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real estate slump everywhere in the world except for israel?
June 24, 2009, 11:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yahoo News: With real estate prices falling in every major Western country, the feeling was that it was just a matter of time before the declines made their way to Israel. The number of deals in the last quarter of 2008 fell markedly as the global recession began taking its toll on the Israeli economy.

Yet as of mid-2009, it now appears that Israel’s housing market has not only escaped meltdown but is continuing to notch rising values, even as the nation is in the grips of its worst-ever recession and unemployment is rising to levels not seen in years. A May home price survey by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported that prices last month rose 1.5% on average, and in the past 12 months they’ve jumped 11.4%. That makes Israel one of the best-performing property markets in the world.

Low Interest Rates, Solid Banks

Consider the fast-growing new town of Modi’in, midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. An average three-bedroom apartment there now goes for around $275,000, up by 10% since the beginning of the year.

Unlike their American counterparts, Israeli banks are not saddled with portfolios of bad mortgages. They have traditionally been very conservative in their lending practices, requiring 30% down payments. “On average we will cover up to 70% of the cost of an apartment,” notes Mizrahi Tefahot’s Royter. That’s a far cry from the subprime mortgages that often covered 100% of the price of a new home in the U.S.

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EIN GEDI, Israel – Eli Raz was peering into a narrow hole in the Dead Sea shore when the earth opened up and swallowed him. Fearing he would never be found alive in the 30-foot- deep pit, he scribbled his will on an old postcard.

After 14 hours a search party pulled him from the hole unhurt, and five years later the 69-year-old geologist is working to save others from a similar fate, leading an effort to map the sinkholes that are spreading on the banks of the fabled saltwater lake.

These underground craters can open up in an instant, sucking in whatever lies above and leaving the surrounding area looking like an earthquake zone.

The phenomenon, Raz said, stems from a dire water shortage, compounded in recent years by tourism and chemical industries as well as a growing population. “This is the most remarkable evidence of the brutal interference of humans in the Dead Sea,” he said.

The parched moonscape, famous as the site of biblical Sodom and Gomorra, is the lowest point on earth and runs more than 60 miles through Israel and the West Bank.

Comment by F.F.B.

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