Kati Sharett
Real estate broker in Israel

Making no room for new immigrants

I realize the inflammatory nature the title of this post will have some committed Israeli patriots and Zionists bristling, but recent experiences in my real estate business have opened my eyes to a changing attitude towards new immigrants, particularly from North America.

When we first arrived as new immigrants in the 90’s Americans were considered “gold”, the best tenants a landlord could find. As a rule US citizens were reliable in paying on time and there was the perception that as buyers or renters, they were willing to pay more than Israelis.

The increase in immigration from France and North America has changed that perception.

I recently had as clients a young American family who decided to ‘make aliyah’ this summer, a move they had been preparing for several years. They were comfortably capitalized from the sale of their home, had been saving, both had excellent educations and career backgrounds that could relatively easily find a place in Israel regardless of language.

The couple had chosen a community known for a high percentage of other immigrants from English speaking countries “anglos” (as affectionately known in Hebrew) and decided that rather than pay the high price of temporary accommodations for a family while they looked for housing, they would pay my commission to find a place that fit their rather broad criterion and through digital photos and communications we would get the apartment secured before they arrived.

I found a couple of suitable places right away only to discover the landlords wanted “extra security” to take a risk on an immigrant family.  This translated to bank guarantees or cash security deposits of 4 to 6 months in advance. Some requested a full year’s rent in advance, others flatly refused to even give them a chance.

I had provided detailed financial records the couple entrusted me with to show prospective landlords their solvency. To Americans used to being able to rent a home or apartment with the maximum cash security deposit of one month’s rent, often even less, and a one page contract for rental, this seemed a ridiculous situation.

The search had now boiled down to my calling over a dozen prospective landlords before viewing their apartments with questions in advance, were they willing to take an American family with 4 months in advance with a two months security deposit with no “guarantors” (co-signers on the contract)?

Many landlords flatly refused this offer saying “What if they leave?” Or “What if they leave in the winter?” My incredulous reply would be “You get to keep the two or three months security deposit and you still have your apartment, your asset that you can find a new tenant for and if there is an overlap you make money.” After nearly a dozen interviews only one man was willing to accept them with four months rent paid in advance and rent paid quarterly afterward.

The whole process not only profoundly shocked and discouraged them, I was disappointed. When had Americans now become the “high risk” tenants Israeli landlords perceived them to be?

Israel is a growth nation, a “start-up nation” that continues to desire through such organizations as Nefesh b’Nefesh to want to attract new immigrants. In order for this to become a reality Israeli’s will have to be willing to “make room” for a highly educated and solid community. This shouldn’t be a sacrifice but a change we welcome with the understanding that these are a community of people with a high level of commitment willing to take a risk on a new country voluntarily.

About the Author
Kati Sharett works as a licensed realtor in Israel and writes on real estate news in Israel since 2009. A graduate from the University of Wisconsin in 1994 in Hebrew Studies and Journalism, she previously worked in news. She made aliyah with her family in 1995. She also writes about Mediterranean cuisine. She has lived and worked in Tel Aviv and greater Jerusalem.
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