Philippe Koskas: Rolling out the welcome mat for foreign investors

 (photo credit: LINOR LEVI)
(photo credit: LINOR LEVI)
 
‘The Israeli government should do all it can to lessen bureaucratic obstacles in general and has the obligation to make it easier for foreigners to invest in the real estate market in particular,” says attorney Philippe Koskas, founder of the Philippe Koskas Law Firm.
An ardent Zionist, Koskas made aliya from Paris in 1982. After completing his studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he was accepted to the Supreme Court for an internship under honorable justice Eliezer Goldberg. That position afforded him the opportunity to learn about the Israeli legal system at the top echelons.

“Even today, I think about the judge I interned with. He is still my mentor, 35 years later,” says Koskas.

In 1985, Koskas founded his boutique law firm in Jerusalem, which specializes in real estate and litigation. He moved the offices to Tel Aviv seven years ago. The firm serves as a one-stop shop for foreign investors seeking to invest in the Israeli real estate market. 
Koskas remarks that the Israeli real estate market has changed dramatically over the past three decades. 
“Real estate deals were always important, but today our responsibility as lawyers has significantly increased,” he says. “Because of new regulations and court rulings, the legal aspects have become much more intricate and complex.”
However, he says that the most drastic change has been the increase in prices. 
“In Israel especially, the prices have gone up. And since you don’t buy rooms, you buy per meter, every square meter is very significant, especially in Tel Aviv. Therefore, the legal aspect must be more precise and professional today,” he explains. 
Koskas adds that the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a change in the Israeli market as well, since fewer foreigners are coming to Israel to purchase real estate.
“What we are seeing is that many Israelis who would have invested abroad, now prefer to invest here in Israel,” he observes. “What we are really seeing is that money is staying here. There has been a kind of jolt – the coronavirus has returned people home,”
He adds, “When there is a lockdown, people are stuck at home, so the situation has returned Israelis to a physical reality, which becomes evident in the real estate market.”
Koskas says that while his office used to see around 50% -50% in Israeli and foreign deals, since the coronavirus pandemic it now sees around 80% to 90% Israeli deals versus only 10% to 20% of foreign deals.
“On the other hand, there are large sums of money that foreigners have transferred to Israeli banks, and the money is sitting untouched. I’m sure that those amounts will be invested in the Israeli market when the coronavirus situation improves,” he predicts. 
In fact, Koskas believes that when the corona crisis gets under control, there will be “massive buying” of real estate from abroad, especially from France. 
“We help our clients not only to secure their real estate investments in Israel but also to overcome the bureaucratic difficulties, especially during the pandemic. For a non-resident, it is very difficult to open an account in any bank in Israel today,” he says.
“You shouldn’t forget that there is a reason why people will buy [real estate] in Israel. There are always alternatives for people to invest,” he says. “As Israelis, we should make it easier for foreigners to invest in us because as a Jewish state, we have to position ourselves as the alternative.”
While he has made a home in Israel, Koskas maintains a strong connection to his French roots and has been a prominent figure in business, legal, and cultural relations between Israel and France. As such, he believes that with the rising level of antisemitism in France, Jews abroad will have no choice but to look to Israel as the alternative.
“Israel is a flourishing economy, and the real estate market is an integral part of it. That is why housing prices have steadily increased over the years. As a law firm, we seek to fulfill the dreams of our investors to purchase real estate in Israel with security and professionalism,” Koskas asserts.