Israelis took out record amount in mortgages in 2020 despite pandemic downturn

Bank of Israel says Israelis took out NIS 78.1 billion in mortgages last year, a 15% increase over 2019

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

A construction site for new residential housing in Be'er Yaakov, central Israel, on March 26, 2020. (Flash90)
A construction site for new residential housing in Be'er Yaakov, central Israel, on March 26, 2020. (Flash90)

Israelis took out a record amount in mortgages in 2020 despite the economic mayhem caused by the pandemic.

The Bank of Israel published data last week revealing that Israelis took out NIS 78.1 billion ($23.8 billion) worth of mortgages last year, the largest amount ever for a single year.

The figure represented a 15% increase over 2019.

Home buyers took out slightly over NIS 8 billion ($2.4 billion) in December, the highest figure for a single month besides March.

The record-breaking figures were partly due to conducive tax policies the government put in place toward the end of the year, which spurred real estate investors to make moves, according to the Globes business daily.

December’s figure was 29% higher than the average monthly mortgage rate over the past 12 months, and was 15% higher than December 2019.

Israel’s total mortgage debt outstanding stands at NIS 401.5 billion ($122.6 billion).

The record-setting year comes despite the pandemic, which drove unemployment to historic highs, rocked the stock market and shuttered thousands of businesses.

Israel is currently in its third nationwide lockdown, which has shuttered most businesses and schools, restricted movement and gatherings, and halted international travel.

At the end of December, when the new lockdown was just taking effect, 13.2% of Israelis were unemployed or on unpaid leave. The new lockdown put another 163,104 people out of work, the Employment Service said Sunday.

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