People have been asking me about the state of Israel’s real estate market and how we have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is clearly too early to tell what the longer term impact will be on Israel’s economy, on the demand for housing for the projected wave of immigration, or on the housing market. Our government is only a few weeks old, and the new housing minister – Yaakov Litzman from the United Torah Judaism party – has yet to announce his intentions. It could be said that, during the past year, the absence of a government has actually left the Israeli real estate market to flourish without interference!
COPING WITH COVID-19
Like all businesses around the world, we have had to adapt our business practices to cope with the restrictions of social distancing and hygiene. We have been wearing face coverings and gloves when visiting clients’ properties and meeting with tenants. During the lock-down, we were categorized as one of the necessary services that people could call on if they had problems with property maintenance. We did deal with several emergency call-outs in Ra’anana, Herzliya, Haifa and Netanya, to mention just a few. We have also been checking empty properties for landlords who are stranded overseas and cannot visit Israel at the moment.
We have extended our offer of free property checks to overseas property owners who are not clients of Creative Estates Israel, and will continue to do so for as long as people are reluctant to travel.
ISRAEL’S RENTAL MARKET
We manage a number of homes that are usually occupied during the peak Pesach season and during the summer vacation. Many visitors from outside Israel have sadly had to cancel their visits during 2020. In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where there are an estimated 30,000 short-term rental properties, 2,000 properties were taken off the tourist market (through AirBnB and similar platforms) and advertised for rent on the local market, which caused a temporary dip in short-term rental prices.
The Bank of Israel reported a fall of 15% in rents during the lock-down period, but this did not affect the overall upward trend. Between March 2019 and March 2020, rental prices in Israel rose by an average of 2.3%, and by the end of April activity in the rental market returned to pre-lock-down levels. In the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv average rents have risen between 8 – 10% over the past three years.
RETURNS ON INVESTMENT
Real estate market experts point out that past government policies to discourage property investment may have contributed to an upward pressure on rents. This is because 27% of Israeli households live in rented homes, and the proportion of apartments bought by investors for rental has fallen from 30% to 13% of purchases. This has contributed to a shortage in the supply of long-term rental properties, while plans to expand the housing stock and encourage renters to buy their own homes have been slow and ineffective.
During this difficult economic period, we fully expected to receive requests from tenants in the properties we manage to accept delayed rental payments. However, I am happy to report that only one of our tenants asked to pay late, and they were actually able to pay their rent in full, so none of our landlords were affected by rent delays. It probably helps that we are careful in selecting tenants for our properties and prefer to set up direct payments with them.
We understand that in other countries the situation has been difficult for landlords, where non-payment of rent has jeopardized the security of their investments and their ability to cover mortgage payments, but in Israel the rental market has remained robust. With talk of a wave of 50,000 new immigrants forecast for the coming year, we are optimistic that Israel remains a prime market for real estate buy-to-let investment.
We look forward to welcoming our overseas landlords back to Israel very soon, and we wish our friends and clients in Israel and around the world a healthy summer. Stay safe!!