We receive many inquiries from overseas buyers, especially those of you planning your Aliyah. Sometimes the purchase is for investment. Everyone is interested to know “what is the process for buying property in Israel when you live overseas.” While it is certainly preferable to come to Israel personally to view properties and sign the purchase contract yourself, one can conclude a purchase of property from abroad. Below is a brief discussion of the basic elements of buying your home in Israel or making an investment in Israel real estate when you are not in the country. As always, we refer you to proper legal counsel for the most current changes in Israeli real estate law, and of course, to prepare the purchase contract.
- Real Estate Agent: Do your research and find a reputable real estate agent who covers the geographical area where you are interested in buying your home in Israel. The agent should be someone well experienced with the market and who has the technical skills to provide you with high resolution photographs and video of the potential properties. Your real estate agent is your advocate for negotiating the best price so that you find the home or investment you want within the parameters of your purchasing budget. Once a potential pool of properties is narrowed down, try to make a quick trip to Israel to take a look in person. You can return home and complete the process from there.
- Lawyer: All real estate contracts must be written by an Israeli lawyer, in Hebrew. Your lawyer is your point of contact for the contract, for investigating the legality of the property, for ensuring that all of your needs are met in the sales contract and for hiring an engineer to examine the property to be certain there are no structural problems. You must give to your attorney a Power of Attorney. This Power of Attorney must be sealed with an Apostille by the Israeli consulate. This process can take some time, so you should make an appointment with the consulate as soon as you first begin proceedings with the lawyer, even before you receive the Power of Attorney from him or her. Once the lawyer has the Power of Attorney, he or she can sign the contract for you, as well as become responsible for transferring all legal ownership documents to your name. Your lawyer is your advocate to protect your legal rights throughout the purchasing process.
- Cash purchase: If you are paying by cash, all monies for the purchase of the property must be placed into an escrow account until the seller demonstrates that all taxes and bills on the property are clear. Your lawyer will set up an escrow account for this purpose. You wire the money to your lawyer, it is placed in the escrow account, and the lawyer will disburse the funds according to the schedule defined in the contract. Also from this account, the lawyer will pay the various taxes owed on the transaction, land registry fees and the real estate commission.
- Mortgage: If you need a mortgage for the purchase, there are several mortgage brokers who can assist you with locating the most favorable loan package possible. The mortgage broker will walk you through the process, tell you what documents are needed, negotiate the best rates and present to your lawyer the mortgage documents for signature.
- Transferring associated accounts and receiving keys: Either your real estate agent (if you have provided a management agreement or power of attorney) or your lawyer can take care of transferring your name to all the associated accounts, such as city tax office, utilities, etc and accept on your behalf the keys to your new home or investment, to be held until you finally come home to Israel.
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