My quest to buy a property in the UAE hit a slightly sour note this week. After picking my dream off-plan development and speaking at length to the real estate agent on the phone, I arranged to meet her.
However, I was grossly unprepared for what lay ahead. Rather than the dozens of properties I was led to believe were available, I discovered there were in fact just two. And rather than the rather reasonable prices quoted over the phone, there appeared to have been a Dh250,000 rise in the 15 minutes it took me to drive to the meeting.
Add in the fact, the agent appeared to know very little about the development, or what the property would be overlooking, – “it could be a monorail but it will be fairly far away”, she told me vaguely – and you can see why my feet were starting to feel very cold.
There was also a rather large blank space to the side of the property and no one had any idea what would fill it. “But it won’t be a skyscraper,” the agent said breezily as if that solved all my worries.
For all I knew the latest mega mall could be built there, or worse the largest F1 circuit in the world. Suddenly buying my own UAE home felt like a giant leap in the dark.
Where I come from, sellers are required to disclose detailed information. Area searches are carried out by the local authority and a surveyor assesses the property’s condition.
By the end of that process, the buyer not only knows about the 10-screen multiplex due to be built next door but even has a good idea what the area’s pollution levels are, what the risk of subsidence or flooding is and even whether or not the neighbour to the right hosts ear bashing parties every Friday night.
However the situation seemed quite the opposite at this meeting.
Matters really came to a head when I was asked to shell out a 40 per cent deposit there and then to secure my chosen property. “Now?” I asked, jokingly.
“Yes, now,” the agent replied, nodding her head as if it was obvious. I thought I was there to have a chat about what was available. I didn’t even have a credit card on me, let alone a cheque book.
Call me a naïve investor, but not many people I know walk around with a 40 per cent deposit nestled in their bank account. You need to make a couple of calls, move money around; it can take a week or more.
But it seems I am wrong. The reason for the agent’s apparent disinterest in my tiny sums of cash was a previous buyer who had sauntered in and bought two blocks of these homes. Not one house but more than 40. How can I compete with that?
For this agent, and many more across the UAE, a buyer like myself must seem small fry compared to the big investors. In their eyes if you can’t turn up ready to buy something you know absolutely nothing about – then you needn’t bother turning up at all.