The Biggest Lies in Real Estate

It is not easy to sell a house in Israel. Usually supply is greater than demand, builders are in fierce competition and customers are picky picky picky. Solution? Lie.

Here is a collection of creative ideas from contractors and salespeople to seduce potential but balky buyers, some oldies and goldies and some new animals that are harder to spot.

Ocean Meadows

Nowhere in the world do crumbling chunks of concrete get more graceful, picturesque names than in Israel. Giant slabs of gray cement studded with tiny windows and laundry lines bear exotic names such as Poppies Hill, Iris Gardens, Citrus Flower Grove and Rushing River, though the only green thing is the mold on wet tiling and the only wet is the slime from the mold. You want poppies and oceans? Take a trip. (But you get parking and the Well Baby clinic is only five minutes' away," says the bright-eyed salesperson (see below).

White doves a-cooing

You ever see an ad for a new high-rise? The ad always shows it surrounded by a leafy park, near a road lined with elegant palm trees, a couple with a baby carriage strolling along a red-brick path, a shining sun gleaming on the feathers of a dove? a pigeon, really, but the thing is always white as the salesperson's teeth.

The truth is that other highrises will block the view of the park as surely as the park will have all of two struggling trees on which perches a lice-ridden crow, and the ad somehow forgot to show the highway not five minutes away as that crow flies, not to mention the graveyard next door.

Did I say porch? I meant perch

Contractors selling an apartment that hasn't been built yet tend to exaggerate when it comes to structure. In one case the brochure showed apartments with a porch for each flat. The picture showed imaginary people standing on the imaginary porches. When the buyers took possession, the porches had turned into flowerpots.

Five minutes from the movies

Builders also tend to the mendacious regarding the distance between their creation and civilization, especially when the project is a lemon for some reason. Usually they say something like "It's only five minutes from Kfar Saba" or "seven traffic lights from Tel Aviv". Yes, if you're that parasite-beset crow.

Shari Arison lives across the street

Companies building in cities hawk a flat as being "next door to ritzy Danya" in the case of Haifa, or on the spine of the Carmel mountain, that sort of thing. A company building in Hadera will tell you, "it's next door to Caesarea".

Luxury standards

If you believe what contractors say, all their flats are luxury ones. It turns out that luxury is a controversial term. Some contractors evidently think that a plastic toilet seat is a luxury.

We'll make a special deal for you

Sure they will. What they do is ostentatiously "give you for free" - not add extra for - items that were long since priced into the bill, and claim they're charging others more for them. Such as plastic toilet seats, or ceramic tiles in the bathroom. "YOU get an air conditioner," they whisper.

A 100-square meter dovecote

Don't assume you and the contractor mean the same thing by "four-room apartment with gigantic rooms". A 120-square meter flat may mean net space, meaning the rooms, the kitchens and hall, or he may be adding the porches. In extreme cases the builder is including the apartment's share of common space, meaning the building staircase and hallways, not to mention the elevator shaft, which can add 10-20 square meters to the calculation.

It's about to be rezoned

Maybe, maybe not. If farmland hasn't already been rezoned for housing, the process may be protracted, tortuous and expensive. The only returns you'll see are if you give up on the family estate and grow tomatoes.

Potential penthouse

"This apartment has potential!" the builder wheezes through his pearly yellows. It's been said so often that one wonders what came first, the profession of realtor or the potential. It is usually used in the context of describing a flat to potential buyers (yes, they can pull that potential trick, too) who fail to grasp its advantages. "The house blocking the view will be razed and then you'll see the flat's full potential," for instance. "You have building rights for another four meters and only three of the five neighbors object." "Invest another $20,000 and you'll have a beauty in your hands," etc.

The apartment is on the second floor

Nu, what could be wrong with that sentence? Hah. Go on, define "second floor". Israel has no standards for that and it could be the first, the second or the third, depending on whether you count the ground floor as first or zero, or the 20-meter cement pillars on which the building stands as a floor, for instance. This trick usually applies to buildings with no elevator.

It has a view

Some really do have views of green fields, forests and streams. That is, if you place a stool on the free plastic toilet seat, climb on the stool, cram your torso through the window bars and stretch your neck  - you'll see the Hamashbir building behind which there is, believe it or not, a tree. And a puddle.

That rear area is zoned for a park

Oooh what a lovely flat, you whisper, I can see the sky from that window over there, but what's going to be built in that empty lot next door? The contractor will mumble something about a playground for kiddies or a park but a quick trip to the city engineer will show that it's usually zoned for a 25-story high-rise just like the one in which you just bought a flat.

The law sets the mediation fee at 2%

It does no such thing. The regular mediation fee is 1-2% and sometimes the mediator demands more.

Repairs will take two weeks

Right. Now take that time, square it, multiply by the number of tiles that need to be installed and deduct the area of the elevator floor. Maybe the flat will be ready a week after that.