>>We are a frum (Jewish Orthodox) homeschooling family from New York working towards making aliyah within the next year and we were told by NBN that properties in the North, specifically “villas,” “cottages,” and “plots,” are extremely affordable and available compared to the rest of the country and here in the US as is the cost of living expenses; reduced tuition (not applicable in our case), reduced health insurance, reduced food expenses, use of solar panel/power energy systems to reduce bills, etc… – your post however, suggests the opposite! May I ask if you can please slightly elaborate on what would be considered an “expensive house” vs an “affordable apartment” in Karmiel or Maalot, for example, and what that same house and apartment would cost in a place like Bet Shemesh, or Maaleh Adumim, for example? It would really assist us in putting things into perspective…<<
Housing – What you consider expensive or affordable is relative to where you’re moving from and where you’re moving to. Since you’re coming from NY, it’s likely that everything will seem fairly reasonable to you.
When you buy in Israel, it’s generally accepted that you put down between 30 – 50% of the purchase price. This obviously affects how you perceive affordability so keep it in mind! We initially were told we would only need a 10% downpayment and thought we’d be able to buy a private home, but in the end the mortgage broker told us we’d need to put 30% down. If you have someone co-sign your mortgage, you can have a much smaller downpayment, but we didn’t have that and we didn’t want that.
I can’t give you accurate prices for other parts of the country, but I can tell you fairly accurately what local prices are. (You mentioned Maalot, and their prices are lower than Karmiel.)
Karmiel prices for the Dromit neighborhood (this is the central neighborhood where most of the recent Anglo olim have moved to) – prices range between about 500,00 shekels for a smaller apartment (2 bedrooms) on a higher floor, going up to about 950,000 for a larger ground floor apartment (4 or 5 bedrooms) with a garden. Obviously it depends on location, condition, etc. But that’s a pretty accurate range, though you can find apartments that go outside of that.
Private houses – the prices range from 1,290,000 shekels for a smaller house (120 meters and up) to 2 million shekels for a very large home (250 + meters) in excellent condition.
These prices are drastically cheaper than in the Jerusalem area. Someone told me they sold their small Jerusalem apartment and are now buying two apartments for cash, one to live in and the other as an investment property. Another person told me she has plans to do the same thing. Someone else told me she sold her small apartment on a high floor in a less expensive Jerusalem neighborhood and was able to buy a large apartment here with two gardens, and buy a car to boot – she went from feeling like a pauper to someone living in style! So it’s true that housing is much cheaper in the north. But I still wouldn’t call it cheap – real estate in Israel is high, and constantly rising.
Tuition – much, much cheaper than the US. And my Shabbos guests this week told me that tuition in this area is much cheaper than in the center of the country. How inexpensive it is depends on how heavily funded the school is by the government, as well as the age of your child. I’ll share our local costs but remember that this can drastically differ from school to school, and area to area.
Ds5 has no tuition costs this year, since he’s in gan chova (mandatory kindergarten) and this is free for all children at this age throughout the country. He has a 60 shekel a month materials fee. If you want private reading tutoring for your child (15 minutes, 4 times a week during school hours), it’s an additional 900 shekels a year.
Ds4 – his tuition for gan is something like 160 a month plus 60 shekels a month materials fee. (This is less than I remember paying for ds18 when he was this age!)
Ds9 – the cheapest due to the school he attends (highly government subsidized) and being the second child in our family to attend, so the 10% discount was applied to his tuition. 70 shekels a month.
Dd11 – 110 shekels a month; same school system as ds9.
Ds12 – 380 shekels a month (less extensive government support).
Dd15, dd17 – 140 shekels a month each.
High schools for boys are much, much more expensive. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!
This doesn’t include trips, books, transportation, or hot lunch (currently only applicable to ds12). But it’s clearly hugely less expensive than private school in the US. Since we were homeschooling, this is actually a few hundred dollars a month that we weren’t paying before we moved here but it would be an incredible area of savings for most people.
Health insurance – we aren’t yet covered by the national insurance and have to pay for private insurance until our waiting period ends. If you’re an oleh, you get free insurance for a year right away, so this wouldn’t be an issue. Only the basic coverage is free, and then there are costs for different levels of supplemental insurance. We had insurance through my husband’s employer so this is another cost we didn’t have before. The coverage I had was much better than the standard level, so I wasn’t used to paying for the things that I had to pay for here. But this will depend on what kind of insurance you’re used to.
Food – I’ll write a separate post about this with details. In short, the only thing that has been notably less expensive has been produce, and even that isn’t always a big price difference. If I wasn’t used to shopping the way that I am, and implementing frugal strategies toward food buying, there would definitely be an increase in this area.
Utilities – I was previously paying a combined bill for gas and electric, and don’t remember how the costs broke down. It averaged about $200 a month (ie 700 shekels). The bills arrive every two months here, and I was shocked at how high my gas bill was, since the only thing we use gas for is cooking on our stove top – 728 shekels for two months, electric was 523 shekels for two months. These prices are for our initial months here, so there were no a/c costs or heating costs, though it was during the holidays so there were a few days that the gas was on for 25 hours at a time. So about 1250 shekels for two months versus 1400 for two months – a bit cheaper here, but not a significant area of savings. Take into account that in the US I regularly used my dryer, my hot water was heated by gas, we used a/c window units in the summer and heat in the winter…if I did the same thing here, the costs would definitely be much higher.
The one thing that surprised me was that our water costs were lower here. Water is much more expensive here, but our two month bill was only 126 shekels, compared to about $160 for a three month bill in the US. I don’t know how to account for that, since I have teenagers who shower daily so you can’t say we’re minimalists when it comes to water usage. I was very grateful, though! (Edited to add: we just got a bill for a full two months – apparently our first bill was only for part of a billing period. The new bill was 387.02. So it looks like this is comparable to what we were paying in the US.)
I dislike when people make the case to move to Israel because life is so much cheaper. It’s definitely something to consider, and if you’re paying private school tuition and private health insurance you can save big, but life isn’t cheap here. Not at all. And there aren’t cheap stores like Walmart to buy at, or amazing thrift stores. Everything costs a lot more here.
And salaries aren’t generally commesurate with US salaries. So the equation generally is, higher expenses, lower income. I would caution you to be careful who you get your information about aliyah from. NBN is a great organization but they do have a goal, and that is to get people to make aliyah. I think overall they give good advice, but financially their advice isn’t always on target. My mother is planning to make aliyah soon, and the advice they’re giving her will compromise her long term financial stability. But even though I’ve explained to her why I think it’s such bad advice, she keeps going back to”but that’s what NBN recommends”.
About specific communities, check with those who live there for what the costs are. I attended an NBN webinar about Karmiel before I left the US, and when I saw their quotes on real estate, I sent them a private message in the middle of the presentation – I told them they were way too low, not reflective of the actual real estate market, and would lead people to mistakenly conclude they’d be able to afford much more than they actually could and then be very disappointed.
Now when it comes to quality of life, the US can’t even come close. But that’s not a dollars and cents issue!