It was a need, not a niche. Shia Getter saw the difficulty right away: a serious problem that needed to be solved. And with enough hard work, it could be solved easily.
Freshly arrived from London and married 14 years ago, he worked initially in short-term property management in Israel, and in time, saw how things worked—or sometimes didn’t work. He saw miscommunications in the best of situations, and sometimes advantage-taking in the worst situations. He saw (and continues to see) so many stories of misunderstandings, mismanagement or buyers simply being taken for a ride. And it didn’t have to happen. Competent professional advocacy could have helped and gone a long way to make the Israeli home-buying experience safe, secure—and even pleasant. Which it can be and should be.
Someone had to step in between non-Israeli Americans or Europeans (“Anglos”) who sincerely wanted to acquire a foothold in Israel, and those who might perhaps take advantage of their innocence or relative naivet?. The buyers didn’t yet understand “how things work here” in the Israeli system, and sometimes those in the system, with the best of intentions (or sometimes less than that), didn’t always understand the mindset of non-Israeli home buyers, their hopes or fears or assumptions or expectations. (Or sometimes, unfortunately, they understood it all too well.)
Mr. Getter stepped in.
He knew what could be done, and given his experience, he knew it could be done and how to do it. It was a calling, a need that he felt called out to him. He realized that buyers needed an advocate, just as sellers have to have a broker. Buyers need someone there to advocate on their behalf, to protect their interests, to lead them by the hand through the entire process and make it work. He knew he could help people in this area so that owning a home in Israel can be a dream come true for them and not a nightmare, because it didn’t have to be.
“Buyers of homes in Israel need someone to represent them, to be their advocate,” he says. “It’s not just a question of what a lawyer does. That’s a small part of the picture. It’s not so much just about the legal documents involved, etc., but so much more. It’s all about the nature of the deal, or if the project itself is good or appropriate for the needs of the buyer, or how he’s treated.”
Someone must be there for them, who understands them as well as the complexities and realities of the Israeli system and advocate for them, “as if you were the buyer,” he explains, “as someone who is the advocate, the broker, for the buyer only.” That’s what was needed.
The mitzvah and experience of having a home and residence in Israel can be very enjoyable if done right. And it can be done very right.
But to that end, there are so many real-world realities to be aware of. Negotiations and counter offers, bids, price and hidden costs, taxes, inflation rates, bank approvals and “good” deals (and not such good ones) and arbitration. There’s dealing with contractors, real estate agents, developers, engineers, architects, tenants and tenant rights, rental contracts, repairs, renovations, purchasing groups, real life contracts, investment value and zoning.
Oh yes, and neighbors and neighborhoods. And location, location, location (and living there). Old neighborhoods and new neighborhoods and new building projects. And there will be issues of climate, apartment exposures, pleasant Southern exposures (and some not so pleasant ones) or wind factors (yes, wind factors: it matters in Israel).
And what about apartment design, style and comfort, space considerations, obstruction of views (—it’s happened), plumbing and water pressure (and enough kosher sinks!), home inspection services, red tape and construction? It’s crucially important for buyers to understand their own needs clearly and with open eyes. Sometimes, it’s often not just a question of getting a good home or apartment, but of getting the right one for them.
There’s a lot to know about and care about. Someone who’s knowledgeable—and caring—has to be there, to advocate and to advise for the buyer as the “buyer’s broker.” Shia Getter says in 14 years he’s seen everything, but importantly, buyers were often able to get everything they needed—and wanted—when they were directed the right way, realistically and aggressively. He knew that the cost involved for that quality of service and advocacy would be well worth the investment many times over in its value and ultimate financial results and more. And the value that’s in it is much more than simply financial, but in a real benefit in true peace of mind in the special experience of living in Israel.
He decided that he could be, and would be (and he continues to be), a trusted source of advocacy, information and effective real-world advice to ensure that buyers of homes in Israel get the best value and security for their efforts. It wasn’t a niche, but a real need that had to be solved, and it could be.
Every project is different and run differently, he says. You can’t know what problems may come up beforehand (and even when you think you’re covered, something new somehow manages to come up). Count on that. It will work out fine if you have an advocate on top of things who’s working for you. Buying an apartment means more than seeing an apartment, liking it, signing the documents and moving into a new home. There can be so many stepping-stones along the way. If they aren’t handled correctly—and quickly—they can plunge you into deep trouble.
To find your apartment home, there are lots of factors to consider: neighborhood, views, floor, layout and certainly price. But other important things, and they’re serious issues, need to be checked. Is there a potential danger or possibility of a new building coming up right in front of your beautiful open view in only a few years? How many meters are actually registered in the deed on the apartment you’re buying? And are they worth the full price they are asking for?
Is the person representing himself as the seller the actual owner of the apartment? And does the apartment have liens, legal issues, bank issues or any other issues? This takes extensive time and effort to check and get right. And it should. But it’s vital and crucial and it can be done right. And someone who knows what to check for, and how to check for it, can make sure your purchase starts off smoothly and correctly.
And once purchase issues have been checked, and you love the apartment, now what? Under whose name do you put the apartment? Do you put it on your children’s name? But then, how will they take out a mortgage when they need their parents, non-Israeli citizens, to guarantee their mortgage? What about someone who has already a few apartments and wants to legitimately avoid extra taxes—can the apartment go on a trust? And how does an American company work with an Israeli mortgage? We’ve dealt with that a lot, he says.
The different options are endless, and each has to be pursued and explored creatively with professionals, with banks, lawyers and more, to work out the best possible arrangement for the buyer. And there’s price negotiations. And drawing up the contract. No situation is the same, he stresses, but in every case, having the right contacts at the bank, or the right lawyer, helps speed up the process (which still takes a good few days). And someone has to make sure the lawyer is doing his job—which is to protect your rights as the buyer, and not let a company rip you off. That’s happened, unfortunately, and it doesn’t have to happen.
Whether it’s making sure interest rates on a delayed payment are manageable, setting a price for changes and upgrades—before a contract is signed, making sure changes that don’t cost the company don’t cost the client, making sure you get your rent due to you if the project is delayed, among many other points.
This all saves the buyer tens of thousands of shekels. That’s why it’s so important to be on top of these issues, diligently. Unfortunately, lawyers won’t do this—unless they’re told to, very specifically. And once the contract is signed, that’s when the work begins. The contractor’s work, and your work—and ours!, he says. As a simple example, clients signed on plans that showed two sinks, and found out they were only given one. “We stepped in and we made sure clauses were added to the contract so that it wouldn’t happen again so clients get their sinks.” Milchigs, Fleishigs. And the deal was made kosher. LeMehadrin.
Passionate about possibilities, Shia Getter writes about, speaks about and gives lectures, talks and advice on the risks and realities, and rewards, of buyers finding a perfect place to call their own in Israel and making it work for them. He feels that all of his clients have been helped this way, and they have said as much. He emphasizes that this is b’siyata d’Shamaya. It works for his clients since he is willing to work for them. He very much sees that as a shlichut, as a calling that he is privileged to carry out and help others.
And, “Az m’tut gut,” he says and smiles, “helft di Eibershter.” “If we do a good thing, Hashem helps us do it.”
By Michal Gefner
Mr. Shia Getter will be available in New York and New Jersey to meet people who are seriously considering buying or refinancing, on Sunday, September 10, until Thursday, September 14. To schedule a consultation, please email [email protected] or call (718) 473-3950.