Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We Got The Keys! (Now All We Need to Do is Pay the Mortgage.)

Leah, with our new keys!
About a half-hour ago we finally picked up the keys to our house! (Saar 6 in Yad Binyamin, for those keeping score) Very exciting for us! So much to do! But so much has already been done. I got a few questions from my last post, which I hope to answer in this one.
About six months ago, my landlord called me to tell me that he had decided to sell the house that we're living in. I thanked him for giving me the advance notice (he's been a really great landlord), asked him what he was asking for the house (way too much if you ask me...but it seems someone else disagrees) and then calmly freaked out. So many issues: Where should we live? Should we rent or buy? Would the house sell? How much time would we have?
Actually, that one we knew. Our lease runs out at the end of June, so I knew I had some time. It took quite a while, because we contemplated looking for rabbinic positions in other areas (there really aren't very many available at all. I checked.) and finally concluded that we'd like to stay in Yad Binyamin. The people are lovely, we've made great connections with good friends, our children are settled, there are good schools and great amenities, and we simply like living here.

View Old and New House Walk to Shul in a larger map
Note to future olim: this seems to be the trend among people who make aliyah somewhere. Most people that I know end up staying where they first land, for many of the reasons that I listed above. It seems pretty rare for people to switch communities, unless they're really not happy. This means two things: On the one hand, you've got to choose carefully when selecting an initial community to live in, because the odds are that you'll end up staying there. At the same time, I get the feeling that pretty much all the different communities in Israel are great. Whenever I speak to people, they're really happy where they live. So, if you have a general idea of what you're looking for, odds are that you'll be happy.

Rent or Buy? Over the last four years, the rent has been relatively reasonable - at least my rent has been. But it became clear that should we choose to continue to rent somewhere else, we'd be paying significantly more than we are this year, which made buying a property the obvious choice. Also, when you rent your landlord can call you and tell you that he's decided to sell your house. That can be somewhat unsettling. So we decided to buy.

I told Rena: You look at houses, and when you find something you like, call me. She did just that, and found a house that she really liked. We looked at it, and it seemed like it had a lot of potential. After some looking in the yishuv at other houses, we decided to make an offer. Several long weeks of back-and-forth later, we arrived at a mutually agreed price with our seller, and we had a deal.

If only it were that simple. We were really happy with both the house and the price. But, about a week after we came to an agreement, my seller called me and asked me, "When you made an offer, were you thinking about looking at other houses, or was it a firm offer?"
"It was a firm offer." Lump in throat. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, since we came to an agreement, I've gotten a few calls from people looking to offer me more than we agreed on. But I want you to know that I'm a man of my word. I believe that when I make a commitment I should keep to it. If you tell me that you fully intended on buying the house, I'll keep to my word."
"We want the house," I told him, and we left it at that. When I hung up the phone, I really started to worry. Would he change his mind? Would he keep his word? After all, who knows how much money we were talking about? This question occupied me for a good many weeks, until we finally signed the contract to buy the house. In the end, he did of course sell the house for the agreed-upon price.
Just today, Rena and I, speaking about the issue, wondered whether we would have done the same, and kept our word as he did. We agreed that we most probably would have, but there's no way to know. My seller told me that he when struggling with the issue, he spoke to his father who told him, "I only know one thing. I like to sleep well at night."
 When the seller gave me the keys today, I told him how much I valued and appreciated his keeping his word, and how much I enjoyed working with him.He told me that when speaking to his father recently, he had mentioned the same thing, to which his father said, "Wait, something must be wrong. Both the buyer and seller are happy?" Indeed.


Next: Getting a mortgage in Israel.