Real estate mogul Yossi Avrahami is set to be the first Israeli to market housing to the Turkish middle class – bypassing the irksome attitude Turkey has recently expressed towards Israeli developers.
In November, the Turkish media reported that the government is drafting legislation that will prohibit Israelis from buying land in the Muslim nation. Instead, it will promote selling land to citizens of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
"The government there is very supportive of foreign initiatives, but Israelis know very well that they are better off collaborating with locals," Avrahami said. "I continue to seek investment opportunities there, but never overtly."
Avrahami worked on several Dead Sea construction projects in the 80s before developing the Royal Beach boardwalk in Eilat. While working in the southern city, more than a decade ago, he discovered that the Israel Land Administration was offering incentives for housing contractors – essentially giving them land for free if they sell the apartments at low prices. This was when Avrahami decided to enter the housing field.
Over the last 10 years, Avrahami had built 1,900 housing units nationwide, and hundreds more around the world. He built 1,200 units in Eilat alone, which has made him the most prominent developer to work in the resort city over the past decade.
Turkey apartments, under the radar
Like many developers in the Israeli real estate market, Avrahami is also seeking greener investment pastures outside the Jewish state. He likes to work under the radar, always collaborating with foreign developers on his projects abroad, and keeping them separate from the activities of his Israeli company, the Yossi Avrahami Civil Engineering Works.
His first foreign venture was a luxury apartment building in Belgium, where he targeted Brussels' large Jewish community. He then moved on to build hundreds of units in Florida and Nevada in collaboration with Moshe Levy, an IDF veteran who is considered a Yom Kippur War hero.
But the crowning glory of his foreign endeavors is the housing project in Turkey's Izmir, where he and his French-American partner will construct 1,700 apartments that will target middle-class buyers. After prepping the formerly agricultural land for two years, the developers will now begin marketing the units, which will cost around $80,000 for four rooms.
Avrahami noted that the mortgage banking system in Turkey is well-developed and supported by the government. "A person who brings $5,000 gets a key," he says. "The rest he will get in loans."
His future plans include building vacation properties for Americans on land he owns in Costa Rica, and seeking out investment opportunities in Eastern Europe and India. During a recent Mumbai visit he was invited to the Chabad house, which was severely damaged in the 2008 attack which claimed the lives of the community rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, and his wife Rivkah, among others.
Avrahami said the emotional visit had propelled him to collaborate with other donors to repair and renovate the building, "so that even if I don’t invest there, something good will come out of it."
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