Congratulations on deciding to take the big step and live in Israel. Whether you have made Aliyah (עלייה), becoming a citizen of Israel, or are a university student ( אונברסיטת סטודנט ), now you have to find a place to live.
First decide which city and neighborhood (שכונה) you would like to live in. It is a good idea to go visiting friends in that neighborhood and stay overnight. Walk around on Shabbat, to see if you like the general feeling, and of course the climate (מזג אוויר). The climate in Beit Shemesh most of the year is very hot, whereas in Jerusalem, the weather varies quite a bit summer and winter.
Finding an apartment to rent in Israel
Finding an apartment (דירה) to rent (להשכרה) can be very time consuming. Most of the rental apartments in Israel are owned privately, not by large corporations. This means that the condition of apartments varies quite a bit. Most apartments do not have built-in closets (ארונות) like in other countries. If you rent an unfurnished apartment, then remember that you are getting an empty apartment. Buy closets and have them put together by a carpenter (נגר).
You can go to a real estate agent to find an apartment to rent. You will have to pay the equivalent (שווה) of a month’s rent to the Realtor (מתווך). This is good if you don’t speak Hebrew, and the Realtor is bilingual. Then he/she can do all the negotiating for you. Another way to find an apartment is to go to a website with apartment listings. There are a few in Hebrew and some in English. Go see the apartment. One big difference between Israel and the United States is how they number the floors of an apartment building. The ground floor (קרקע) is not included in the numbering. If the ad says 1st floor, then it is one floor up. This is not too bad, but if the ad is for a 4th floor apartment and no elevator (מעלית), then it means that you will have to walk up four flights of stairs!
When dealing with apartment owners, usually they will want first and last month’s rent, and a security check. Some will also want checks written out for the whole year in advance (מראש). You will have to read the rental contract, which is in Hebrew, so bring along a bilingual friend to translate for you. The apartment should have been painted, check that the water works, if there is a solar water heater ( דוד שמש), and if there is a water hookup for a clothes washer. You will also have to pay the yearly property tax (ארנונה) the amount depends upon how many square meters the apartment is. Ask also is there is a monthly charge (ועד בית) for cleaning the stairs and electricity for the elevator if there is one. You will also be responsible for changing the water and electricity service. Also there are a few ways to get Internet service, so shop around for the best deal for Internet, and home telephone service.
If all is to your satisfaction, then make another meeting with the apartment owner, and sign the contract (חוזה); get the key and move in! You are now a proud apartment renter!
Vocabulary about renting in Israel