In Israel it is the only game of golf in the city and in the country

In the Israeli coastal city of Caesarea, demand for homes overlooking the Caesarea Golf Club, the country’s only golf course, has skyrocketed. Demand to play on the pitch itself, not so much.

“I don’t remember a client asking for a home on the golf course because he plays golf,” said Meir Menahem, a real estate agent at Neot Shiran who specializes in luxury homes. “For most of them, it’s because it has an unobstructed view, it’s green, and because it puts them in the best spot.”

Property prices in Israel rose more than 10.6 percent in 2021, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, but in Caesarea, a city of 5,500 people about halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, realtors say there has been an influx of buyers eager to sell their cramped city apartments for homes with pools and gardens has pushed up local prices by more than 30 percent.

For decades, the city, perched on Herodian ruins and blessed with a coastline, manicured green spaces and a national park, was considered a vacation home center for wealthy Israelis.

About 35 miles from Tel Aviv, many commuters considered it too far for a bed-sharing community. His properties, many in the form of aging villas with swimming pools, often sat vacant for months before Covid-19 turned the real estate market upside down.

Now, homes overlooking Caesarea’s golf course are among the fastest valued in the nation, even for buyers who rarely pick up a club.

“I play golf – but only when I’m on vacation,” said Tomer Yariv, who bought a house overlooking the golf course and the sea with his wife Yamit in November for 11.5 million Israeli shekels (about US$3.5 million). -dollars) bought. The couple, who both grew up in Haifa and have spent two decades in the United States, returned to Israel in 2017 with their three children, now 14, 10 and 5.

“The whole of Caesarea is beautiful, but around the golf course it’s a little more impressive,” he said. “After 20 years in America, Caesarea was the place that suited us best. It reminded me of America – the size of the bedrooms, the pool in the backyard. It’s clean and organized.”

That may be because Caesarea is run by a private company and not by a municipality. Much of the land that is now Caesarea was purchased by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild in the late 18th century and today the Caesarea Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, operates the town on the family’s behalf. (Every four years the citizens of Caesarea elect members of an elected committee to represent their interests.)

The golf course was built in 1961 and was not always considered real estate. Caesarea is divided into 13 neighborhoods, or clusters, three of which — Clusters 13, 11, and 9 — offer a handful of homes with uninterrupted views of the greens. Sales in the golf districts were sluggish, said company chairman Miki Kleiger, until 2009 – the year the Rothschild family invested 60 million shekels (about US$18 million) in a golf club renovation and hired American golf course architect Pete Dye committed to redesigning the course.

“After that, it really became a big attraction, and Cluster 13 became the most desirable,” said Mr. Kleiger. “There is no doubt that the first line to the golf course has benefited greatly from the fact that the grass has been extended and there is now an additional 1,000 dunams [247 acres] the green landscape.”

Prices for land on the golf course in Caesarea currently start at around NIS 10 million (US$ 3 million) per 0.4 hectares of land. In 2021, just over 100 houses were sold in the city, not counting new builds, and a quarter of those sales totaled over 15 million shekels ($4.5 million), while the rest are reported to be between 5 million and 10 million shekels cheated the company.

Architect Rina Doctor has designed more than 120 homes in Caesarea, including her own, a six-bedroom contemporary home with an infinity pool that she designed 12 years ago.

“We don’t play golf, but we like living here because it’s like living in nature,” she said. “You have birds. At night you have jackals. It’s very unique to live on the golf course.” Frau Doktor is now trying to sell her house. She plans to stay in Caesarea, but her new home will be in a different neighborhood.

“Unfortunately, we can no longer afford a plot of land on the golf course because all prices have gone up,” she said. She hopes to get 16 million shekels ($4.97 million) for the estate.

As prices have risen so have the number of native Israelis living in Caesarea: while Caesarea was once heavily favored by foreign-born Jews who bought vacation homes, Mr Yariv’s family is among dozens of newcomers to the city, changing the demographics.

“A lot of local Israelis are coming to Caesarea now, unlike before when there were a lot of Jewish foreigners, and it’s been an amazing change,” said Michael Karsenti, the company’s chief executive officer. “A lot of them are upper middle class or upper class, they’ve had success in technology or real estate, and it was very interesting to see.”

Despite the sharp rise in prices, Rena Roberman, a real estate agent who lives in Caesarea and only works within the city limits, believes buyers are still finding bargains.

“Caesarea has long been incredibly undervalued,” she said, comparing it to other affluent coastal communities in Israel such as Herzliya and Beit Yanai.

Her husband Eran Roberman is a building contractor and also only works in Caesarea. He estimates that nearly 40 percent of homes in the city have been demolished or renovated in the last five years.

“When I came to Caesarea 21 years ago, it was an amazing place, but it was a place of holiday homes that weren’t lived in,” he said. “Now there are young people who are realizing that they had a small apartment in Tel Aviv and could sell that apartment and for what they are getting, they could have a whole house in Caesarea with a swimming pool.”

But while the story of the city’s millennials fleeing to greener pastures has played out across the world during the pandemic, the story of Caesarea is slightly different, Ms Roberman said. Because the Caesarea golf course is more than a well-kept lawn in the middle of the city.

In Israel, a nation whose population is growing four times faster than other developed nations, Caesarea is a green oasis that doesn’t require moving to a kibbutz or cooperative, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. For homeowners looking for a more rural option that still allows them to commute to Tel Aviv, the golf course can become the backdrop for a variety of lifestyles.

“I refer to the homes overlooking the golf course as limited edition works of art,” said Ms. Roberman. “If you buy a house two blocks away, it could be anywhere. But at a frontline golf course department store in Israel, you can really only have one in 65. This is something very special.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/realestate/israel-golf-caesarea.html In Israel it is the only game of golf in the city and in the country

Luke Plunkett

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