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Thursday, April 09, 2020
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Shalom from Israel. What a crazy few weeks! Every day I try to understand what we are all living through at the moment. Being a Jerusalem real estate broker I can not analyze the medical situation any more than any other unqualified person. I follow all advice offered and take even more care, but I wish us all an end to this troubling situation.

I have never cancelled a trip to the States before, and cancelling our panel about “Understanding the Process of Buying,” which we do four or five times in the calendar year, was really tough for me—so much work had gone into planning. However, it was obviously the right decision and I look forward to returning as soon as possible to Teaneck and Englewood.

So what’s it like living in Jerusalem?

Firstly, foreign clients. A number of people with second homes came over before the quarantine rules came in. Some decided to stay as they prefer not to travel and some decided to stay as they feel most comfortable in Jerusalem, a very special city.

Surreal is the word. Obviously I’m showing fewer houses but a steady stream of buyers is still seemingly in the market. Local people will still have living needs.

Here are some things I have used this week. When showing apartments: Gloves on door handles and entrance codes, social distancing while in the homes. This week I took a family of five people to an apartment by going up and down three times to respect the distancing rules and the tenants currently living in the home. No polite hand shakes. It’s all strange and feels funny but this doesn’t matter if these small things can help keep us safe.

Yesterday when my clients were signing a contract I made everyone sit a few yards away from the other. They said “You are taking this very seriously” and I replied “If only we all were.”

Moving past these points, let’s discuss the market. What is below is only an opinion and not a guarantee, but where do I see the market?

Jerusalem has had past bad times. Take the intifadas as examples. The market slows down, transactions decrease, but prices at the middle end generally stay stable and I think that is what we are going to see now. From prices preparing to rise I now think we are in a period where this may not happen, but I don’t forecast dramatic drops. Remember that in Bakka, Katamon, Rehavia and German Colony supply is low.

Being in America—can I buy now?

Technically, yes, subject to a lawyer having power of attorney or somehow arranging one. This is generally easy via an apostille but now might be tougher.

The next question is: Would you buy now?

Just a pointer for those who are sitting on dollars. This is really a time to think about it. Watch the U.S. dollar rise against the NIS from approx 3.43 to 3.75. You will be heading toward a 10% saving to purchase the same number of shekels from a couple of weeks ago, so it will cost you significantly less of your hard-earned dollars and the same number of NIS. I can’t offer guarantees but this could well be a situation, when this is all resolved, that in a year’s time you are doing nicely from both the real estate investment and the currency investment!

So what to buy? If you are looking for a holiday home and have no rush for occupancy then looking off the plan might be the way to go. You can design it to your needs. You may well make a tidy profit by buying at a slightly discounted rate. There is nothing strange about buying off plan without seeing the unit. This happens in normal days as well.

I know times are not easy for any of us but don’t give up hope of buying in our wonderful country—whether now or down the line I am available to assist.

Ben Levene is owner of Capitol Real Estate. He can be contacted at +972538224336 or [email protected] Visit www.capitil.com

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