Ilan Rubinstein – Realtor

Ilan Rubinstein
“I realized that my mission in life was to “bring the Jews home”

Interview with Ilan Rubinstein, C.E.O. of ILAN Estates & Investments

How long have you been in real estate and what got you started in the field?
I have been working in real estate for a total of 25 years in UK and Israel having first started out in commercial property and then marketing income producing assets. After making Aliya in 2000, buying our own home immediately, I realized that my mission in life was to “bring the Jews home”. I began to promote successful aliyah by helping olim to put down real roots in buying their own home in Israel. I have additionally engaged in many commercial lettings and sales.

Does that make you the most seasoned English speaking realtor in Israel?
Not necessarily. What is important is being able to impart knowledge acquired over the years for the benefit of my clients. Additionally, being independent means I am not tied to any locale, can be far more objective than most but can also reach out to a wider audience that is as yet undecided on where to buy or move to.

How do you use that to the advantage of your clients?
Understanding that buying and selling property is one of the hardest things people go through in life. I strive to use my knowledge and experience to take as much pain as possible out of the process, particularly for English speakers and at the same time help them level the playing field.

Which cities do you work in?
Whilst we operate nationally, we focus on the more popular locales that are of interest to new and existing olim and investors from abroad. However, we also provide housing solutions in Judea and Samaria as well as moshavim.

How has the real estate market changed in Israel over the last ten years?
Besides there being more options and destinations for English speakers, the government has made many changes to the way in which property transactions take place. It is important to be kept up to date with the latest changes so as to best assist my clients.

What is the hardest thing for English speakers when purchasing a home in Israel, whether or not they have been through it before?
The hardest part of buying is coming to terms with the fact that the system of buying and selling property in Israel is radically different not least the fact that most property is not held freehold “And the Land shall not be sold in perpetuity” Vayikra 25. Other differences in Israel include a payment schedule with instalments, only partial escrow, and that contracts are usually unconditional on obtaining finance approval or inspection as these should be done prior.

With the plethora of English speaking real estate agents available, how does a potential buyer or seller know who to use?
Ask a potential agent the following:

  1. How long they have been in the industry and to see their real estate license.
  2. To see a list of recommendations or their LinkedIn profile.
  3. Finally, where an agent is seeking exclusive rights to market where is he going to advertise.

It is a criminal offence to work without a real estate license (no matter what description one uses) punishable by up to three years in prison.

Whilst on the subject, I would warn sellers against granting exclusivity for significantly reduced or no fees, as this guarantees that you are tying your hands. This is because the agent cannot co-operate with other agents as he is not sufficiently recompensed from your side, and they will be loath to split their fee when they might otherwise show their client another property. Moreover, they will probably place your interests last and will almost certainly hold back on spending anything more than the bare minimum in advertising.

Why should sellers use you to list their property over other local agents?
I believe that the optimal way to market a property is by promoting it locally, nationally and internationally. We do this by following a proven marketing system that includes taking a real video of the property and showcasing the property at housing fairs in Israel as well as aliyah and Israel property expos abroad. The added exposure usually translates into a better result.

The market in Israel seems to be consistently going up; a 3 bedroom apartment can cost more than a full size house in New York. How does a family making aliyah deal with this reality?
It depends where in one is comparing in Israel and in N.Y. You don’t have to live in Rechavia so it is more about choices and how much you are willing to pay for them. In general terms the harsh reality is that Israel is a relatively small country with a growing population and to where all Jews are converging from the four corners of the Earth.

Prices have indeed gone up (although by far less than those in the UK if you go back to 1996).

The hopes of perpetual renters of choice who were betting on the market here falling have seen their capital and/or borrowing capacity evaporate. Many of these olim go back to country of origin and tell their friends that you can’t make it in Israel. This happens primarily because of the same poor (and wrong) blanket advice given to almost all olim to rent first whilst they “check out the area”.

My definition of advice is that it should be tailored to each person’s specific set of needs. Otherwise it is policy and should be stated as such. My policy is that wherever possible olim should own their own homes as do 73% of Israelis for reasons varying from security of tenure to nightmare of renting. The way to deal with this is by examining ALL options before making aliyah. These include getting pre-approved on pre-existing income before aliyah and obtaining a mortgage without indexation which is only available at competitive rates pre-aliyah.

What are the best areas that Anglos should consider buying in now? Why?
As far as I am concerned, anywhere and everywhere in Eretz Yisrael.  However, much depends if the objective is to live or invest. If the latter, on whether one is seeking capital growth or just a solid bricks and mortar income stream that certainly beats the paltry income from the banks several times over.

Do you personally deal with all your clients or do you send them to other agents from your office?
My agents are hand trained and are very capable indeed. However, I oversee all negotiations to ensure smooth sailing and satisfaction.

With all the email lists and Facebook groups nowadays, wouldn’t be easier to network for available properties without an agent to avoid realtor fees?
As most “FSBO’s ” (For Sale By Owner) naturally want to get as much as possible and some pick an asking price out of a hat, their interests are diametrically opposed to those of buyers who seek to obtain best value for money. A seasoned agent will vet sellers and focus on the ones that have a motivation to sell rather than show. In Israel the role of an agent is to be a bridge or shadchan by easing friction and finding a more reasonable middle path. In this manner he represents neither party and is in essence a mediator. Saving the fee is not the main treasure here. That is to be penny wise and pound foolish. I often heard of buyers that saved the “fee” but were taken for a ride to the tune of hundreds of thousands of shekels. Likewise, I have heard numerous sellers tell me “We’ve sold” only to discover three weeks later that the buyer didn’t have the budget or still hasn’t sold his current property. The good properties are often ones where the seller has realized that it is not so easy and has listed it with a reputable agent who knows how to get the job done.

Have you ever advised buyers against buying a certain property?
Yes. This happened when British clients of mine looking at a beautiful villa were played by the seller who upped his asking price on them right in the middle of negotiations. I told them not to buy this property, and at considerable cost to my own pocket.

What is your vision for the real estate industry in Israel?
Firstly, I hope to see more professionalism and integrity from agents throughout the country. Certainly the Jerusalem market has set a benchmark for co-operation between agents such that it is hard to buy a property there without using one. Secondly, that buyers get themselves pre-approved for mortgages before they start looking around. It will save them time, strengthen their negotiating hand as they will be able to move faster, avoid preventable disappointment all round.

What projects are you currently working on?
We are currently putting together properties and projects for our forthcoming expos. I am also recruiting agents in the Greater Jerusalem, Modiin and Beit Shemesh areas. Finally, I am bringing together a group of investors into a REIT named “Residential Aliyah”. The REIT will acquire and/or build secure rental accommodation for olim to improve their aliyah experience. At the same time to provide a very useful and rewarding investment for investors of $500k or more to help realize my mission of “Bringing Jews Home”.

Tel: 077-410-8011
Fax: 077-410-8011


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