Photo Credit: Lior Mizrahi / Flash 90
A completed apartment building complex in southern Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood,, photographed in December 2015.

The housing market in Israel is continuing to slow down, with sales of new homes down 20.4 percent in the period from March 2017 to February 2018, as compared with the period a year prior (March 2016 to February 2017).

The number of new homes sold from December 2017 to February 2018 was down 7.8 percent (5,180) in seasonally adjusted figures, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. In February 2018, 1,622 new housing units were sold – seven percent fewer than the 1,747 sold the previous month, and 10 percent fewer than the 1,808 sold in December 2017.

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These figures, however, are not reflected in the number of mortgages that were taken in the month of March 2018 – the highest in a year. In March, 7,802 mortgages were taken, compared with an average of 6,835 over the past 12 months.

But before the smiles get too wide, bear in mind that some of the surge is probably due to the fact that many people were getting their deals done before the start of the Passover holiday.

Moreover, the increase came in the number of deals, rather than in the size of the deals themselves, according to Globes. Figures published Sunday by the Bank of Israel showed new mortgages in March totaled NIS 5.2 billion, 14 percent more than the monthly average over the past year. But the average interest rate on fixed-rate shekel-denominated mortgages remained unchanged at 3.82 percent and the average interest rate on fixed-rate index-linked mortgages dropped to NIS 3.27 percent in March from 3.35 percent in February.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.