A Four-Bedroom House in Israel’s Lower Galilee Region
$4.3 MILLION (15 MILLION ISRAELI SHEKELS)
This Israeli version of a Mediterranean country home faces northwest toward the biblical Mount Tabor in the Lower Galilee region east of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city.
The four-bedroom stone house, built in 2010, is in Kfar Kish, a “moshav,” or agricultural community, of 600 residents known locally as a “little Tuscany,” where the rolling green landscape includes olive groves, vineyards and fruit orchards overlooking the Mount Tabor Nature Reserve and National Park.
The property covers 1.5 acres, with fruit trees and 50 vines of Shiraz. It also comes with an additional 7.5 acres of olive groves and vineyards farmed in three separate parcels. Kfar Kish’s properties “are individually owned, but much of the land is farmed cooperatively,” said Alice Rubinfeld, an agent with the Neot Shiran agency, which has the listing.
A patchwork stone path leads from a four-car parking area past some date trees to the house. Antique wood doors in a stone wall open to a 1,076-square-foot courtyard. The wall connects two flat-roofed stone structures — the main residence and a guesthouse sharing the courtyard. Retractable roofs shade an outdoor dining area without obstructing the panoramic views.
The front door to the main residence is just inside the courtyard to the left. The stone wall continues into the house, creating a foyer. Patchwork stones cover the interior floors.
Off the foyer, the great room with 12-foot ceilings has dining and living areas set up on either side of a Castelmonte wood-burning stove used for heating. Four wide glass doors open to the courtyard.
On the far side of the foyer, the modern country-style kitchen has solid wood cabinetry by a local carpenter, Caesarstone countertops and a Fratelli Onofri red stove/oven. Bookshelves line one wall. A rustic dining table sits in the middle of the room. A utility/laundry room is off the kitchen.
A hallway leads to the bedroom wing. Like all the bedrooms, the master has floor-to-ceiling wall closets. Its en suite bath has a custom wood vanity topped with Caesarstone, a double-size tub and a shower. A second bedroom is used as an office. A powder room is in the hall. Much of the furniture is included in the sale.
There is a safe room in the basement, and photovoltaic cells atop the house provide electricity. Across the courtyard, the guesthouse has two 430-square-foot studios, one of which has a kitchenette.
In the yard, patchwork stone paths lead through flower beds to a patio with an outdoor dining table. The Shiraz vines and fruit trees are just beyond, Ms. Rubinfeld said. The owners use the grapes to make wine for themselves and friends, and net about 100,000 shekels ($29,000) a year from the grapes and olives, and from selling electricity from the photovoltaic cells back to the grid.
Ten minutes away, and visible from the house, is the Church of the Transfiguration atop Mount Tabor. The Franciscan church is traditionally believed to be the site of an event in the Gospels in which Jesus Christ is transfigured and speaks with Moses and Elijah. In the past few years, high-end B&Bs and Airbnbs have emerged in this agricultural area known for significant Christian sites.
The house is about 25 minutes west of the city of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, 35 minutes from Nazareth and 80 minutes to Tel Aviv. Ben-Gurion International Airport is about 90 minutes south.
After coronavirus restrictions were eased during the second week of May, Israel “saw a major increase in demand for apartments and single-family homes, more than we had before Covid-19,” said Inna Fleshler, marketing director for Israel Sotheby’s International Realty.
Buyers’ preferences also shifted, with “demand for apartments in boutique buildings instead of luxury towers,” Ms. Fleshler said.
The “incredible uptick in demand” included foreign buyers, said Yaniv Gabbay, owner-broker of Gabai Real Estate. “We have had sales sight unseen.”
Before the pandemic, demand for apartments in Tel Aviv and central Israel was rising, spurred by empty-nesters who sold their suburban houses and moved to the city for “easy access to cafes, restaurants, museums, theater and other culture and entertainment venues,” said Noam Dzialdow, the founder of Neot Shiran. The result was higher prices for city apartments and “a slight reduction in prices of villas and cottages.”
