How To: Prepare For a Home-Buying Trip
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Unfortunately, over the past half year, people have been unable to visit Israel. Sadly, plans for family vacations, to attend weddings, aliyah pilot trips and home-buying trips were all canceled. We pray that the country will soon reopen and Jews from around the world will be able to travel home to Israel. Let’s focus on the last example that I mentioned above: home-buying trips.
Here’s a common – and always heartwarming – scenario: I receive a phone call, whatsapp or email from a couple who share their dream of purchasing an apartment in Israel with the hope to make aliyah or spend significant time in Israel. They are now at the point in life where they feel emotionally and financially prepared to take the plunge, and they would like to meet me and look at properties during their upcoming trip.
I respond with tremendous enthusiasm, as I get a vicarious thrill every single time that I receive this call, and begin focusing them on what should be done to prepare for the trip.
The first step is to create a wish list – which we call the “buyer’s profile” – that addresses issues such as city, neighborhood, bedroom count, amenities, whether they are willing to do renovations and/or to buy “on paper” in a new project, and finally we discuss budget. I explain the associated expenses (acquisition tax, lawyer, agent, etc.) that can add upwards of 10% above the purchase price. Once that conversation is finished, often the client will ask what they can do to prepare for the trip.
I explain that they should meet with a lawyer during their trip, to discuss legal aspects of purchasing a home in Israel and to fill out a power of attorney (POA) document, which permits the attorney to sign documents and transact on their behalf. I send names and contact information of several excellent real estate lawyers and suggest that they interview them prior to their trip and choose an attorney whom they feel comfortable working with. Lawyers usually charge a fee of 1%+VAT of the purchase price.
I then recommend that, if they are considering taking a mortgage, they call mortgage brokers – I will send them a few recommendations – and choose one to work with. The mortgage broker will request financial documents to determine how much money the buyer will be able to borrow. Realistically, a credit-worthy overseas buyer can borrow up to 50% of the purchase price – and sometimes an additional 10% at a higher rate to cover closing costs (Israeli residents buying a first home can borrow more). Understanding your mortgage options prior to arriving in Israel helps you determine your budget, which will guide us in determining which apartments to include in our property search. Once in Israel, you will meet the mortgage broker to sign a POA, allowing her/him to transact on your behalf. Mortgage brokers usually charge about 1% to 1.25% + VAT of the mortgage amount. When discussing their fee, ask the mortgage broker whether he/she has a minimum transaction charge. Finally, inquire whether there are additional associated charges when obtaining a mortgage; for example, many banks charge a .25% registration fee.
Finally, I recommend that my client talk to a foreign exchange professional who can help them transfer funds and convert them to shekels. In addition, the forex company can make all payments on the client’s behalf, as most banks in Israel can be challenging to work with. Forex companies usually charge .5% for their services. And yes, you will also need to meet with the forex professional to sign documents allowing them to transact on your behalf.
Don’t worry if you do not address all of these matters prior to your flight, as we can help set up appointments after you have landed. However, the more leg work you do before your trip, the better prepared you will be upon your arrival.
We look forward to greeting you in Israel very soon.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.