Monday, October 6, 2008

Realities of Real Estate

Israel seems to be one of the few places in the world that an apartment in one of the charedi (religious-ultra-orthodox) neighborhoods can cost at least double what a house in an out-of-town neighborhood in the US costs.

Shocking, no?

I mean- Israeli apartments are not big- measured in meters, an average apartment of 2 bedrooms (the apartments are usually categorized by rooms- so a 2 bedroom apartment has 3 rooms- 2 bedrooms plus a dining room/living room- salon) is around 60 square meters. Let's face it- 60 square meters is a doll house. And, families of 5 kids will live in those apartments, because they can't afford to get anything bigger, and because the location is excellent.
The bigger the apartment is, the more mirpesets (porches- sometimes used for succahs), and the location are all factors in the price, but the prices are exorbitant, and keep growing.

Israeli families are accustomed to splitting the price of an apartment for a newly married couple, but oftentimes, they can't afford an apartment in Yerushalayim, and have to buy in one of the beautiful neighborhoods outside- oftentimes at least 1/2 the price.

It's strange- but often the price jumps just because charedi Jews are interested in the area.

For example, Givat Tzarfatit- French Hill, is a neighborhood in Yerushalayim mostly populated by H. University students and teachers. However, it's a close location to the most central part of Yerushalayim. So, charedi people started moving in. When they first started, about a year- 1/2 a year a ago, the prices were normal, average. Now, these prices are almost as expensive as a totally charedi neighborhood. And, as far as can be accounted for, there are actually only 10 charedi families living in French Hill, with more who bought but don't live there.

Neve Yaakov- a fairly new charedi neighborhood- has had its prices jump by 40,000 dollars in the last 1/2 a year, because more charedi are interested in it.

And, the prices keep growing. More apartments are being built, but usually they are luxury apartments, meant for American/Chutz L'Aaretz buyers who want an apartment in Israel. So, the average Israeli can't really afford them.

But, then you look at this concept, and realize something.

Everyone looking for an apartment wants an apartment in Yerushalayim. They want an apartment as close to the place where the Beis HaMikdash stood as possible. And, they don't care that it's 60 meters, or that it's falling apart, or that the prices are astronomical. They want to live in Israel. They want to look out their window, and see the hills of Yerushalayim.

There's a story told about R' Aryeh Levine, Tzaddik of Yerushalayim. (He was the father-in-law of R' Elyashiv, shlita.) He was always doing chesed with others- stories about him are famous. He lived in a one bedroom apartment in Yerushalayim. When others heard how ramshackle and poorly he was living, they offered to buy him a bigger, much nicer apartment somewhere else.

He refused.

When asked why, he took them over to his kitchen window, and drew the shades. Through the glass was a stunning view of the Kotel (Western Wall) in all its glory. He responded that he wouldn't trade this view for anything.

So, it makes sense- why people live in the smallest apartments that you can imagine, and still manage to host guests. They want to be in a Makom HaShchina (place of the Divine Presence). They want to live a life of Torah in a charedi neighborhood.

So, whether it has 2 bedrooms or 6, it's home.


frumcollegegirl said...

isn't there something crazy thing with the apartments in Israel that you have to buy all the furniture when you get the apartment or something?

nmf #7 said...

That is a common practice for rental apartments- cheap rent, but you have to purchase all the furniture that people left behind... mostly junk. But, it depends- if it's a good apartment, in a good location, preferably with an elevator....I would do it.
I've never heard of anyone doing that when buying an apartment.