Shia Getter

Buying in Israel? Ask the Right Questions and Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

Remember when you bought your washing machine? You did a whole lot of research, didn’t you? You read online reviews, compared prices, checked out sales and reviewed warranty information. Your wife even got on the phone with her friends and found out what they liked or didn’t like about their washing machines!

Somehow, when it comes to buying an apartment, most people are satisfied with much less research…or no research at all!

If you’re like the typical home buyer, you take a look around the apartment, ask the broker a few questions, and have your lawyer review the contract. Then you sign on the dotted line, pack up, and move into the new apartment…with your well-vetted washing machine, of course!

Here’s the problem: when you haven’t done much research, there will almost always be unpleasant surprises. Ask anyone who’s bought an apartment recently, and you will likely hear a frustrating saga. Either there was a strange odor they never noticed before, and now they need to tear up half the floor to get rid of it, or they discovered a mold problem in the bathroom walls, or there’s a neighbor who makes noise in the wee hours of the night and wakes up the baby. If they would have known about these things beforehand, they would have certainly thought twice about purchasing the apartment!

You don’t like unpleasant surprises, right? No one does. So before buying an apartment, give the matter at least as much attention as you would give your washing machine! Take the time to do your research and ask the right questions before you sign.

Use the Getter Group’s time-proven 6 questions to stress-test an apartment.

  1. How long has this apartment been on the market? If it’s been sitting around for a while, that can be a red flag! You’ll want to find out the reason why. Do some digging. Is there is a problem that is keeping buyers away? Once you discover the issue you may decide it’s not for you, or you may be able to negotiate and bring the price down. Sometimes, there is a perfectly innocent reason for an apartment to stay on the market, such as a high number of new apartments available. In that situation, knowing the reason means you can go ahead with the rest of your research.
  2. Is the price reasonable? There are many factors that go into the price of an apartment, enough to fill another article. A few common ones are the view, floor level, number of rooms, size, location, and access to a Shabbos elevator. Knowing these factors will help you compare the apartment to similar ones on the market, and assess the fairness of the asking price.
  3. Is the apartment built legally? I’ve seen apartments of 100 meters, where only 50 meters were built legally.  I’ve also seen contracts that boasted apartments of a certain size when the actual apartment was much smaller. Even your lawyer may not know if the apartment is legal, so do your homework. Tell your lawyer how many meters are being sold in the paperwork, and have him check if every meter is legal. Alternately, you can ask the seller to have the apartment measured so you can see the true measurements with you own eyes. In either case,  the simple act of verifying measurements goes a long way to protect your interests!
  4. Who are the neighbors? You wouldn’t send your child to a school where you don’t know the clientele, but it’s surprising how many people rush into buying an apartment without knowing who the neighbors are! Make a few phone calls to friends and family. Try to find out who lives nearby and if you’ll feel comfortable sharing a building.
  5. Who is the seller? You’re about to enter into a significant transaction with a complete stranger. Don’t go in with blinders on! Even if you have a good lawyer on your side, when you have a choice about it, you’d much prefer doing business with an honest person who is straightforward and easy to deal with. A little digging will help you uncover the nature of the seller and the way he conducts his business.
  6. What’s the vicinity like? Take the time to research the area around your prospective apartment building; it’s where you will spend a good amount of your life! Find out what shuls, supermarkets, and bus stops are nearby. If you own a car, make sure there is adequate parking available. These simple factors can make a great difference to the bigger picture.

Now that you know how to ask the right questions, it’s time to start your research! This is best done by going back to the apartment alone after you’ve seen it with your broker. That’s because, unlike the Getter Group, the average broker’s main goal is to facilitate a sale, so he’ll be careful to show you only what he wants you to see. Go back to the apartment building alone, or stay a bit longer after the broker leaves, and check out the hallways, elevators, lobby, and outdoor areas.

I also recommend that you knock on a few doors and conduct a friendly interview with your prospective neighbors. People who already live in the building are your best source of information …and they’re usually happy to help! Question them about the apartment, the seller, the Vaad HaBayit, and how families in the building get along. If you’re comfortable asking, find out how much the neighbors paid for their apartments. It will help you determine whether the asking price is fair.

While there are never guarantees in life, you’re always better positioned to make decisions after you’ve done your due diligence! As the consumer, you need to look out for your interests to avoid pitfalls.And by the way…you don’t need to do it alone. The Getter Group specializes in protecting buyers during the research stage and at every other stage of the transaction as well. We take care of the background checks, handpick a trusted lawyer for you, assist with obtaining a mortgage, facilitate payments, take responsibility for paperwork, and even help with construction. Buying an apartment with the Getter Group means having the protection of a seasoned team who understands the system and is looking out for your interests.

At the Getter Group, we help buyers navigate the Israeli real estate system and protect you from pitfalls. We advocate for your interests, saving you time, money, and headaches. If you’re thinking about buying in Israel, discover valuable resources to make that process smoother. The Getter Group will be coming to the States this winter, book a free consult with Mr. Shia Getter, limited slots available! Contact us: US: 718-473-3950  IL: 077-234-6011

You can learn more about us on our website

This article is intended to provide general information about the sub­ject matter covered. It is not meant to provide legal opinions, offer advice, or serve as a substitute for advice by li­censed, legal professionals.

The author does not guarantee that the information contained herein is complete or accurate and does not as­sume any liability for any loss or dam­age caused by errors, inaccuracies or omissions contained in this article.


About the Author
Shia Getter is known in Israeli real estate circles for “the man with common sense.” Having moved to Israel 12 years ago, Shia understands what rough experiences many people not used to the local ways of doing business can get entangled with. His company, the Getter Group, is Jerusalem’s #1 sales and brokerage services company, and trusted source of information, ensuring clients get the right investment, covering their bases and checking that they are getting full value and security for their hard earned money.
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