Accommodation in Dubai

There is plenty of expat accommodation in Dubai. Although leasing prices dropped after the market crash of 2008, the property market has slowly started to rebound with the market showing a trend of prices stabilising, which is good news for expats moving to Dubai.

While many expats entertain the idea of living in a luxurious Middle Eastern villa surrounded by a lavish courtyard and pool, this type of housing can often be expensive and in high demand. Whether buying property in Dubai or renting, it’s best to temper these dreams of grandeur and to take into consideration a number of factors before searching for accommodation in Dubai.

Depending on their employment contract, expats may find that they are allocated a home by their employer when relocating from overseas. Expats who would prefer to look for their own accommodation can usually request a housing allowance in order to do so. 

Types of accommodation in Dubai

The type of accommodation and associated costs are important factors to consider. Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Dubai, and there are many different styles of housing to choose from, with the main ones being:

  • Apartments – generally don’t have a garden, and may have a balcony

  • Townhouses – are duplex or triplex and have a small garden

  • Villas – freestanding and have a garden

Some areas and suburbs in Dubai are more expensive than others; this is especially true of New Dubai, a collection of suburbs that has been recently developed.

Factors to consider when house-hunting in Dubai

Before picking an area to live in, expats must decide on their priorities and what they’re willing to sacrifice. Each area has its own set of pros and cons and it's recommended that newcomers speak to other expats about their experiences. Other factors to consider include:

  • Commute times to work and to local schools for those with school-aged children

  • Congestion and noise level in the area

  • Proximity to shops and restaurants

  • Which areas are popular with expat communities

It’s also important to bear in mind that because Dubai has grown so rapidly, some residential areas are still being finished off, which means not all the planned facilities (pools and parks) may actually be complete. This will often be reflected in the rental prices, so while getting more for one's money in a place that is not yet finished, it will mean the possibility of having to live with some inconvenience in the short-term.

Finding accommodation in Dubai

It’s helpful to hire a real estate agent in Dubai, but it’s also possible to peruse the online classifieds or even just drive through areas of interest and look out for 'To Let' signs.

Expats using an agent to find accommodation in Dubai should make sure the chosen individual is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) to minimise their exposure to risk and red tape. There have been reports of unsuspecting expats being duped by illegitimate agents, so it's best to check the agent's credentials before dealing with them.

Other expats have migrated to the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah, where rents are considerably less, but this involves commuting (approximately 30 minutes by car). 

Signing a lease in Dubai

In order to rent an apartment in Dubai, expats require a residence visa. When signing the lease, prospective tenants will need to present a copy of their residence visa and passport, and proof of income from their employer. 

Many landlords in Dubai will demand the entire year of rent be paid up front, in addition to a security deposit. If this is a financial possibility, expats should use it to gain leverage over the landlord and try and bring the price down.

When signing a lease for accommodation in Dubai be sure to pay attention to additional maintenance charges, such as fees for the general upkeep of the gardens and building, as well as the landlord’s responsibilities. Utilities are often not covered by the rent, so be sure to factor in the addition of these costs to the monthly budget, as well as the agent fees, which the tenant is responsible for paying.

Expats should try sign a renewable lease, and then notify the landlord accordingly when ready to leave, rather than having to engage in the house hunt all over again after 12 months.

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