On March 18, 2020, for the first time in the history of the modern state, Israel’s borders were shut completely and indefinitely to tourists. Foreign owners of properties in Jerusalem have found themselves barred from their “home away from home” and have never felt so far away. Owners of vacation rental apartments, accustomed to a regular rental income, are suddenly without any revenue and left with all of the expenses of maintaining their properties from afar.
An apartment in Jerusalem can’t just sit empty for months at a time without any maintenance. Without regular inspections, many people will return to their properties to find that gardens have died, dishwashers have corroded, and oven heating elements need to be replaced due to moisture buildup. A leak from a neighbor’s home, for example, can cause catastrophic damage if not caught in time.
Avi Goldberg, CEO of City of Gold Apartments, Jerusalem’s largest property management company, has provided some tips for taking care of your Jerusalem apartment during this period of extended vacancy.
Tips for Maintaining Your Vacant Property During COVID-19:
1. Your property manager is considered an essential worker and permitted to continue inspecting your apartment as usual even if there is another complete lockdown. In fact, in order to be compliant with most insurance policies, a property needs to be inspected at regular intervals (dependent on policy). Check your policy and make sure you are compliant.
2. Be sure to ask your manager for videos of your property so you can make sure it is being regularly inspected and maintained.
3. Consider having a simple plug-in camera installed. This will enable you to keep an eye on things, as well as notify you in the event of a power outage.
4. To prevent break ins, lights should be set on a timer.
5. Even if you don’t typically turn off the water and gas when you are out of the country, consider turning off your water and gas from the main line to prevent any emergency situations.
6. Ask your property manager to regularly run ovens and dishwashers to prevent moisture build up on the heating element of the oven or dishwasher corrosion.
7. Make sure your mail is being collected and your bills are being paid.
8. Should this continue a few more months into the rainy season, make sure your balcony drains are cleared of leaves and debris, which could clog the drain and cause flooding and leaking if not maintained.
9. Freeze your internet and TV subscriptions. This can usually be done for a period of three-four months at a time with no penalties.
Tips for Monetizing Your Vacation Rental Property During COVID-19:
1. Consider advertising your property as a long-term rental. Although the market is flooded with short-term turned long-term rentals, this might be the best option for cutting your losses and keeping your property maintained until things get back to normal.
2. Look into freezing your mortgage, which will take some stress off of you.
3. List your property as a “quarantine rental.” Israel has extremely strict quarantine policies in place. In order to come into the country, Israeli citizens must be able to prove that they have a place where they can isolate themselves for two weeks. Even regular citizens must leave their homes and find a suitable place to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who tests positive and don’t have a suitable place to quarantine in their homes.
4. Use this opportunity to make improvements to your property. A few months (at least) of guaranteed vacancy is a great time to do that renovation you’ve been thinking about.
5. Try to market to locals. There are many Israelis who are looking for quick getaway options within the country. Try to adjust your marketing to focus on the Israeli market.
City of Gold Apartments has been forced to adapt to the sudden shift in the Jerusalem rental market. As such, they are now offering completely free property management services for vacation rental apartments until Israel’s borders are reopened to tourists. According to Avi Goldberg, “although we will be losing money over the course of this promotion, we are confident enough in the quality of our service that we believe people will continue with us even once all of this passes. We hope to come out of this crisis even stronger than we were before.”
By Dina Davidovics