Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Living the high life in Tel Aviv

Last weekend, I was having coffee with a friend who is active in one of the olim societies here in Israel. He told me that he met two new immigrants (mother and daughter) who announced that they want to live in a spacious seafront apartment in Tel Aviv North. Both of us burst into Homeric laughter. Don’t get me wrong – we were not making fun of the ladies, just of their native dream…..

Tel Aviv is not only one of the most expensive cities in Israel (and in EMEA), but also ranks 14th on the Mercer’s Cost of Living 2008 list. For comparison, New York ranked 22nd…….The survey compares more than 200 goods and services in 143 cities around the globe. Well, you get the picture, don’t you?

The neighborhood that the ladies prefer can be compared to me wanting to live in the Upper East Side of Manhattan – unless you have a few millions to burn, not quite feasible. Cost of housing is high all over Israel, with only places like Sderot as an exception (for obvious reasons).

The country is small to start with, and most jobs are concentrated in the Tel Aviv – HaSharon area. Yes, you can find a job in the Haifa area or Jerusalem, but your salary will be substantially lower. The majority of your salary will be gobbled up by your rent or mortgage, with car and petrol expenses being the second major cost factor. This doesn’t bother the rich and mega-rich. They buy up real estate like it’s a monopoly game.

British billionaire Ephraim Shahmoon bought no fewer than nine apartments in the TreeTop Towers in Tel Aviv, followed by two more flats in Yoo Towers forking out a total of NIS 60 million (The average apartment goes for less than NIS 1 million) .

Billionaire heiress Shari Arison, who among other things owns the controlling interests in Israel's biggest bank, Hapoalim, and in the development company Property & Building. She lives in an apartment in Bavli, Tel Aviv and owns a penthouse in Gindi Holdings' "G" project in Tel Aviv.
Local entertainer Eli Yatzpan owns an apartment in Hamashtela, in North Tel Aviv, another one in the Manhattan Project in Park Tzameret, Tel Aviv, and a third one in nearby Pinkas Street.
Builder Alfred Akirov owns duplex apartments in several of his own projects, including in the Opera Tower on the Tel Aviv shoreline and in the TreeTop Towers.
Diamond baron Benny Steinmetz owns a double penthouse in Yoo.

If you think that this is unfair, just read on!
These real estate collectors, Israeli and non-Israeli, don’t even live permanently in Israel, and don’t bother to rent out their properties. They prefer to just let them sit there empty, managed by asset management companies. It’s their safety net against the rising tide of anti-Semitism and a nice pied-à-terre for family occasions and the High Holidays.

If you want to live the high life in Tel Aviv, make sure to have a high income – Euros preferred……..

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