The number of homes bought by property investors in the first quarter of 2013 plunged 20% from the previous quarter, bringing their share of residential real estate purchases to its lowest since 2002, the Finance Ministry reported Monday.
The decline marked a sharp turnaround from the four previous quarters, when investors were accounting for a growing share of all home purchases.
The treasury said the number of apartments sold by investors in the quarter also fell, 13% down from the previous quarter. It also followed a 41% rise over the previous four quarters combined.
The treasury data may point to growing doubts among the public that the rise in home prices is going to continue, ensuring property investors a future return. But people in the real estate industry cast doubt on the data and said investors would likely be returning soon, if they haven't already.
Some 25,500 apartments were purchased across Israel in January-March, an 11% drop from the previous quarter, but a 13% increase over a year ago, when the market was still weighed down by the 2011 social justice protests.
However, the publication of the first-quarter data four months after the end of the quarter leaves their relevance open to question.
For example, the ministry's monthly economic survey, Orot Adumim (Red Lights), published at the beginning of month, showed that apartment sales in May rose 32%