Internet helps ease apartment-hunting for foreigners

JERUSALEM — So you want to live in Israel, maybe for a month this summer, or perhaps even a full-year sabbatical. How do you find an appropriate apartment in the right neighborhood with schools, shuls and supermarkets?

It's certainly become easier with the widespread word-of-mouth networking system that the Internet provides. There's a growing number of Web sites and e-mail lists that link a labyrinth of people seeking and selling real estate, renting and buying homes throughout Israel. In fact, it is entirely possible to find, view and sign on a rental apartment through the World Wide Web.

"We do rentals from A to Z on the Internet, primarily from clients outside Israel," said Meir Nachshon, general manager of the Anglo-Saxon real estate agency. "But you need someone who's comfortable with that kind of method and a recognized name like ours."

Anglo-Saxon recently redid its multilingual site — — to include links to each Anglo-Saxon branch throughout Israel, articles about Israeli real estate and hundreds of apartment listings. Users must first answer several questions about what region they want, approximate budget and apartment size, and then they can receive a list of available apartments that answer those needs. Most of the listed apartments have one to two photos of the flat up on the site. Once users have completed the preliminary search and view, they can then send an e-mail to Anglo-Saxon and proceed with the transaction.

The firm has closed quite a few rentals through the site, particularly for clients located abroad. However, selling an apartment online is next to impossible, according to Nachshon.

"You can't really have real estate e-commerce. By law, you've got to do things in writing, and besides, most people want to see the apartment in person," he said. "This is just another tool, and it's a good one for anyone located outside of Israel."

At the same time, success in finding an apartment on the Internet depends on the seeker. For native English-speakers looking to move to or spend a chunk of time in Israel, there are a number of dependable, user-friendly e-mail lists and Web sites that offer easy access for finding an apartment without paying a real estate agent. It also helps if you are already familiar with Israeli cities, communities and local apartment lingo.

It is helpful to remember that Israeli apartments are described by the number of rooms, not the number of bedrooms; unfurnished apartments don't include a refrigerator, stove or closets unless specified; and central heating isn't always available.

"Whether it's a rental or a sale, people have all kinds of questions," said Lisa Silverberg, a real estate agent for Lerner Realty in Beit Shemesh, a primarily English-speaking, religious community located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. "And when you're 6,000 miles away with a seven-hour time difference, it's much easier to use e-mail."

Lerner is one of the older real estate agencies in Beit Shemesh, and its comprehensive, easy-to-use site — — is linked to the community's Web site — — which also includes links to an e-mail listing of available apartments in the area.

For apartment hunters looking for a place in Jerusalem there's Ma'agar Meida, an apartment search-and-find service that currently serves the Jerusalem area. Apartment seekers can sign up for membership — around $40 for one month and slightly more than $50 for two months — and receive daily listings by fax or e-mail, in English or Hebrew. The Web site — — is still being developed and available only in Hebrew.