Not All Sea Views Cost the Earth

With an open mind and a bit of vision, some affordable properties can still be found on the beachfront strip between Beit Yannai and the Herzliya marina.

A home on the Hasharon cliff facing the sea can range in price from $5 million in Beit Yannai, on the northern edge of the strip, to $10 million in Arsuf, and on Galei Tchelet Street in Herzliya Pituah. So that's it? The seafront is beyond the reach of average people? Not at all. Scattered among these prestigious locations, there are seaside places whose residents are not millionaires and whose prices are within reach of middle class people as well, with as nice an ocean view as that of the luxury villas.

It is a well-known real estate convention: The Sharon region's Kurkar cliff, stretching from Beit Yannai in the north to the Herzliya Pituah marina, is considered an exclusive and rare strip of real estate - rare because its remaining land resources are gradually dwindling, not only physically, but also in terms of planning.

Large swaths of the strip have been designated as nature reserves; other parts are included in the 300-meter wide beachfront stretch where construction is off limits. Still other sections fall into the area 100 meters from the shoreline, where construction was prohibited after homes had already been built there. The owners of these homes are now finding it very difficult to make any changes in them; to do so, permits must be obtained from the highest planning authority in Israel, the National Planning and Construction Council.

This rarity, in addition to the spectacular ocean view from this cliff, have made it into a prime choice of millionaires and a status symbol for the elite in the Israeli real estate market. It is no coincidence that a 1.4-dunam plot on the forward line of the cliff in Arsuf recently sold for $6.75 million.

Several months ago, an Israeli record for residential properties was set with the $22 million sale of Martin Schlaff's luxury villa on the western side of Galei Tchelet Street in Herzliya Pituah, to the Rakibs, who control the high-tech company, Terayon. Even the $5 million asking price for a 160-sq. meter home, with an adjacent 60-sq. meter service building on a two-dunam plot is not considered much beyond the existing norms. Two years ago, a similar property sold for $3.5 million.

Such prices close doors not only for the middle class. Even the top tiers of the wealthy will have trouble finding such sums, to which one must add substantial outlays for refurbishments and adjustments. But a tour of the cliff will reveal that there are also other places and other prices.

Moshav Havatzelet Hasharon is south of Beit Yannai. As in Beit Yannai, most of the properties in Havatzelet Hasharon do not have ocean views. Realtor Uzi Gil notes that the moshav has not been expanded and therefore its infrastructure has not been renovated and most of the buildings there are outdated. Derekh Hayam, which winds through the moshav, is busy for most of the day, and all of this leads to low demand for Havatzelet Hasharon relative to other moshavim in the area.

The real estate tragedy of Havatzelet Hasharon is that in its best location, on the cliff, there is a communal neighborhood called Tzukei Yam (Sea Cliffs) that is not part of the moshav. It was established in 1968 and includes 90 single-story homes on small plots of 400-500 sq. meters and some 300 residents. The front row of homes, alongside the cliff has around 20 homes, most of them old and not very well maintained.

"Most of the homes in the neighborhood are simple, a product of Rassco's standardized building of 30 years ago, and it is densely built, a style that is not a favorite among those seeking homes along the cliff," says Gil. "There aren't a lot of sellers and buyers in the neighborhood, and very few deals are closed there."

Shosh Arar, of Anglo Saxon Netanya says: "The prices in Tzukei Yam range from half a million dollars to $700,000, depending, of course, on the location and condition of the property. The asking price for an oceanfront home that will be razed and rebuilt is half a million dollars."

Further to the south is Shoshanat Ha'amakim, a neighborhood with some 240 residents that is adjacent to Netanya's municipal boundaries, but still part of the Emek Hefer Regional Council. The neighborhood was built in 1951 and its appearance contradicts all expectations one may have for a place located on such an exclusive cliff. Among other things, the place is adorned with a large structure on the main road that has been sealed off, apparently because of building code violations.

"The place consists primarily of the old low-rise housing blocks, with two stories and four units, and there are hardly any sales. In total contrast to what one might expect from the Hasharon cliff, and the similarities that may evolve from the name Shoshanat Ha'amakim, the population is low on the socioeconomic scale, the people who would want to buy properties on the cliff are deterred and there aren't many deals happening there," says Gil.

Currently, a cottage along the neighborhood's front row facing the sea is up for sale for $345,000. Agents feel this is an inflated price, approximately $50,000 higher than the true value of the property.

The question is, with vision and a lot of patience, will Shoshanat Ha'amakim and Tzukei Yam become more prestigious places than they are now. Gil is not convinced: "In Shoshanat Ha'amakim the problem is more difficult because a requirement for transforming this neighborhood into a desirable and expensive place is to knock it down and rebuild it with a different character. I don't see something like that happening so soon.

"In Tzukei Yam, the situation is better because the population is good and even the old buildings can be razed and replaced with new ones. There the main problem is the limited size of the plots and the intense crowding.

"Both these neighborhoods have a common problem and that is the main road that separates them from the cliff on the route from Havatzelet Hasharon to Netanya. This is a congested road that also causes values to decrease inside Havatzelet Hasharon and construction of a bypass to this road will only benefit real estate assets there."

In the southern part of Netanya, south of the Carmel Hotel, you don't need to have vision to realize that the place will become a prestigious location: on the east side of Ben-Ami Boulevard, which runs along the cliff, there are new cottages in the direction of Goldmintz House. To the east of them, along Ben Gurion Boulevard, luxury high-rise buildings are going up and being sold.

Arar says that a half-dunam plot along the cliff, for construction of three cottages sold for $600,000-700,000, depending on the sea view and the technical specifications.

Therefore it seems that Arsuf, Beit Yannai and Herzliya Pituah will continue to maintain their mega-prestigious status; the southern section of Netanya, which includes many still-empty plots, will be the favored choice of those who like the ocean view but cannot handle the high prices.

The low supply of properties along the sea in Tzukei Yam and the problematic population of Shoshanat Ha'amakim will be the main obstacles in the efforts of these two neighborhoods to increase their real estate value in the foreseeable future.