When buying an apartment which you plan to keep vacant between trips to Israel, I highly recommend that you retain a good property manager to watch over your investment. As one property manager, succinctly put it, “If you buy a home and don’t take care of it for a year, it’s like buying a new car and not touching it for a year: you’re looking for trouble.”
Property managers oversee all aspects of the apartment in the owner’s absence. A professional manager will make weekly visits to collect the mail; check the timers to ensure that lights are going on and off at the right times; run the water in the kitchen and bathrooms; run the various household appliances to keep everything up to snuff; be on the lookout for signs of leaks; and represent your interests with the Vaad Bayit (condo board).
A seasoned property manager can guide you regarding issues that you may not even be aware of. Picture this scenario: You have just spent significant money renovating your kitchen and installing top-of-the-line appliances. Four months later you visit Israel and, lo and behold, the dishwasher isn’t working. You visit the appliance store, waiving your warranty, and demand a new dishwasher. And the store owner responds, “Did you follow the manual’s requirement to run the machine at least once a month?” A good property manager will run the dishwasher – as well as the other appliances – on a regular basis, to ensure that they stay in good working condition and are in compliance with their warranties.
Your property manager will go through the mail to make sure that your bills are being paid. Property manager Doni Fuld shared a story about a client who had his credit card stolen and then had to replace it with a new card. However, he forgot that he had been paying his electric bills on that credit card via hora’at keva (automatic payment) and didn’t send the electric company the new credit card information. Soon thereafter, the electric company sent him a letter stating that unless he paid his overdue bill within one week, his electricity would be cut off and he would be assessed a significant penalty. Thankfully, the property manager found the bill and quickly rectified the situation.
And then there is the situation where your apartment is undergoing renovations while you are in the States. A property manager can be hired to oversee construction and prevent the kablan (contractor) from conveniently putting your project on the back burner in your absence.
Some property managers rent out apartments between the owners’ visits in order to generate income and offset the expenses. One such manager explained to me that short term renters tend to cause much less “wear and tear” on apartments than long-term renters, as they are in “tourist mode” and typically don’t spend much time in the apartment. By requiring short-term renters to put down a sizable deposit, a good property manager can ensure that the apartment will be properly maintained by the renters.
Owning a home in Israel and using it during the holidays and vacations is a source of great joy. Having an honest, experienced property manager oversee the apartment when they return to the States allows them to have peace of mind that their apartment is being properly looked after.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.