Finding a home in Dubai: What’s it Like?

to let

Photo for illustration purposes only.

Finding a place to live in Dubai can be a bit stressful – and I’m not just talking about the price. Would be residents have a choice to live in a single detached house, commonly known as a ‘villa’, a flat in an apartment building, hotel apartment or in a room inside a flat or villa to be shared with other tenants*.

Villas, depending on size and location are the most expensive option. Another option would be a  flat in an apartment building which depending on location and room area, rents vary greatly. Be sure to check as you may be surprised it’s more expensive than renting a property back home. Dubai’s property market has gone down with property rent prices slashed to as much as 30% from last year. Too bad for the greedy landlords but good news for us residents. Our apartment is up for renewal next month and we got a notice that the rent is 20% less than what my company paid for last year.

If you drive around Dubai, the “To Let” signs are plentiful, mostly because most of the buildings built during the great construction rush has been completed. Residents are suddenly having many choices on their hands, which is good. Everything has gone down or as my husband says it, “things are slowly turning to normal, Dubai is becoming more realistic.” I still wait for the time the rents will come down more since the properties are still overpriced against factors like building quality, maintenance, apartment size and location.

It’s just ridiculous that the rents here are more expensive than in Tokyo.

Things to check when looking to rent a place (applies mostly to looking for a flat in an apartment building):

  1. Rent – all of the landlords/real estate agents ask for the whole amount to be paid in post-dated cheques. Open a current account at any bank to have a cheque book. For expats negotiating their job benefits, it would be great if you could include it in your salary package so you’ll be safe from future price increases. Times have changed though with more and more companies offering to give home rental allowance monthly than paying for the entire year of rent for one employee.
  2. Security deposit and agent commission – a 5% security deposit, refundable when you leave your flat and a non-refundable 5% agent commission is to be paid upfront when you sign your tenancy contract.
  3. Building age – the irony here is, if the building is new, as in it’s just been completed last month, be careful. There could be leaks here and there and few other surprises. If a building is already at least, say, 3 years old, chances are those little adjustments have been made to make your life easier.
  4. Maintenance – ask the other tenants around how’s the building’s maintenance. They can be good reference for feedback.
  5. Direction of your room – this is a personal preference. We would like our flat to be facing east or north-east and never west. One reason is that, I love to take photos of the sunrise and the other reason is that we don’t like our room to look like it’s 5pm when in fact it’s still 8am.
  6. Balcony – where you can hang your clothes.
  7. Building facilities – some buildings include a public pool and gym.
  8. Mosque – they are loud, 5 times per day. If you are a light sleeper, you might want to check on the location of the nearest mosque to your possible apartment since the first call of prayer is around 5:30 am.

* Dubai Municipality has imposed a stricter policy again sharing flats and villas. Many have been given notices to vacate, especially in overcrowded places – like a flat is intended for a family of 4 with 10-15 people living in it. I can’t really blame the people sharing accommodation with other people. The rents are insane expensive and overly unbalanced compared to what some people earn.


  1. I think its quite stressful to find a home in Dubai. And the things shown here are also essential to remember while finding any home on rent or own.



  2. Wow, more expensive than Tokyo??? I thought that was one of the most expensive places to live in the world!
    And if the checks are post dated… you don’t have to have the money until that time, right? Still crazy that they would require that. Here it’s usually pay first and last month’s rent up front and that’s it. So basically you pay 2 months up front and sometimes a security deposit as well. So that could add up to almost 3 months I guess, but not usually.



  3. You seem to have everything under control in your search for a place to live. You are so organized, it is amazing. I know that you WILL find a place that your employer will agree to pay for because you are a wonderful person and they know that they can’t live without you! Plus you have all of us praying for you – we in the blogosphere are pretty strong when we put our minds to something! 🙂
    .-= Lorie Shewbridge´s last blog ..Blue Monday, Mellow Yellow Monday and Ruby Tuesday All Rolled into One =-.



  4. hi! I e-mailed you a few weeks ago. Anyway, when i read your previous post about the mosque + this article, I immediately sent an SMS to my dad and asked if there’s a mosque near the apartment bldg. Fortunately, there’s none. Whew.



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