The Big Felafel


19 questions you should ask before renting an apartment in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel

After moving apartments several times in Jerusalem, I’ve started keeping track of all the questions I ask during each apartment hunt. Here’s a helpful guide for how to find an apartment in Israel with lists of different apartment websites.

Here’s a translation of an apartment notice from one of the best flat hunting sites  Yad2:

apartment

  1. Price: Price range is usually the first thing that narrows down my apartment search. If the price is in dollars, make sure you feel comfortable with the conversion solution which typically is either a)whatever the rate is on the first of each month or b)setting a rate at the beginning of the contract. I prefer the second option so I’m not nervous about what the rate will be each month.
  2. Entrance Date: One of the first questions to ask each apartment is if it’s relevant anymore (actuali in Hebrew). And if so, when is the move in date?
  3. Location: Will you feel safe walking around at night? Are there lots of busses nearby? Is it near things that are important to you (friends, supermakets, kindergarten, etc.). To help find the street before you head over, you can use Google Maps which takes english or hebrew street names.
  4. Number of Rooms: Be wary of the 2.5 rooms – what exactly will that .5 be and will it actually make a difference in adding space to the apartment.
  5. Size: How many square meters is it? Sometimes an apartment will sound big in square meters but it may not be set up in a very user-friendly way
  6. Arnona: Depending on the size of the apartment, you’ll have to pay a certain amount of municipal property tax.
  7. Floor Number / Elevator: Find out what floor number it’s on – and whether the building is on a raised platform or not. If it’s a high floor, is there an elevator? Shabbat elevator?
  8. Vad Bayit: The maintenance fee for each building differs slightly and can range anywhere from 40-300+ shekels per month. The lower range usually covers someone who cleans the building once a week. The higher range usually means that there is heating (hasaka) for the building during certain times of the day.
  9. Dud Shemesh(solar panel for hot water): For me, this is really a dealbreaker and I try to only look at apartments that have a dud shemesh. Mainly so I can just say dude a lot, but also because there is so much unbearably hot sun during the summer that it would be such a shame to let it go to waste, and a dud saves electricity costs.
  10. Daytime/Nightime: Is there plenty of warm sunshine during the day? Is it scary at night. I recommend checking out an apartment both during the day and at night so you get the full picture.
  11. Balcony (mirpeset) / Closed balcony (mirpeset sherut) If an apartment has a balcony,  find out if it’s open or closed. Also nice to know if it is sukkah-friendly.
  12. Furniture: Does the place come with a stove, fridge, built-in closets, washing machine, couches, etc? Sometimes landlords just happen to have an extra closet laying around. On the other hand, we went to see an apartment that didn’t allow gas stoves so be sure to ask, ask, ask about any details you can think of.
  13. Landlords: Does the landlord pace the apartment every 2 seconds? Are they nice on the phone but then shady in person? Pay attention to the landlord’s behavior – you don’t want to be handing your hard earned money over to a scumbag each month. Make sure to ask about repairs, and the landlord’s responsibilities to you.
  14. Pets: What I’ve found with pets is that there’s usually a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. The landlords usually don’t care as long as you keep the place clean and it doesn’t cause trouble with the neighbors.
  15. Parking: If you have a car, make sure there is either a designated parking area, or at least lots of little side streets nearby with ample parking
  16. Heating/air conditioning: Find out what kind of heating system there is. Also, you can ask the current tenants how the apartment fares during the summer and winter.
  17. Roommates: If you’re looking to live with others, you’ll have a whole new list of questions – do you want to live with religious people, people that you know, Israelis, etc. Make sure you get a good, friendly vibe when you’re choosing roommates because you’re gonna see these people plenty.
  18. Agent: Check to see if there is an agent. If the apartment is going through an agent, the fee is typically one month’s rent. You can find plenty of apartments without an agent so only use one as the very last resort.
  19. Storage: Does the place come with a separate storage space?

Good luck with your apartment hunt!

If you have anything to add, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.


A Post to Jerusalem’s Mayor Barkat: Did Your Landlord Raise the Rent Too?

apartment-drawingThis is an open letter to Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, the city council and young frustrated Jerusalem citizens who have waited for change long enough.

Dear Mayor Barkat,
What’s up? I’m sure you’re busy, but this is an urgent matter which affects the young population of Jerusalem. Six months ago you were elected into office promising great change for the city. But when it comes to your commitment to the young people of Jerusalem and the disastrous housing problem, you have yet to make a dent, submit a proposal or take action on the matter.

Once again, I know you are the mayor and dealing with a full plate, but I can’t help but feel neglected. And I am not alone. I also point my neglected finger at the party Hitorerut-Yerushalmim (Wake up-Jerusalem) that also made unfulfilled promises to young voters.

Although the economic situation is running on an empty tank of gas, landlords across Jerusalem continue to raise the price of rent. Almost every person I know has been informed by their landlord that their rent will be going up at least 10%. So, while your apartment ages and becomes more rundown you find yourself paying more to live there. Fair? No. Is our city council and mayor aware of the situation? Yes.

Mayor Barkat today is the day to make change. Why are there no proper consumer rights organizations to protect you from corrupt landlords? Why is their no proposition making its way to the Knesset floor demanding rent control? The stories I have heard from rent raising to threats of being kicked out, are endless yet there seems to be no beginning to your fight against this fraud.

There was so much talk about affordable housing before election day but come the day after and the day after that, I have yet to hear another word about it. While Israel and the international community debate about construction in settlements and outposts, no judgment is made on the housing catastrophe in the country’s capital.

Is asking for rent control such a far fetched concept? Isn’t it you who wants and needs people to stay put in your city? Students and young families belong in the heart of the country and are the key to the revitalization of this city, but you have yet to try to open the locked — bolted — doors. Soon the only doors left will be those of vacant apartments where the rent became more than a couple could budget, or a landlord that yelled at his tenants too many times or simply homes that are unsuitable to live in — leaving the young to move out of the city and out of their dreams.

Do not become like all the other politicians, representing their interests before concerning themselves with their citizens’ fears. Give the next generation what they rightly deserve, a home for the future at a reasonable price.

Yours truly,
Molly, a concerned young citizen of Jerusalem


Baboo: new apartment search website simplifies apt hunt in Israel

For all of you searching 8+ apartment websites in Israel every day to make sure you score the best deal in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or anywhere else in Israel before the next guy, check out Baboo. Baboo (Hebrew only but worth the effort) collects information from a bunch of apartment websites including yad2, Madas, WinWin, and others and puts it all in one place to make your search less stressful.