Apartment Hunting Across a Cultural Divide

I know I’ve been quiet lately on the blog, but for those of you follow along with my journey elsewhere on social media, you’ve seen whats been dominating all my free time: apartment hunting.

I have been bogged down in it, using every moment of free time to scour the main websites and sending dozens of emails each day, only to met with increasing frustration and losing my mind. I was discussing this with my new rebbetzin friend (Hi!) and she said – put it on your blog! So, here I am! Sharing my insanity, what I have learned thus far, and looking for your insights on how to cope. Oh, and if you happen to know anyone renting a 1 bedroom (aka 2 room I have learned) furnished apartment in either Baka/Talpiyot-ish (the area near Pardes) or Nachlaot, shoot me an email (melissa at redefiningrebbetzin dot com) – you may become my new second favorite person! (Sorry, but regardless of anything else, D stays at the #1 spot.)

Things I have learned so far:

– There is a distinct difference in Israeli postings between the number of rooms advertised and the number of bedrooms. I have to reread postings regularly to try to see what they are telling me, because often what it says in the subject and what it says in the body appear to be different.

– Israelis (at least in my rental experience, and crowdsourced for validation) are not such big email utilizers. They’d rather talk on the phone. Given the time difference and the fact that I work two jobs right now, thats kind of tricky. However, they more prefer to deal with people in person, so if the choice is between me in America trying to email them, and a person who can meet them at the place now – guess who gets the follow up?

– They also tend to be non-responsive if the place you are inquiring about has recently been rented. I work in donor relations, so customer service is super inherent to me and this is just so not how I operate that it floors me. (Add it to the general dislike of email and I can rant with the best f them.)

– No one has more than like three photos! Seriously, whats up with that one?

– Apartments tend to be available immediately. So looking 6 weeks in advance is almost futile. (The last time D spent time in Israel, he looked for a place and moved in that night! I cannot wrap my brain around that.)

– Even though it is really hard to navigate through them, it is important to try to use Hebrew sites where possible. If you have to use English sites, don’t trust anyone listing in USD, they are most likely taking advantage of you as a “rich American.” (Related: find out if you are dealing with an agent or the renter, this is often pretty clear on the posting, especially as you see the same names over and over again.)

– In the past few days, I have found out that listserves are my friend, even though they really make it hard for me to keep my clean inbox. Getting stuff emailed to me is way less stressful than constantly monitoring every website. (If you are looking, search for yahoo groups for the areas you want to live in and also join flathunters.)

Questions I’ve learned to ask (with much gratitude to Ronit: @rgoldstand*) which work for anyone who is apartment hunting in Israel:

– What furnishings exactly are included?
– Are the bedroom and living room separate?
– What is the kitchen like?
– Is there a washer on the premises? If not, where is the closest laundromat and what are their prices?
– What size are the rooms?
– Is there an Arnona or Vaad Bayit payment? If so, how much?
– Are any utilities included in the cost of the rent?
– Is it a solar heater?
– Are there markets in walking distance?
– Is it an area you feel comfortable walking around?
– What is the bus accessibility like? (or if you plan to drive, if there is parking)
– Do you have any more photos you can send?

So, anyone have any more things I should be asking or learning? (Not that I’m sure my brain could handle much more at this point!)

Oh, how could I post this without the most important thing of all to learn in this process: yiyeh b’seder, it will be ok. Repeat after me… Yiyeh b’seder! (I think I might need one of these shirts from Benji Lovitt and the Nu Campaign in order to keep reminding myself of this important mantra over the next si weeks.)

*Ronit is truly inspiring if anyone is looking to make aliyah. Not an email goes by where she doesn’t slip in subtle plug for how amazing it is to be an olah. She reminds me that she hasn’t given up on us yet, so for those of you who think its in our cards, you should know someone is working on it – and for anyone interested in aliyah, she’d be an awesome person to talk to – she’s real and rational, but totally loves living the dream.

5 thoughts on “Apartment Hunting Across a Cultural Divide

  1. Pingback: Apartment Hunting Update « Bayit Guti

  2. One thought: Perhaps you should seek a short-term spot first? Or, look into whether anyone in either of your programs has a spare room to rent/lend? If your husband’s first experience is anything to go by, it may be worth finding a short-term spot for a week to serve as home base for your apartment hunt. It might be a bit pricey, but since you’re finding that apartments are available immediately, you could probably limit the expense by being immediately ready to jump in once you find something. Anyway, best of luck on your adventure.

    • I know nothing of this Listserve! Would you mind sending me the link directly? Thanks so much!
      Melissa at redefiningrebbetzin dot com

      Oh, and we did decide to sublet just for August, and then decide once we are there and can see places ourselves.

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