack. This can cause water to leak through and cause extensive damage. We regularly check the seals and grouting between bathroom wall and floor tiles and replace it as necessary.

4. Smoke Detectors

It is important to check smoke detectors regularly to ensure that the batteries have not expired and they are in working order. Tenants sometimes disconnect them to stop the alarm and forget to reset them. Smoke detectors save lives, and they should be replaced every 10 years.

5. Air Conditioning Filters

The filters in air conditioning systems of all types can become blocked with dust, which forces the system to work harder and increase utility bills. This can also cause malfunctions and leaks. It is usually recommended to check and wash or change the filters every six months. As with many systems, regular maintenance can help to keep them running smoothly so that they break down less and require replacement less frequently.

6. Mail and Utilities

Ignoring important communications that arrive in the mail but get ignored by tenants can cause major problems for landlords. We make sure to check all notifications from utilities companies, ensure that all bills and local taxes (Arnona) are paid on time, and communicate directly with the building’s management committee. We are constantly protecting the property owner’s interests, including checking that the consumption of water and electric consumption is correctly charged.

7. Relationship Maintenance

A happy tenant is a profitable tenant! We try to maintain good relationships with tenants and encourage them to tell us when something is not working in the property. That helps us to fix problems before they deteriorate, and avoids crisis call-outs.

If your property in Israel is not been managed and maintained to this high standard, you can talk to Shaun Isaacson at Creative Estates in complete confidence, and we will give you a price quote for taking over the job.

Bat Yam – the Cinderella City!

From rags to riches: real estate prices in Bat Yam, the southern “Cinderella” suburb of Tel Aviv, are rapidly catching up with the rest of the metropolis. T

Just a few years ago, Bat Yam was seen as Tel Aviv’s poor and run-down neighbor, despite its coastal position. Its housing prices were typically 20% lower than the neighboring city of Holon, which is further inland, but now they have overtaken them. Two years ago you could buy reasonably priced housing in the city of Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, but today the prices are almost on a par with other more fashionable Tel Aviv suburbs.

Bat Yam already has two stations on train route between Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion. and it will soon have a terminus for the planned Tel Aviv Light Railway. Thanks to a dramatic urban renewal project, which has included upgrading the schools, public spaces and cultural infrastructure, the city now offers attractive options for families looking for suburban neighborhoods with a short commute to Tel Aviv.  As the standard of living in the city improves, Bat Yam will become a high-grade commuter community for the overcrowded metropolis.

Alongside residential developments for commuters, Bat Yam is also developing itself as “the New Israeli Riviera”. It has 6 beaches and a 3.2 km promenade along the sea front that connects up with the Tel Aviv boardwalk south of Jaffa. Three major hotels are being built, together with a park for outdoor cultural activities and a number of luxury high-rise apartment buildings. 

The Sea Park development occupies prime real estate on the coast to the south of the city, close to Rishon Lezion. Its developers have recently sold a number of luxury apartments and penthouses there for over 10 million shekels. Purchasers are willing to pay high prices for an apartment in a luxury tower with a view of the Mediterranean, because it is still significantly lower than comparable properties in central Tel Aviv. Foreign investors are among those snapping up these luxury bargains.

Further back from the sea, ordinary four-room apartments that were sold a few years ago for NIS 2.6-2.7 million are now selling for NIS 3.1-3.2 million. Such a rapid increase in housing prices would never have been realistic in the past, but there are two additional factors at play.  Firstly, the Bat Yam Municipality is giving priority to the building of smaller apartments and favouring the Tama 38 demolition and construction model. This is encouraging investors to buy apartments in buildings slated for redevelopment, in expectation of great returns when these medium sized buildings are replaced with tall towers, comprising many more apartments.

Secondly, a recent announcement by the Ministry of the Interior that the Tel Aviv and Bat Yam municipalities will be merged in 2023 may have added fuel to the fire. Property investors may be taking a view that Bat Yam will soon become a southern suburb of Tel Aviv, and expecting its prices to move toward those of its more exclusive northern suburbs.

