Not All Square Meters Are Created Equal

A few years ago, my client wanted to purchase a 3-bedroom apartment in a new development project. We first viewed a 150 square meter (“sqm”) 3-bedroom unit [1 sqm equals 10.76 square feet] in a brand new complex. We then visited a different project and looked at a 110 sqm 3-bedroom unit, which surprisingly felt just as spacious as the 150 sqm apartment. When we measured both apartments, we confirmed that the two units were almost exactly the same size! What gives?

Standardized Measures

In the past, calculating an apartment size was a tricky proposition, as not all developers used the same methods of calculation. Some developers would incorporate the common area space into the apartment size; for example, if the apartment was 5% of the project, the developer would add 5% of the common area space to the unit’s square meterage to cover the cost of constructing the lobby, hallways and stairways. Other developers were more honest and didn’t use these “rubber rulers.” As a result, it was difficult to compare apartment sizes in different developments.

To create market uniformity, the government implemented laws dictating how to calculate apartment sizes. These new laws allow developers to include walls but not the common space outside the apartment. A good rule of thumb to determine usable space in a new development is to deduct 10% off the official square meterage. Therefore, if an apartment is officially 100 square meters, you will have approximately 90 square meters of usable space.

Unfortunately, there are no set rules when measuring existing apartments being sold second-hand and sometimes sellers use different methods to calculate size. In order to create consistency, we always ask to see the arnona (property tax) bill, which only measures usable space.

Efficient Layouts

In addition to square meterage, another important issue to consider when determining the spaciousness of an apartment is the layout: some apartments have very efficient layouts while other units’ layouts have more wasted space. Just last year, my client wanted to purchase a 3-bedroom apartment with at least 125 sqm, as she stressed the importance of having a “roomy and welcoming” apartment. The first unit that we viewed was 135 sqm but, due to an inefficient layout, low ceilings and dark walls, the apartment felt somewhat cramped. Then we looked at a 115 sqm 3-bedroom unit with an efficient layout, higher ceilings, large windows and light walls, which created a much more spacious environment. Despite my client’s initial request for minimally 125 sqm, she bought the 115 square meter apartment, and she could not be happier with her purchase.

Outdoor Space

One last issue to consider when determining the roominess of an apartment is the size and location of its exterior space – which, by the way, is not included in the apartment’s square meterage. Sometimes a garden or balcony feels like an extension of the apartment. A spacious balcony situated just off the living room – sporting attractive outdoor furniture and offering lovely views – often becomes a focal point in the apartment, and frequently becomes a favorite gathering place. Contrast this situation with a balcony situated off a bedroom and you will see its usage plummet, as users are not drawn to the space. Just like any other room in a home, a balcony’s usage will directly correlate with its accessibility and appeal. Great outdoor space can be a boon to apartment dwellers as it expands the unit’s footprint and literally offers its residents a change of scenery.

Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at

The Fashionable German Colony

The German Colony is an exciting and upscale Jerusalem neighborhood. It is famous for its main thoroughfare Emek Refaim, which is one of the city’s most popular streets, bustling with activity and boasting cafes, restaurants and trendy boutiques.

 Bustling Emek Refaim (Photo: CC-BY-SA Avishai Teicher, Wikipedia)

The German Colony is centrally located, bounded by the old train station to the north, the Greek Colony to the south, Derech Beit Lechem to the east, and Old Katamon to the west. It is walking distance to the city center and a short walk to the Old City.

The German Colony was established in 1872 by members of the Temple Society, a German Protestant sect of the Lutheran Church. The Templers purchased a large tract of land situated in Refaim Valley southwest of the Old City – which at the time housed almost all of the city’s population – and built a colony similar to villages in Germany. The community was comprised of one- and two-story farmhouses with green shutters, red tile roofs and fenced-in gardens, using local Jerusalem stone instead of the traditional wood and brick materials.

The German Templers lived in the neighborhood until the middle of World War II, and in 1943 the British government deported the Templers as enemy aliens and Nazi sympathizers. In 1948, the German Colony became home to new olim and quickly became a prominent community due to its prime location coupled with its attractive homes and lush greenery.

The neighborhood received a big development boost in 1892 when the city’s main railroad station was constructed next to what is now Liberty Park (Gan Hapa’amon). The railroad station was used for over a hundred years until it finally closed in 1998, at which point the city’s main train station was relocated to Malcha, near the well-known Malcha Mall. Recently, the old train station was given a new lease on life when it was renovated and renamed “First Station.” It has become a hub of cultural and recreational activities, as well as the home of countless fine restaurants.

