Shia Getter

Navigating the Field of Real Estate in Israel vs. America

Embarking on a property purchase is a very exciting endeavor — one filled with possibilities and potential pitfalls, especially when you’re doing it in a foreign country! Real estate procedures and standards can vary greatly across the world.

Although both Israel and America boast diverse and dynamic real estate markets, each has its own set of rules and numerous legal, bureaucratic, and sociocultural disparities. For those considering purchasing property in the Holy Land, understanding these contrasts is essential for a smooth and confident purchase. 

From the experience of attending open houses to signing pre-contract agreements, the Israeli property market presents intriguing divergences from the American approach. By delving into these differences, prospective buyers can equip themselves with the knowledge needed to make well-informed decisions. This post gives only a glimpse into the differences, but it can serve a starting point for understanding the nuances of the Israeli market.

Out in the Open

There’s something about open houses. You get to explore the possibilities of the property and, of course, try to imagine yourself and your family in the space. 

When you visit an open house in America, you’ll in all probability find a very clean home — possibly staged by professionals, depending on the location and market — waiting to be viewed and visited. It will most likely smell good, look inviting, and be empty of its owners. Regular showings are similar.

Don’t expect the same at showings in Israel. Here the owners (or renters) are probably still hanging around, and their kids will very likely be staring at you. The property hasn’t been staged (unless, perhaps, you’re looking at upscale penthouses in Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Herzliya, and the like). And the occupants’ stuff will be there in all of its glory, including crooked pictures on the walls, children’s scribbles, coats, bags, and so on (use your imagination). Even more surprising, but also very likely, is that the mess is still there and they may not have even cleaned up at all. Of course, there are wide variations in this, from apartments that are spic-and-span to those that come complete with dirty dishes and overflowing garbage pails. 

Part of the reason for the difference is cultural. Things are just done differently in Israel, and people have less space (think: walk-in closets, basements, etc.) to hide things.  But another reason is that the market is just different; it’s been a seller’s market for so long that sellers don’t need to work that hard to get someone to buy their property. 

You’ll have to use your imagination to picture yourself and your furnishings and home decor items in the space. But better to be prepared than surprised, right? Admittedly, it is much harder to picture yourself living in a space when it’s full of another family’s wedding and bar mitzvah photos and cluttered with random bric-a-brac. Nevertheless, it’s possible! Here are some tips:

  1. Think about the neighborhood as a whole. Does it “feel” like you? Can you imagine calling it home?
  2. Focus on the structure and layout of the property. Does it flow in a sensible, utilitarian way? 
  3. Notice how the current occupants are making use of the space. What would you do similarly? What would you change?
  4. Look out the windows in the apartment. Do you like the view? Is there adequate privacy? How is the airflow?
  5. Pay attention to how noise and sound carry in the apartment. This is something that isn’t always possible in a vacant space.
  6. Imagine what the walls would look like freshly painted. Would you do minor renovations in the kitchen or bathrooms? What kind of furniture would you put in the space?
  7. Realize that you’re getting the opportunity to see the apartment with real people and real furnishings inside — and not some impractical stager’s props.
  8. Use the opportunity to speak with the current occupants about the apartment, if they seem amenable. And, of course, don’t forget to thank them for opening their home and giving you the opportunity to see it! 

Buying a home in Israel brings unique challenges and differences compared to America. However, the opportunities in Eretz Yisrael are unparalleled, and those who have experienced it will attest that it’s worth it. By purchasing a home in Israel, you secure a place in the homeland of the Jewish people and establish your family’s legacy in the Land. Regardless of where you buy, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research, seek professional advice, and understand the cultural and legal aspects to ensure a successful home purchase.

Stay tuned for part II of this article, which will cover additional differences and need-to-knows. 

The Getter Group is consistently working to educate foreigners who want to buy property in Israel, to empower them to go into their purchases armed with confidence and knowledge. If you’d like to learn more about the property purchase process in Israel, contact us to find out about our upcoming Israel Real Estate Conference, to be held in the Tri-State Area at the end of August.


The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only, based on the most accurate data available at the time of writing. However, we cannot guarantee that all the information presented herein remains complete, current, or error-free. Therefore, readers are advised to independently verify any information for the most recent updates. 

For more information, contact The Getter Group in Israel at 718.473.3950 or in our new Tri-State office at 732.490.1624 or by email at 


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.