The Bat Yam story is a typical Israeli fairy story, where a “Cinderella” city is magically transformed into a real estate “princess”. At Creative Estates we believe in looking beyond the obvious neighborhoods and identifying areas that are ripe for development, in the expectation that they too could undergo a magical transformation in just a few years!

Talk to Creative Estates Israel if you own real estate or are interested in investing in a property in Bat Yam or any other central city in Israel.

The Bubble That Would Not Burst

Predictions that Israeli house prices would fall once the government’s major construction projects hit the market have been proved overly optimistic. Excepting certain areas where the heat has gone out of the expensive housing market – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ra’anana and Herzliya – house prices in Israel have continued to rise by 0.6% since February 2019.

The map of the Israeli real estate market is complex and influenced by many different factors, such as the construction of new public transport networks and population trends. The Kahlon Buyer Fixed Housing Plan led to the accelerated construction of new homes in Kiryat Bialik (a Haifa suburb), Beer Sheva, and the southern towns of Netivot and Dimona, but the demand for housing is stronger elsewhere, where prices are not affected by the increase in supply.

The district index measures changes in house prices in six districts, shows prices remaining stable in Northern Israel and Jerusalem, increasing in the Haifa district by 2.8% and in the south (around Beer Sheva) by 1.3%, and in the Central district (excluding Tel Aviv) by  1.2%, but falling in Tel Aviv by 2.3%.

clthough housing prices fell between late 2017 and early 2018, when investment purchases paused for a few months, the overall trend remains upward. This is driven, as we have said before, by strong demographic growth and Aliyah, as well as confidence in the Israeli economy and incoming investment. Although the overall supply of housing has increased, the new apartments were not built where they were needed. There is still a shortage of housing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in charedi towns and in Arab communities, where there are no plans to build new homes.

Unless the incoming government’s housing policy is radically different from the last, we are unlikely to see a fall in demand or prices in the years ahead. We may see some cooling off of real estate prices in the most sought-after cities, as some of the demand is drawn away by new construction elsewhere. However, while employment continues to draw Israeli families to live where their jobs are, the center of the country will remain the strong beating heart of the Israeli housing market.

If you are interested in investing in property in Central Israel, talk to Shaun Isaacson from Creative Estates Israel about the best locations for buy-to-let investment and home purchase, or if you own a property in Israel already and need a reliable management agent.

New Reporting Requirements for Israel Property Purchasers

A new law will take effect on January 1 that required all Israel property purchasers to report the sources of their capital.

The Israel Tax Authority has introduced a new obligation to report on the sources of financing for all real estate deals from January 1, 2019. This is enshrined in the new Minimizing Use of Cash Law, which is designed to squeeze Israel’s black market by limiting cash transactions, in the hope of increasing tax revenue by an estimated 500 million shekels ($145.7 million) each year.

The new law brings Israel into line with other countries that have limited cash transactions to prevent money laundering. It includes a ban on all cash transactions over 11,000 NIS (approximately $300) for any kind of purchase.

The new reporting obligation on real estate purchasers compels them to report the sources of the finance with which they buy any kind of Israeli real estate, whether domestic or commercial. It applies equally to investors and to home owners purchasing any size of property. They must complete an online form on the Israel Tax Authority website within 6 months of signing a purchase contract, and upload adequate documentation to prove the provenance of the funds. Failure to report their financial resources will incur a fine.

Foreign investors are already required to report on the source of their financing when purchasing property in Israel, so this additional obligation being imposed on all purchasers should not unduly inconvenience overseas buyers.

As a qualified Israeli lawyer and realtor, Shaun Isaacson, CEO of  Creative Estates Israel, is happy to advise on this new law and all other aspects of your Israel property purchase.

Preparing Your Israeli Property for Rain

With the rainy season about to start, here are our top ten tips for preventing any floods, leaks or pipe bursts in your Israel property this winter.

