Gefilte Fish Out of Water

Apartment Search from Hell
January 24, 2010, 11:22 am
Filed under: Infrastructure, Struggles

I am exaggerating.  It was only 48 hours, and the net result was that I learned it is definitely possible to find a good apartment that I can afford with short notice.

The backstory: I may have to move by April 30.  I can’t get into it here, b/c it involves some shadiness, but I might have to be out by then.  And my ex-boyfriend boss landlord advised me to start looking at places.  But I soooo did not want to.  Minus the mold problem, I’ve got it made here.  My place is recently renovated, in the best TLV neighborhood, right next to the park, with cheap rent.  Plus, the four main apartment search sites are all in Hebrew.

You can have a Google Translate button built right into your toolbar that auto-converts these pages into English.  But – when you click on the individual apartments for more information, the language translation doesn’t work, and you have to manually cut/paste into G-Translate in another browser window.

The four main sites are:

  1. יד 2(yad shtyme) (the Israeli Craigslist)
  2. Homeless
  3. Win-Win
  4. Madas

I started with Homeless, b/c that’s the one  my friend Phil used to find his place.  I got to give it to myself – I am super disciplined.  Even with my two jobs and everything else I’ve got going on, I made time to deal with the language translation hassleness (which comes up again when you make the phone calls) and spent like an hour making calls about seeing apartments.

Most of the ones I can afford are in Florentine, an ‘up and coming’ neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv.  It bills itself as Tel Aviv’s answer to ‘the village’, but it is really more like the Lower East Side pre-Giuliani/Bloomberg eras.  (For comparison’s sake, right now I am living in the Old North neighborhood, which is the Upper East Side of Tel Aviv – next to the park, close to AA, my office, the language school, a little quieter, more boring and prettier than the other neighborhoods, but even within this quaint area, I am near the two swinging intersections with bars that are happening every night of the week, some really good fast-food places that are open late, and Israel’s first 24/7 supermarket.  Basically, I am beyond golden right now.)

I made an appointment to see one place that evening.  I didn’t realize it when I made the call, but this listing was handled by a shark real estate agent.  He called back at 6pm to reconfirm, and at 7pm I set off on my bike to ride to the other end of the city to see this place.  It wasn’t even in Florentine, but was a stone’s throw from it.  It was….like, nowhere.  I guess you could say the Meatpacking District, before it got developed; just very industrial.

But it was in a brand new building, which I liked.  And the place was gorgeous.  Not quite “two rooms” (which is how you say “one bedroom” in Israel), it had, like, a divider b/t the the kitchen/living room area and the bed/bathrooom, sort of like bar-height.

The amazing part?  It had an enormous deck, the same size as the whole apartment, with a view of the city.  I didn’t really need this, and I’d rather have that space be part of a larger apartment.  But it’d still be pretty cool – for parties, patio furniture (w/ kiddie pool, custom awning?), great for my dog, parties and strorage).

Plus, as an incentive to get good tenants to move into this neighborhood, the hustler realtor offered me the place for 3100 shekels ($815) /month, when it was listed for 4000 ($1052).  Hmm.  Bonus: it was literally around the corner from my BFF Danny.  So I dropped by afterwards for some insights.  “Dont move here!” Danny emphatically told me.  It’s not a neighborhood.  It’s so different from where you live now, it’ll be a shock for you. After hearing about the deck and more details from me, he changed his tune Get all New York on them and tell them you want a 5-year lease at that 3100 shek rate. Plus, ask them if they can get creative with the building owner for you, and split their fee with the owner, so you’ll only have to pay them 1/2 fee (realtors here get a fee = one month’s rent).  (Another good things was the realtors would accept their payment in tashlomeem, which is a credit option unique to Israel, like a payment plan.  I’d have 18 monthly payments to pay this fee, which made it 172 shex ($45)/mo – or like, nothing.

