Surviving Israeli mortgage hell: a checklist.

Buying your first home in Israel? Welcome to Israeli mortgage hell! (As opposed to anywhere-else-mortgage hell).

Here are some points about the process that might be helpful to you if you’re going through it now too. Note that we bought our apartment from our landlady, so there was no issue of real estate agency, moving dates, or handing over keys. I’ve heard each of those things can be their own personal hell. I guess somewhere there’s a homeowners’ angel watching over us.

So here’s what we learned from buying our property in Tzur Hadassah:

  • From the beginning of the purchase negotiation, check (and double-check) that the seller’s name is actually on the Tabu document (land registry) and not the seller before them. That could take months to change if needed (and in so many cases, it is needed).
  • While you are at it, check that the seller’s correct teudat zehut digits were put on the Tabu.
  • Pay a little more to have a really good lawyer. Who speaks your mother tongue. By really good, I mean assertive, persistent, responsible and communicative.
  • Also, make sure you get a good bank mortgage representative. Ours has been a complete doll, even when the bank itself was dicking us around. It helps that she turned out to be a neighbor of ours.
  • Keep all your papers and documents in a secure folder, and take it with you every time you go into an office to deal with something.
  • Have copies ready of everything.
  • Structure insurance: Have the policy document ready in Hebrew. The bank won’t accept it in English and it can actually hold up your process.
  • Be persistent. And annoying. In this aliyah world, you get the immigrant discount: a deduction in the form of assumption you won’t get mad, push, or fight back.
  • If you are using the זכאות עולים, and you are pregnant, you’ll need a letter from your OB-GYN stating your pregnancy status, so the bank can include it in a submission to the government.
  • Have copies of your spouse’s teudat zehut with you on every bank visit if they are not accompanying you.
  • Include the cost of a lot of petrol for all the back and forth you’ll do. Alternatively, use a bank branch within walking distance of your workplace.
  • Take into consideration you’ll be spending a few hundred shekels here and there for things the bank will have you running around to get.
  • After agreeing to your bank you find they aren’t treating you right or are screwing you around (like ours did with us) go ahead – mention it to your rep, lodge a formal complaint, and ask for something. You never know what they can give you (and they are prepared with resources to do it with customers when necessary).
  • Don’t leave loose ends: Take care to make sure your name is changed on the Tabu papers once you own. You don’t want to cause trouble and waste time for when you sell your place down the line. Seems like people get excited when the first bank payments are finished and the place is officially theirs, and forget that one detail at the end.

Other than that, pray the sellers you are dealing with are decent people. Our seller was our landlady for three years who we totally connected with, so I’d say that was a major saving grace for us. Especially since she was located in the U.S. while we negotiated and processed.

If you’ve got anything to add, feel free to leave a comment… Like I said, we got lucky and didn’t have to deal with awfulness from our seller, handing over keys or moving, so go ahead and fill that in.

Israeli flag protekzia.

Someone is watching over us. Taking care that we do right by our adopted citizenhood.

And that someone… is our mortgage bank representative.

She happens to live in Tzur Hadassah, and her home happens to be located at the bottom of the hill our apartment overlooks. And now that she knows exactly where we live (and what our repayments are like) – well, she’s decided to take care of us. When she brought some papers home for us yesterday, she included a package of Israeli flags for us to hang on our mirpeset which overlooks the yishuv.

“I noticed you haven’t hung up any flags yet, so I thought you could use this!”

Finally, a bank that goes above and beyond…?

What it’s like to get a mortgage in Israel.

…or anything at all from an Israeli government branch, bank, organization, supermarket, public toilet… I could go on.

Doesn’t it feel good to know that this level of bureaucracy exists all over the world, and not just here?

I do plan to post advice and checklist for navigating the home-buying and mortgage-obtaining process here in Israeli banks and government offices. Just a couple more steps for our own deal and then I’ll feel comfortable saying we actually did it… Tfu, tfu tfu.

Symbolic? Prophetic? Or just reality?

Or is that realty…

Is it not a little telling when the little עץ האושר you were given as a housewarming present 3+ years ago falters and withers the week you pass along the first bank check from the mortgage?

Here’s hoping a little water will revive the אושר. It’s definitely not going to revive the עושר, though.

Banking on Purim.

Here’s what it’s like for Abba and Mama to sign a whole fuck-ton of mortgage papers at the bank on Purim… through the eyes of a nearly two-year-old cookie lover:

Koala became very concerned at the whereabouts of our Minnie Mouse-attired bank rep whenever she got up to copy documents. Today has seen a lot of ‘Efo Betty?’ which, I suppose, is nice to know that he gets concerned for others.

Oh, and, Koala aside – we signed a fuck-ton of mortgage papers today. We are that much closer to the whole home-purchasing thing being done.

Contracted to real estate limbo (or, Tzur Hadassah homeowner!)

As of a two-hour meeting in the Bursa district of Tel Aviv today, we are now contracted to become the owners of our Tzur Hadassah apartment!

That’s a convoluted way of saying something even more convoluted: We’ve signed and are waiting for the banks to finish their end of the deal before I can comfortably say I’m a homeowner in Israel.

Here in Israel, you sign a contract between buyer and seller first, and then finalize the mortgage with the bank, after which the bank deals with the seller’s bank and pushes the money through, after which you can then breath easy, stop paying rent, and then start breathing difficultly again when you realize you have a twenty year mortgage to pay.

So we’re in ‘contractual limbo’ – we signed our contract proving intent to buy the Tzur Hadassah apartment we’ve lived in for the last three years. Nearly, nearly rightful owners.

The fun part? It’s all due to come through the week I’m due to come through. Stay tuned…

When secrets become surreal.

It’s been real hard keeping this baby stuff a secret from friends, coworkers, family. When the only person you have to talk about it with is your partner, and even he gets tired of your late-night online research about your body’s minute-to-minute changes, it starts to become surreal.

I mean, it’s not just this little bean growing inside me. It’s the bean of craziness growing inside my head as I slowly go insane from having to keep all this information to myself.

Which is why, it was extra surreal, when we went to discuss mortgages with the bank today.

We’re sitting there, and answering questions about our lame salaries and savings, and how we totally don’t qualify for a grass hut, and then the dude goes, “So. Are you five months pregnant?”

I thought I hadn’t understood him correctly. Maybe herayon means something else besides pregnant. Maybe it means in debt. I asked him to repeat that.

“Sorry…” He gets an awkward look on his face… “But I have to ask – Are you five months pregnant?”

Me and my husband turn and look at each other, like in a movie or something. It’s as if we mouthed to each other, How does he know? I mean, on one hand, jeez I’m not that fat, and on the other, if I’m not showing at all at five months, I’ll be concerned.

We both look back at him and answer at the same time, stuttering in unison, “Yes – we’re pregnant – but not five months – just two… But how did you know???”

Then he laughs. “Oh, it’s just a question I have to ask; once you are five months pregnant, the bank considers you with at least one child. It’s for the questionnaire. I didn’t mean it like that.”

I can’t describe how weird it was to tell someone who isn’t wearing a lab coat, out loud, that we are pregnant. I also can’t describe how I really really thought this guy was some kind of mind-reading freak until he explained that.

This is just one big old learning experience after another, isn’t it.