Hi Gadi, can you tell us a bit about Israel At Last?
ISRAEL AT LAST is a company set up for Anglos, by Anglos, which provides services in Israel in two main areas. First, we provide expert advice and assistance in all matters related to your finances in Israel – including property, banking, investment management, mortgages and insurance. The benefit to our customers of being able to access all of this through one service provider in Israel cannot be underestimated. The second main area of activity is Aliyah, where we provide a VIP post-aliyah service for Olim, enabling them as soft a landing as possible, as well as getting them started on the right financial footing here in Israel.
Why did you want to start the business, can you give us a brief background?
Having worked for many years in the finance industry both in the UK and Israel, and in particular with foreign residents and Olim, we have a deep understanding of the difficulties and challenges they face in Israel. For new citizens in particular, the challenge of settling in and getting through the mountain of Israeli bureaucracy can be particularly taxing! Throw in the language and cultural barriers and you have a situation where problems can, and unfortunately do, arise.
Israel At Last was therefore set up to provide a trustworthy single point of contact who can provide both peace of mind and professional service, thereby minimising these problems and challenges.
What are the main areas of focus for Israel At Last?
As touched upon above, we have particular expertise in the post-Aliyah process, buying a home or investment property in Israel, mortgages, navigating the Israeli banking system, and all types of local insurance.
What is the best piece of advice to those looking to buy property in Israel?
Start off by budgeting properly so that you can know what you are going to need to spend. There are plenty of additional costs to take in to account, such as taxes, lawyers and agent fees, renovation costs, etc. You should also find a real estate broker that will work for you by looking across the market for properties that match your criteria in the area you want to buy, rather than simply trying to sell you one of the properties that he/she is selling. Finally, a good real estate lawyer is extremely important, as there can be so many different nuances and legal issues with the property that you have chosen.
How is the current lending / mortgage environment in Israel?
The current environment is still good. However, there has definitely been a noticeable change over the last 12 months or so. Not only with the obvious parameters such as interest rates, which have been steadily increasing, but also with various other issues, such as the banks’ demands of borrowers in terms of their ability to repay, or with factors relating to the property itself. If in the past banks were willing to take a lenient view on certain aspects of the mortgage file, now they are sometimes being more picky as to whom they lend to and what they lend against.
Why is it recommended to speak to a mortgage broker / intermediary in Israel?
Israeli mortgages are different in many ways to the ones we are used to overseas. A good mortgage broker will be well positioned to get the best deal from the banks in terms of interest rates, but will also take the time to sit with the client and work out the most suitable loan structure for the client’s circumstances, explaining in full the often-confusing process of getting a mortgage. Yes there is a fee to be paid for this service, however as I tell my clients, with the savings we make them on the interest rates and the loan structuring, our fee is usually paid back within the first 2 years, leaving them to benefit for the remaining life of the loan.
Biggest personal finance mistake expats arriving to Israel make?
Without a doubt it is the constant comparing of everything in Israel to the old country, both in terms of prices and in terms of how things work! Lets be honest, we all did it after making Aliyah, but the sooner one stops converting the Shekel prices back in to the ex-home currency, the sooner you get to grips with the real costs of living in Israel and the sooner you can make the right decisions with your budgeting and personal finances.
Have you found particular pain moving money from or to Israel?
I think that most people who have tried to send money to Israel in the last couple of years, without any help, would describe the word ‘pain’ as an understatement! Of course banks all over the world too have tightened up their rules and regulations in this and other fields, but there seems to be a feeling that in Israel the stance being taken is very strict indeed. Non-Bank Shekel specialists and advisers have really proven their worth these last couple of years, and will continue to do so going forward.
What lessons have you learned along the way in terms of starting a new business in Israel?
Everyone you meet here could potentially provide you with your next customer. Network as much as possible because most people here will genuinely help if they can.
Where do you see Israel At Last in 5 years time?
We genuinely want to see people succeeding with their Aliyah and their property purchases here. That is my passion and it’s why I set up the business.
It may be a bit boring, but in 5 years time, we simply want to be continuing to help as many people as we can to make that transition to Israel, helping them to buy the right home in Israel, and generally get them started on the right foot with their finances here.
About the author
Gadi Last has worked in finance and investment for over 13 years, both in Israel and overseas. Many of those years have been spent advising and assisting olim and foreign residents with all aspects of the financial and investment world in Israel. He founded Israel At Last in order to provide a professional, efficient and cost-effective solution for anglos, enabling both a smooth and hassle-free landing to Israel, as well as ensuring that the major financial decisions are made in the best and most suitable way.