First published in the Jerusalem Post

This week, we invite Sarah Eiferman, owner and broker of Eiferman Properties, a Jerusalem-area realty-agency that caters to olim of all backgrounds, to answer a few questions on what new olim should expect when buying and renting homes in Jerusalem.

Sarah made aliya to Israel in 1983 and since then has accumulated 26 years of Israel real estate sales experience. She and her agents are known for the personal attention that they devote to their clients through the process of buying and selling Jerusalem real estate. 

Sarah and her team pride themselves on their up-to-date knowledge of Jerusalem neighborhoods and properties as well as their extensive network of resources that will streamline any real estate transaction, from the initial choice of a neighborhood to the successful signing of a purchase contract!

1. What are the biggest challenges that new olim face when attempting to find their first homes in Israel?One of the biggest adjustments for new olim is the cost of housing and the amount of space that their money buys. Additionally, room sizes are much smaller compared to what olim are used to abroad, especially bedroom sizes.New olim also struggle finding suitable neighborhoods for their families. Olim need to understand their personal religious, cultural and social needs. Where will they have a support group for themselves as well as for their children? What schools are available nearby that are appropriate for their children?

2. What tips do you have for new Olim preparing to buy their first home in the Jerusalem area?When starting to look for a home, the most fundamental basic step is to know your finances: What is your budget? This will determine what and where you can purchase a home. Be sure of your financial backing if family is assisting you. Do you have cash now or do you need a mortgage installment?To save time and money, I recommend a reliable mortgage broker. Be aware that Israeli mortgages generally cover up to 60% of the apartment price. Usually one third of the purchase price is given as a first payment on contract signing.In addition to working with a good agent, investing in a Jerusalem real estate lawyer who is most familiar with the complex registration of many Jerusalem properties is crucial. Your lawyer will explain the legal process of purchasing before you begin your search and go to contract.

3. What are the major benefits of using a real estate agent versus searching for housing alone?There are a number of benefits to working with an experienced real estate agent. These benefits include:

  • -Extensive knowledge of neighborhoods. Agents better understand the character and make-up of neighborhoods, changes taking place in neighborhoods, properties & property values, and they can provide additional housing options the buyer may not be aware of.
  • -Accompanying and assisting the buyer through the whole process.
  • -Most agents have developed the negotiating skills for a better deal.
  • -Agents can serve as a buffer to mediate with a difficult seller.
  • -Agents can also serve as an important liaison with resource professionals.

4. What should new Olim know about the Israeli real estate market before considering buying? How is the real estate market here different from most markets abroad?

  • -Our banks are conservative and cautious about giving mortgages, which is why our real estate market did not—and will not—collapse.
  • -Due diligence is done before contract signing. Contract signing is basically the closing with commitments on both parties to fulfill contract obligations.
  • -All payments go directly to the owner and not to a trust fund.
  • -The amount of money paid at contract signing is usually at least 1/3 of the full purchase price. 
  • -The dollar price of the property is linked to a foreign currency with exchange rate differentials (unless the owner prefers the foreign currency).
  • -Most prices today are in Shekels and not a foreign currency.
  • -Closing costs: in addition to property purchase tax, agent and lawyer fees, there are ancillary expenses. For a non-oleh, that can come to close to 10% of the price.  It definitely pays to make aliya.
  • -The real estate agency fee is paid by both the buyer and the seller
  • -And lastly, the most obvious difference is the value of real estate here as compared to the States and Europe.

5. Do you recommend new olim first rent and then buy, or go ahead and buy straight away?

It depends on the stability of the person’s situation and their knowledge of the various neighborhoods. If an oleh does not have a job, doesn’t have family or friends where they think they want to live, I suggest they rent before making a commitment that would use up their oleh housing rights, which involves a considerable amount of money.I have clients, olim, who were concerned about the value of their currency. 

They have purchased apartments in areas that are good investments and are using the rental income to rent a home for themselves in a different area. Once they eventually decide where they will want to live in the future, if they decide on a different neighborhood or city, the retail-price they will get for their property will be in line with the market prices at that time and they will not have to be concerned with currency exchange values. is a real estate website new olim will love. Search for your dream home on our easy-to-use search engine and find detailed neighborhood descriptions, apartment listings in a wide range of sizes and prices, and maps that show where each neighborhood is located… all in English.