Next morning I went into their offices (which happen to be down the street from where I live now) and tried all this.  5 year lease? REJECTED!  Split fee with owner? REJECTED!  And, even – 3100 rent the shister agent offered me? FLAT OUT LIE! (Couldn’t get the place for less than 3,300/mo).  Plus, no plumbing set up for my washing machine (I’d have to use communal, coin-opp laundry in basement for the whole bldg), and the apt came with a fridge, so I’d have to sell mine.

Ix-nay on this place.

Went right back to Central Command my computer, back on Homeless, and started making more calls.  Made appointments to see three places that evening – two in Florentine, one actually in my neighborhood on Ben Yehuda & Jabotinsky.

The first place?  OMG, you guys,

Crackhouse !!!

Srsly, dog poop (at least I hope it was from a dog) on one of the stair landings – WTF !?!  And this piece of crap was actually listed by an agent, so I’d have to pay a fee for it.  Uh, no, Lady.  And what a bitch of an agent she was!  She didn’t come to show it to me, but kept calling me by phone.  And every time I tried to talk English with her, she would read me on it, telling me (in Hebrew) Stop!  You are in Israel now – speak Hebrew!  You have to practice, no more English for you! True enough point, but you’re not my granny, bitch. Show me this apartment or STFU.

And the apartment was a HOLE.  A studio, subdivided from a larger apartment, with two college kids inside, smoking pot.  Mattress-on-the-floor-type-deal.  For 3000 shex !?!


Practically cried when I saw this place.  Has it really come to this?  Please God, no.  Divinely intervene now, pls.  Called this other guy in same neighborhood.  Went right over there.

Much better! Definitely a fixer-upper, but a true one-bedroom, with AC built in, tiny little deck, lots of storage space.  There was some furniture that came with it I’d have to throw out, it needed a paint job but the owner would probably do that, and it came with a fridge which was problematic for me (and the fridge was tinier than mine, and needed to be defrosted and cleaned out inside, majorly).  But it was only 2800 shex, and the Va’ad Beit (monthly bldg maintenance fee) and Arnona (municipal tax) and water bill were included in that!  Plus, no realtor’s fee, b/c it was listed by the owner.

”]After seeing every place, BTW, I’d call my Bestie Anna to download everything to her and get some instant analysis.

Time to see that third place.  The one, actually in my neighborhood.  And it was nice !!!  Only 3200 shex, Va’ad beit/arnona not included, realtor’s payment couldn’t be made in tashlomeem.  But totes just renovated, and two huge rooms.  No fridge (which was good, so I could bring mine), yes on plumbing for my washing machine. The place was in a subdivided larger apartment, which were actually just made illegal in Tel Aviv and if the landlord is caught, he pays a 250,000 shex fee ($66,000 approx !!!), but this landlord wasn’t fazed by that.

No question, this was the place.  Same neighborhood as I’m currently livin, and a lot going for it.

Which meant it would only be available for a couple of hours.  Oh yeah, the good places go like – *that!* [snap]

So, I emailed my ex-boyfriend boss landlord and said, Um, I need an answer ASAP – I might have to give them $$$ to take this place tomorrow.  Since we don’t have a lease on this [current] place, can I be out that fast? He flipped out on me – breaking out the Jewish guilt big guns about how he has helped me out with living accommodations since Day One (all true) and that even though he wants me out by end of April and I should start looking at places – I can’t take any of them!  Plus, I maybe don’t even have to leave in April; there’s a chance I could stay put.

So, this was all for naught.  And it was a lot of anxiety to go through, seeing all those places, thinking about $$$ I don’t have and movers and such, scheduling these viewings despite my two jobs, etc.  But – as I stated years ago? at the top of this post, at least I know now that if I have to find a place in a hurry, I can do it.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

HELL!!! How funny it that 🙂

Comment by Ahmed Sami

LOL, only partially, though – ’cause I’d have to live in it!

Comment by skatp

GREAT story, Scott! I’m incredibly impressed that you searched Yad Shteim and all the other Hebrew-only sites -kol hakavod! It is absolutely true that places go within hours of listing, even in Jerusalem. Put the call out on Facebook and Twitter next time – we’ll all pitch in and help 🙂

Comment by Debra Askanase

Thanks, Debra. A LOT.

Comment by skatp

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