With Independence Day and Jerusalem Day both falling this month, I thought it relevant to visit Jerusalem and specifically the Old City.
To many, the Old City is the heart of Jerusalem, with the Western Wall (Kotel) at its center. When it was redeemed in 1967, most properties were run down and uninhabited. Since some of these properties date back to the 12th century, restoring them without destroying the authentic archways, floors and windows was a task not all were up to.
Furthermore, prices of the apartments were low, and many bought there because they couldn’t afford more expensive areas such as the City Center or Kiryat Moshe.
Nevertheless, many took upon themselves the projects of restoring their homes to their former glory. In many cases, these restorations took years, or even decades, but the result was that Old City properties became not only historically beautiful and unique, but also among the most sought after homes in all of Jerusalem.
Let’s jump forward to today.
The Old City infrastructure has been modernized, with almost all services – health, banking, schools and shopping (although limited) – available to residents. While parking is still a problem, a new parking lot has been added for the sole use of residents, and entry of nonresident vehicles to the area has been further restricted, allowing residents and public transportation better access.
Security, although discreet, is tight, with security cameras and patrols by both the police and army common, as well as private-security firms that provide escorts to those walking certain areas at night.
Finally, property registration has become more organized, with many properties now being registered with the central property registrar as opposed to just with the Old City Development Company.
Apartments in the Old City are varied, with prices ranging from around $7,000 per square meter for a “standard” apartment in reasonable condition to as much as $14,000 for highly renovated properties overlooking the Kotel.
That said, there really is no way to comparatively price Old City properties since each is unique with its own features, history and proximity to the Kotel. I have had properties sell within one day after a bidding war, while others sit on the market for months or years despite being priced at “market” value.
More than anywhere else, buying in the Old City is an emotional experience as much as a rational one, and some buyers are happy to pay a premium for the few properties available, while others are not interested in the same properties at any price.
The Old City is not for everyone, with its limited vehicle access and constant flow of visitors, but it remains a special place to all and a home to many.
Raphi Bloch is the manager of the Re/Max Vision real-estate agency in Jerusalem.