Israeli homes are really designed for the summer, which is generally three times longer than the winter season. Most houses and apartments are built with stone floors, poor insulation and minimal drainage systems, unsuited to coping with sudden rainstorms and even snow in some parts of the country.

At Creative Estates Israel, we have many years of experience in managing holiday homes and rental properties and pre-empting winter crises. From experience we know that all properties, whether tenanted or empty, should always be thoroughly checked at the start of the winter to ensure that they are weather-proof. Here is our checklist.

1) Cleaning Gutters and Drains

Before the first rainfall of the season, make sure that water cannot collect in places where it may cause flooding inside your property, such as window ledges, door sills and air conditioner pipes. Ask your upstairs neighbours to do the same, so that you do not find water leaking through your ceiling from their balcony. Your building manager (Va’ad Bayit) should also clear leaves and garbage from the drains and walkways around the entrances to the building, to prevent flooding and slipping accidents.

2) Checking for Leaks and Cracks

Water can seep through the smallest cracks and will always find the weakest points through which to escape, often causing leaks or dampness in the walls. You may be able to see the marks of damp or mold on the walls or ceilings showing where last winter’s leaks occurred. Persistent dampness during the winter months can cause allergies and breathing difficulties, as well as damaging furniture, furnishings and the building structure. Landlords are expected to protect their properties against leaks and dampness, and they may be held liable for damages caused to their neighbors if they fail to do so.

3) Water Heating Systems

Most residents and tenants only turn on their supplementary electric water heater when the weather turns cloudy and cold. If it has been unused during the summer, it is sensible to check your water heating system before you turn it on for the first time. Boiler systems may be used to power radiators as well as providing a supply of hot water, so you should have both functions checked. Lives can be saved by removing bird’s nests and other blockages from flues, because if the ventilation system is blocked when the boiler is turned on you might cause carbon monoxide poisoning. When calling a maintenance engineer, remember that Israeli boiler systems are known collectively as ‘Yunkers’, named after the original Israeli manufacturer.

4) Central Heating Systems

In apartment buildings, the central heating may be centrally controlled by the management committee, with fixed dates for turning them on and off. Individual apartments may have supplementary air conditioning units or other electric room heaters.

5) Positioning Room Heaters

Put safety first when positioning and using electric room heaters. Keep them out of reach of children and make sure that soft furnishings – curtains, cushions, mattresses and clothes – cannot fall onto them and cause a fire.

6) Adjusting Air Conditioning Units

Many people choose to use wall-mounted air-conditioning units for heating during the summer. If so, it is crucial to adjust the vents so that they point downwards to send warm air circulating around the room. Otherwise the upwards setting that you use for cold air in the summer will just heat your ceiling! Remember to clean the filters too.

7) Adding Window Insulation

Israeli homes have very little insulation, so precious heat can be lost through windows and walls. It may help to check that your trissim (window blinds) close tightly and do not rattle in the wind. Hanging curtains and putting draught-excluders along cracks in walls and under doors can keep help to keep the cold outside and the heat inside.

8) Preparing for Power Cuts

It’s not unusual for the power to go out at any time, so it’s good to prepare emergency back-up systems such as alternative power supplies for important appliances like freezers and computers, emergency lights for stair wells, and supplies of candles and matches. In some areas it is advisable to keep a kerosene heater or other non-electric heating source to keep you warm during extended power outages.

9) Protecting Water Pipes

If your home is in an area where the pipes may freeze, we recommend leaving a tap dripping slowly during very cold periods, to prevent pipe bursts. It’s a good idea to disconnect outdoor watering systems during the winter, to save water and to protect the pipes and connectors from damage.

10) Checking on Empty Properties

If there are empty properties in your building that are not taken care of, all the above problems can spread from their apartment to yours. Leaking pipes that go undetected can cause long-term water damage in other parts of the building. If you know that your neighbours are going away for the winter, recommend that they get a property company to check on their home.

