Can I buy an apartment without seeing it?
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I’m Ben Levene, originally from London and I have been a real estate broker for the last 10 years in Israel. Over this time, and especially now, I have been receiving many questions from English-speakers who are interested in purchasing Israeli real estate — they often ask about purchasing from abroad, changes to foreign tax laws, understanding changing demand in various neighborhoods, and financing. In light of the recent boom in demand, I have begun a series of articles to answer your most burning questions. 

For many of us, these past six months have caused us to pause and take stock of where we are as countries, communities, and as individuals. Working in real estate in Israel, I have met several clients who realized that despite their life-long goal of making aliyah and purchasing a home in Israel, life just kept getting in the way, and their dream was postponed time and time again. Many have expressed, while being encouraged to ‘stay at home,’ that they would rather be at home in Israel – and in these last several months, I have witnessed many more Anglos taking the brave step of purchasing a new home, even during a global pandemic.  

The most common question I receive from people who are unable to travel to Israel to search for a home, but are planning on making aliyah, is whether they are able to purchase an apartment or home without seeing it in person. 

The simple answer is yes. You absolutely can purchase a home sight unseen, and this is something I have helped clients do in the past, and more recently during the pandemic. With access to up-and-coming technological tools that can assist you in the home purchasing process, such as virtual reality, buying a home without being physically present is easier than ever before. 

At the same time, it is important to note that there are various challenges of purchasing a home without seeing it beforehand. First, there is an added legal process needed to set up a power of attorney so someone else can purchase the home for you, as well as take a mortgage with an Israeli bank. 

Outside of this bureaucratic addition, the greatest challenge when purchasing a home from afar is minimizing the gap between reality and your expectations. Real estate agents, friends or family regularly help to minimize that gap, though the responsibility that this requires must be underscored, as there can be unexpected repercussions of having a different set of eyes help you in your search – what if the home is not what you expected? Even without ill will or poor communication, this sometimes happens. 

 Even objective facts that a real estate agent might give you – such as the size of the apartment – are interpreted subjectively. If you have ever walked into an apartment and expected it to be bigger, even after knowing the square footage, you know the feeling. 

 In purchasing a home, the fewer surprises, the better. The trust I have previously spoken of, that is critically important between a client and an agent, is ever more vital when purchasing a home from abroad. In my practice, I have been honest with clients when I thought the apartment might not be what they expect – for example, I worked with a family who cared deeply about lighting, and I advised them against purchasing a home that they may have otherwise, as I saw that one of the rooms was especially dark. When purchasing a home in Israel (or for that matter, anywhere else sight unseen), my greatest tip is to search within yourself and think deeply about your expectations. If you don’t “sweat the small stuff” and are more flexible about your living space, purchasing while abroad could be an option that works perfectly well for you. But if you care deeply about the smaller features and decisions about your home, I would give it a lot of thought before purchasing sight-unseen. 

To submit a question for Ben, email me at Ben@capitil.com