The Garden of Eden
Eden Hills is an exciting new yishuv that is finally welcoming its first residents. The opportunity to live in a small town setting in nature, yet close to the communal infrastructure of Beit Shemesh, has made Eden Hills a destination for many families.
Eden Hills’ history is fascinating. Back in 1990, the original developer fell in love with this picturesque region surrounded by nature preserves and aptly dubbed “the Napa Valley of Israel.” After battling bureaucracy and environmentalists for decades, he brought in an excellent partner with a strong track record of building new communities across Israel.
A little background: For years, we have been on the lookout for houses being built in central communities, as many clients have dreamed of buying a private home in a small, well-located community. Unfortunately, though, this dream is, by and large, a relic of a bygone era, and presently there is precious little construction of private home projects in central Israel. As Israel’s population is expected to double within the next 50 years, the government has understandably rezoned the center of the country. Consequently, new communities being developed in the center of the county consist almost exclusively of apartment buildings, often up to 20 stories or higher.
Accordingly, the ability to purchase a house in a new project is challenging. Options include moving to underpopulated areas – like the north, the south, and the Shomron – where low-rise housing is still being built, or to purchase in new projects whose plans were grandfathered prior to the revised zoning rules, which were implemented around 10 years ago.
We were searching for that last option: old projects with grandfathered zoning, that were mothballed for various reasons. Thankfully, we unearthed the perfect solution: Eden Hills. By early 2020, the new partner received permits to develop the first phase of 270 mostly semi-attached homes, ranging in size from 1500 to 2200 square feet, and they were ready to commence sales. Situated within the Green Line, under 10 minutes from Beit Shemesh and half an hour from Jerusalem, the developer was preparing to begin construction of Eden Hills, and offered us the opportunity to do pre-sales before the sales campaign began in Israel.
Picture us galivanting around NY and NJ for 12 days in early 2020, immediately before Covid-19 shut down the world. There we were, running a meeting in the Young Israel of New Rochelle the night before the building was shuttered and coined the “epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic.” It was a crazy and memorable trip, in which we sidestepped corona and signed up the first two dozen buyers for this new rustic community.
A few weeks later, the developer opened sales via Zoom. Although the world was turned upside down and in a state of flux, Israelis flocked to buy homes, prices kept on climbing, and the 270-home project, which attracted many wonderful Israeli and Anglo families, sold out.
We felt fortunate to help dozens of families buy homes in this beautiful new community, and that was the end of the story – until another developer, who bought two plots of land adjoining the project, reached out to us and asked: “What type of buyers didn’t buy the initial 270 homes, and why?” We shared the reasons of those who passed: some wanted larger houses, others wanted stand-alone houses, while others wanted basements. Lastly, others passed because we couldn’t guarantee the demographics of a not-yet-sold project. Although we had shared our expectations of the future community – and we happened to be right, although it wasn’t rocket science to expect a community under 10 minutes from Ramat Beit Shemesh to be religious – some people were uncomfortable taking that risk.
Based on our feedback and guidance, the new developer is building large, stand-alone homes, with very high technical specifications. Looking back at the past to get a glimpse of the future, we expect this project will be Part Two of the Eden Hills success story.
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.