Creative Estates Israel manages properties all over central Israel and we send our maintenance teams to every property to check that everything is ready for winter and stays water-tight. To speak to Creative Estates about checking and managing your property in Israel, contact Shaun@CEIsrael.com

City Center Developments

Israeli property investors are watching with interest the process of approving new residential city center developments on the sites of former bus stations in cities across Israel. Herzliya is the first such city center development to receive planning permission, but others will follow.

Many Israeli cities have relocated their main bus stations, leaving city center sites that are ripe for development. In Herzliya, Nitsba have just received permission to build 400 apartments on the site of the former central bus station. Nitsba is owned by Haim Tsuff, one of Israel’s leading developers, as a subsidiary of the Airport City company and Jerusalem Oil Exploration Ltd. They also own the development rights to 18 other bus stations around Israel, and they are also involved in building a new industrial park in Rosh HaAyin together with 1,200 residential apartments.

Although the central Herzliya bus terminus was closed in 2016, the local planning committee granted initial permission for the site’s development back in 2010, but final permission was only given in July 2018. The new project will be called Herzliya Park and is planned to include a number of towers containing 400 apartments which are expected to cost at least NIS 900,000 per apartment.

The story of this project and the potential development of further city center sites is typical of the many bureaucratic delays that hamper real estate developments in Israel. It may take decades for permission to be granted for the development of the other central bus station sites around the country. While home prices continue to rise, the building of residential apartments in many city-center sites are delayed by the planning process.

At the same time, the process of upgrading much of Israel’s sub-standard housing stock to meet the latest building standards, is also taking longer than expected. The TAMA 38 program was devised to upgrade buildings that stand on concrete stilts to survive potential earthquakes. Uptake of the program by residents has been extremely slow, because of the inconvenience of moving out while your building is renovated. This has held up the building of extra apartments in city centers, and has also left many buildings vulnerable to quakes.

Recent Israeli government programs to manage the demand for new homes have not been matched by any significant increase in the supply of new apartments, particularly in Israel’s most sought-after central cities. Apartment prices remain high, particularly in the Mercaz and Sharon districts. The highest increases in prices in recent months have been recorded in Rehovot, Jerusalem and Netanya.

Investors are watching with interest the process of approving residential developments on the sites of former bus stations, and also the development of new light rail stations across Central Israel. It is important to stay in touch with what is happening and also what may happen in the future, even if it may take time for planning permission to be given, so as to get in on the ground floor of exciting potential developments.

If you are interested in buying property in Israel, or consulting with Creative Estates about the management of your investment property, we would be delighted to help you. You can contact us in complete confidence at contact@CEIsrael.com

Saving Landlords Money

Creative Estates is all about saving landlords money, particularly absentee landlords who do not live in Israel. We can help to reduce landlords’ Israeli tax liability and make successful insurance claims.

One of the issues that many non-Israeli landlords are not aware of is the options that exist for reducing their Israeli tax liability. Since all income earned in Israel is liable to taxation, even a property owner who lives overseas is obligated to file and pay income tax on their rental income. It is crucial to take expert advice on how to take care of this properly, particularly if you want to make sure that you are not taxed twice on the same income – first in Israel and also in your own domicile.

Shaun Isaacson, CEO of Creative Estates Israel, is a qualified lawyer and MBA who understands all the ins and outs of income tax. “We are usually able to reduce our clients’ tax liability with careful management of their finances”, he explains. “One of our overseas clients had been paying 10% tax on his rental income, but in consultation with our accountant we were able to reduce his liability to zero by offsetting the depreciation on the value of his property. Any landlord who does not take advantage of our expert advice risks losing money that can easily be saved!”

Creative Estates specializes in saving its clients from getting ripped off by unscrupulous contractors and making short-sighted decisions. “The polite Israeli expression for this is “fryer” – it means someone who is naïve and easily taken advantage of. Insurance companies are notorious for taking advantage of innocent landlords who do not realize that they need to negotiate more aggressively to get the pay-out that they legally deserve”, says Shaun.