After the state of Israel was established, the neighborhood  was renamed Rambam in memory of the preeminent philosopher and scholar Maimonides, but – as was the case with a number of Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Baka, whose official name is Geulim, and Katamon, whose official name is Gonen – the new Hebrew name Rambam was never accepted by the public. Today, the neighborhood is called “Hamoshava HaGermanit” or “Hamoshava” for short.

 Cremieux Street (Photo: CC-BY-SA Magister, Wikipedia)

In order to preserve the German Colony’s charm, in 1973 the neighborhood was declared a historical site. This landmark designation limited the ability to destroy the older buildings, and as a result, many of the original homes have been restored, which has helped retain the community’s unique character.

Due to its proximity to numerous cultural and religious institutions and holy sites, the German Colony has become a magnet for Jews from all over the world – especially English-speaking families – who desire a sense of community and also want to take advantage of the myriad cultural, religious and social opportunities in the vicinity. The neighborhood is comprised of people of all ages, including lots of young families, but seniors in particular appreciate the German Colony’s flat terrain, which stands out in a city that is comprised of many hills.

Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at

Advantages and Disadvantages of an “Acquisition Group”

A few years ago, my client wanted to buy an apartment through an Acquisition Group. However, his attorney dissuaded him from participating. Interestingly, over the past few months a number of my clients joined Acquisition Groups in Modiin and central Jerusalem. What is an Acquisition Group (“AG”), what are the risks, and when is it worthwhile to join?


Buying a home through an Acquisition Group – or “Kevutzat Rechisha” – is the latest trend in Israel and there are hundreds of these groups across the country.

Rather than purchasing a not yet built apartment “on paper” from a developer, the acquisition group members join together and purchase the land and hire a project manager to run the construction.


The lure of purchasing through an acquisition group is the ability to buy an apartment at a below market price. As there is no developer’s profit added to the cost, one can theoretically save up to 20% of the purchase price.

Now let’s discuss the drawbacks:

Large Initial Payment

Often, members of an AG have to pay a significant amount of money at the outset to purchase the land. In one recent deal, the land cost equaled 2/3 of the apartment price; therefore, my clients had to pay 65% of the total price within a few months of joining the group.


When buying an apartment from a developer, one receives a “bank guarantee” which ensures that if the developer goes bankrupt, the bank will bring in another builder to complete the construction. In an AG, there are no bank guarantees, as the group is the developer. However, the AG can protect itself by requiring the builder to give a personal commitment via a letter of indemnity. In addition, the AG should pay the builder according to a payment schedule, with funds disbursed only upon completion of each stage of construction. This ensures that should the builder go bankrupt, the AG will have sufficient funds to hire another builder to complete the project.

Financial Stability

When purchasing from a developer, one can easily investigate the developer’s financial strength. However, researching an AG is more challenging, as there are many participants in the group. Notwithstanding this difficulty, it is crucial to understand the AG’s financial strength as it will affect the group’s ability to meet its financial obligations and complete the project in a timely manner.

One excellent method to ensure financial stability is to require at the outset that every group member receive construction financing approval – even if some AG members have sufficient cash to cover all future obligations and are not planning to take out a construction mortgage. Thus, should anyone’s financial situation plummet during the two year construction period, the approved construction mortgage can be utilized to ensure that the project will have sufficient cash flow and not be delayed.


Strong construction management is vital to keeping projects moving forward quickly and on budget. Historically, many AGs have been riddled with project delays due to the group’s lack of construction expertise. My general rule is that unless the construction project is run by a superior builder, I discourage clients from buying in an AG due to the inherent risks involved.

Final Thought

Get yourself a good lawyer. In addition to ensuring that (a) you’re joining a financially stable AG and (b) the construction project is managed by a skilled and experienced builder, a good lawyer will ascertain that the AG’s contract, called a “participation agreement,” properly addresses all of the potential pitfalls.

Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at

Protecting Clients From Themselves

We all try to retain top professionals – be it doctors, lawyers, etc. – to protect our families. Similarly, My Israel Home has had the great pleasure and responsibility for the past half decade to protect our clients’ interests when buying and selling homes in Israel. Although most clients make level-headed decisions, we have witnessed […]