By Ben Levene


By Ben Levene
Sales Director
Licensed Real Estate Agent in Israel
CapitIL Real Estate Agency

Whether it’s the language, culture, or even the amount of chutzpah, it’s not difficult to find differences between America and Israel. There are many variations in almost all areas of life and the real estate market holds no exception.

Last week, I told you that we would take a look at some key differences between how purchasing a property works in Israel versus what you may be used to from America.

There are two categories of these differences that you need to be aware of:

1) The process itself; and

2) How the information about the property is presented

We will look at how property information is presented differently next week, but this week we are going to concentrate on some of the differences in the process.

Starting The Search

In New York, the sensible place to start will be online via websites such as Zillow or Trulia. More and more people are finding their homes this way, as confirmed by the National Association of Realtors estimation that 50 percent of buyers find their homes via the internet.

In Israel, real estate websites are available, but generally not in English. For example, is one of the largest. It can be hard to navigate these sites if you are not fluent in Hebrew.

Broker Fees

In America, it is normal for the seller to pay broker fees, with the buyer not required to pay broker fees for the transaction (the brokers usually agree to split the commission). In Israel, each side pays their broker a commission fee, usually 2 percent plus tax.

Brokers in Israel will get you to sign a form with them before they take you to see a property. This is a form of contract that should you go on to purchase the apartment, entitles them to charge you their fees. Be very careful not to sign on the same apartment with two different brokers. Good agents will work this out between themselves, but you could find yourself in a situation where you would have to pay double.

Another important quirk: if the broker represents both the buyer and the seller, they are allowed to charge both sides commission, and this is a fairly common occurrence. This is something that can seem alien to an overseas buyer. You have to be careful in such situations that the broker is protecting your interests.


Making an offer and discussing price should be done via your broker. You should never sign a document called “Zichron Dvarim” (Memorandum of Understanding). If signed by both sides, this can constitute a binding agreement.

Mortgages And Deposit Requirements

I plan to address this in more depth in a future article, but there are some constraints for overseas buyers when it comes to obtaining a mortgage in Israel. They are available for foreigners (who qualify), but can require a 50% deposit to be made in order to receive the financing.

Each case is different so you will need to speak to a suitably qualified adviser about your circumstances — this is relatively easy to arrange.

Find A Local Attorney

There are many legal issues that can arise with a purchase in Jerusalem. Firstly, a lawyer’s job is to check the registration. An important issue to be aware of is the issue of “Church Land” — large areas of Jerusalem are held on long term leases that are due to expire soon. It isn’t immediately obvious which properties are affected. Your lawyer will be able to advise on whether this or any other issues will impact your apartment.

Purchase Tax

Purchase tax rates in Israel are calculated on a tiered system based on the personal status of the buyer and the value of the property. For foreign residents, this will be from 8% of the purchase value.

As always, if there are any particular topics that you would like to see covered, please send email

CapitIL is located on King David Street in Jerusalem. E-mail, call 646-781-7745, or visit to learn more.


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