The pandemic has led some suburban sellers to reconsider and stay put. (As of July 14, Israel had 38,015 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 357 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.) Meanwhile, inquires from clients looking to purchase “sanctuary homes outside the city have been rising,” Mr. Dzialdow said, “preferably villas available for immediate entry” that can also be used for weekends, holidays and summers.
After a nearly decade-long boom, there has been “a bit of a lull in the prices and definitely a decrease in the amount of sales across the board” in the past two years, Mr. Gabbay said, pointing to government cooling measures including an increase in the purchase tax to 8 percent for investors and foreign buyers, and 10 percent above $4.9 million (17 million Israeli shekels), and a spate of new development to address supply shortages.
“Every city you go to, the outskirts are full of cranes,” Ms. Rubinfeld said.
A four-room apartment in Israel currently costs an average of 1.48 million shekels ($430,000), said Ms. Fleshler, citing Central Bureau of Statistics data. In Israel’s three most populous cities — Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa — the average apartment prices are 2.14 million shekels ($620,000), 3.14 million shekels ($900,000), and 1.57 million shekels ($450,000), she said.
At Achuzat Hashvatim, a rural area close to the Sea of Galilee, a new development of 12 semi-attached homes is seeing interest pick up after being “quite stagnant for many months,” Mr. Gabbay said. Initially marketed as second homes, the five- and six-bedroom houses are now being considered as primary residences for about $700,000.
In March, the Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Commission approved a 325-acre mixed-use project with 16,000 new housing units on the site of the recently demolished Sde Dov Airport, said Avishay Naamat, managing director of the Wynn Group’s Israel branch. Mr. Naamat said that Tel Aviv’s expansion northward will include about 35 towers of up to 40 stories, several five-story to 10-story buildings, and more hotels, retail, offices, gardens and parks.
Foreign buyers are diverse, but many purchase either in Jerusalem or in and around Tel Aviv, particularly Ra’anana in Central Israel, Mr. Gabbay said.
In Jerusalem, among the luxury apartments close to the Old City, the priciest, at about $9,300 a square foot, are those with open views to the Western Wall, Mr. Dzialdow said.
In Tel Aviv, Israel’s most expensive city, foreigners prefer the seafront, in the heart of the city and along chic Rothschild Boulevard, Ms. Fleshler said.
Affluent buyers opt for villas in Caesarea, Herzliya Pituach, or Tel Aviv’s northern neighborhoods. Others prefer coastal cities such as Hadera, Netanya, Bat Yam and Ashkelon, or estates with vineyards and orchards in the northern Galilee region, or farms in the Central and Sharon areas, Mr. Dzialdow said.
Who Buys in Israel
The United States “leads the way,” Ms. Rubinfeld said, with other buyers coming from Britain, France, Australia, South Africa, Panama and Mexico, along with immigrants from Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina.
The “vast majority” of foreign buyers at Israel Sotheby’s International Realty “are Jewish and have a strong connection to Israel,” Ms. Fleshler said, including buyers from Canada and Latin America, Belgium and Germany.
Ninety-three percent of the land in Israel, including this property, is in the public domain, managed by the Israel Land Authority. Leasing rights from the government agency run 49 or 98 years.
To purchase a property on government-owned land, one must be eligible for Israeli citizenship, Ms. Rubinfeld said.
Foreigners can get up to 50 percent of the purchase price when financing a mortgage, but “they can’t take a mortgage from a foreign bank for a purchase in Israel,” Mr. Gabbay said.
Languages and Currency
Hebrew, Arabic; Israeli new shekels (1 shekel = $0.29)
Taxes and Fees
The municipal tax on this leasehold property is about 17,000 shekels ($5,000) a year.
Fees for foreigners can run 10 to 12 percent of the purchase price, including an 8 percent purchase tax, 10 percent above $4.9 million (17 million Israeli shekels). Legal fees are 0.5 to 1 percent of the sales price. Buyer and seller each pay a 2 percent real estate commission. Transfer and exchange of funds to Israel runs 1 percent. Fees carry a 17 percent value-added tax. Those financing also pay a 1 percent fee to the mortgage broker, Mr. Gabbay said.
Alice Rubinfeld, Neot Shiran, 011- 972-9-9559556; luxury-realestate-israel.com