Diaspora Jews return to Israel real estate market

Agent Shelly Levine: Jerusalem as is a good investment location as New York.

Israel's Luxury Real Estate & Investments Exhibition was held at the Tel Aviv Hilton yesterday, amid reports of a recovery in the market. The fair is held during the peak of the tourist season by Diaspora Jews in August and December, and it attracted plenty of both foreign and Israeli visitors.

The fair, organized by Bayit in Israel Ltd., presented projects in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ashdod, Eilat, Netanya, Givatayim, and Ramat Gan.

Tivuch Shelly Ltd. owner Shelly Levine, who specializes in English-speaking homebuyers in Jerusalem and its environs, is marketing the Strauss Tower of Minrav Holdings Ltd. (TASE: MNRV) located on Strauss Street in downtown Jerusalem. She says that both English-speaking and French investors are again buying luxury apartments, and that, starting a few weeks ago, prices have begun to rise.

Levine said, "Israelis are looking, but not buying luxury apartments in Jerusalem. Americans and Europeans have calmed down and believe that the situation cannot get any worse. As far as they're concerned, over the years, Jerusalem as is a good investment location as New York. They feel that it's safe to buy, especially since prices are 10% below their peak in 2007."

Prices in the Strauss Tower range from $5,000-6,000 per square meter for regular apartments, and $8,000 and up for penthouses.

Neve Schuster Ltd. CEO Dalia Schuster presented the company's projects on Yitzhak Rabin Road in Givatayim and Soutine Street in Tel Aviv. She said that her target audiences at the fair were Israelis, returning residents, and people planning to immigrate. "In contrast to what is was like before, on the basis of the kinds of questions and requests for clarifications, we're seeing seriousness and real intent to buy, not merely tourists passing through from the beach who pick up brochures."

Neve Schuster is offering apartments in its Givatayim project at NIS 20,000-25,000 per square meter. It is mostly Israelis, rather than foreign residents, who are interested in the project. The starting price for the Soutine Street project is NIS 35,000 per square meter, and can reach NIS 60,000 per square meter for special apartments on the upper floors. Returning Israelis, including people from Australia, are interested. "Israelis are returning partly because of the tax breaks being offered as an incentive to return. For a Jew, it's cheaper and easier to live here," says Dalia Schuster.

There has been a lot of talk in the luxury apartment market in recent years about how the French had almost disappeared from the market. However, French dominated the fair, followed by English, as quite a few French tourists took advantage of their vacances to take time-out from sun-tanning on the Tel Aviv beach to check out the real estate market.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 17, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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