“Shimon was managing his own property in Kfar Saba from his home in Canada. He called us one day because a number of pipes under the floor had burst and he didn’t know who to trust to fix them properly. Our maintenance crew took care of it and we took over management of the property. We then turned to his insurance company to make a claim for the costs of repairing the water damage.

“It took a few phone calls and we had to state our case very strongly in order to convince them that we were not willing to settle for their low offer. Being an Israeli lawyer by training meant that the negotiation was easier for me than it would have been for Shimon! Speaking Hebrew like a native means that the person on the other end of the phone does not think that they can get one over on me!”

Shimon’s apartment had clearly been built with sub-standard copper piping, and there were further pipe bursts. Creative Estates took care of them one by one, replacing them with stronger plastic piping so that the problems would not recur, and making successful insurance claims to cover the cost of the work. Not only did we save Shimon a fortune in repair costs, but he also saved on the air fares that he would otherwise have incurred to visit his property and take care of the problems.

Another client, Graham, recently wrote to us: “I have had a home in Israel for over 26 years and my only regret is that I only met up with Shaun two years ago! He is without doubt one of the most professional , efficient, trustworthy and organised person I have met. Nothing is ever too much trouble, no job is too small.”

Many absent landlords are recognizing that deciding not to use a property management company in Israel will cost them more money than paying someone to take care of their interests. We have proven time and time again that taking care of insurance claims and taxation issues on behalf of our landlords can save them a great deal more money than we charge.

Don’t be a fryer! Talk to Creative Estates Israel about managing your property in Israel. We’ll take away your headaches and ensure that tenants are happy, your property is well maintained, and your investment is profitable!

Israel’s Next Hot Property: Lod

People always ask us about where they can invest in real estate and see an increase in their returns. At Creative Estates we are not ‘profit prophets’, but we do keep our eyes and ears open for new developments that suggest which of the more affordable areas of Israel may be ripe for investment.

Lod is a city in central Israel that has been largely neglected until now. It is located just 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv but it has not been attractive to commuters. During the 80s and 90s it was known for violent crime, and it has a delicately balanced demographic make-up of 70% Jewish and 30% Israeli Arab residents. However, recent campaigns to clean up the city have been successful and people are recognizing its potential. Housing prices have been rising rapidly and there are new plans for municipal development.

Lod is traditionally associated with Israel’s first airport, which was known as Lod or Lydda until 1973, when it was renamed in honor of David Ben Gurion. Although the airport is located outside the city boundaries, it remains one of the major employers of Lod residents, together with the many related companies that have grown up around the airport.

What’s New in Lod?

In May 2017, Israel’s Ministry of Finance agreed with the Lod municipality to help build 17,000 housing units in and around the city, as part of a major program of urban renewal. This includes upgrading the transport infrastructure, connecting the eastern and western suburbs to the city center, and including two former moshavim as part of the city.

Community regeneration projects include educational start-ups, a religious ‘garin’ scheme that provides educational support in the city’s schools, and numerous coexistence projects that have helped to ease the tensions between Arab and Jewish residents. The city’s mayor has a clear agenda to upgrade the city and its poor image. For example, when construction workers digging for a new road expansion program discovered a well-preserved mosaic floor dating back to the Roman period, they set up the Lod Community Archaeology Program to engage local students from five Jewish and five Israeli schools in the dig to reveal and restore the mosaic (shown here).

Property Prices in Lod

According to the Madlan website, the price of a typical 4-bedroom apartment in Lod is currently 1.16 million NIS – significantly lower than the national average (1.47 million NIS) and much lower than the average price for Central Israel (1.74 million NIS). Significantly, the Madlan index shows that Lod apartment prices have increased by 50% since 2013. Rental prices in Lod are relatively high, and you can expect a rate of return of between 3.2-3.8% on property rentals, depending on the location and state of your apartment.

So, if you are thinking of investing in an up-and-coming city that is conveniently located in  Israel’s lucrative ‘Mercaz’ region, we suggest that you look at Lod. At Creative Estates we would be happy to speak to you about your real estate investment plans and offer you our property management services. Contact us today.