Looking for a flat in Abu Dhabi.
Here we are: Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates! The beautiful (but hot!) weather, the high rise buildings, the shimmering blue sea… the landscape could not be more different than the European one we came from.
After the initial sense of disorientation, our practical gears sprinted again in full motion: we needed an apartment!
But where to start? We knew we wanted a pet friendly flat, maybe with a balcony, and we knew how much we could afford for a yearly rental, but we did not know the city at all.
So, how did we go about it?
1) WE DID A TOUR OF THE CITY
We were advised to ask someone (employer, friend, or even a taxi driver) to bring us for a car tour around the city. It did not have to take long, it did not have to cover the touristy bits and we did not need to stop anywhere. We just went from the Marina mall to Al Reem Island to have a feel for the layout of the streets, to understand the right from left and have a better idea of how the city is laid out on the sea.
We were kindly helped by a colleague who showed us around, pointing the main hospitals, the shopping malls and everything else that could have been important in our decision on where to live.
We also had a small map of the city so we could match up the images out of the car window to the areas on the paper.
2) WE ASKED FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES’ OPINIONS
Everyone has different needs and is ready to compromise on different things, hence we kept an open mind, but people who already went through the process of finding a flat were happy to give us their opinion, which was very helpful.
3) WE SEARCHED ON THE INTERNET
Property websites proved useful, not really to find specific properties, as most of the times the advertised flats are only ‘shop windows’ and are already long gone, but mostly to find out names of estate agents and property advisors to contact.
We started from these two websites:
Dubizzle – basically the Gumtree/Craiglist of the Arab world.
Property Finder – does what it says on the tin.
We were also suggested this website called Bayut, but we never really used it.
We dealt with a gazillion estate agents, but we particularly liked the service provided by the following companies, whose agents really did a great job: (contact details up to date July ’13)
Hayatt Real Estate
with the lovely and extremely efficient Amalia ( email@example.com )
Property Shop Investment
with the very professional and straight-talking Hassan ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Al Zaeem Commercial Brokers
with the very helpful and knowledgeable Ahmed ( email@example.com )
During our search we realised that:
– If you don’t have a car yet, most estate agents are happy to to pick you up/drop you off at your temporary accommodation. If they are not willing to be helpful and do so, it is better not to waste time and money, because they are going to be the kind of people you don’t want to deal with anyway.
– You need a local phone number otherwise you won’t get anywhere. Most agents are not keen to talk via email only but will call you straight away if given a working mobile number.
– Different agents will tell you different things, especially about the average price of properties or the avalability in a specific area. It is always good to shop around and hear different unbiased opinions.
– ‘PET FRIENDLY’ mostly means that small pets are allowed in the property but as soon as someone complains the pet must go, hence it is your job to ensure that your furry friend is well behaved and well liked by your neighbours!
IN CONCLUSION: Looking for a flat in Abu Dhabi has actually been a great opportunity to see the city and better understand its geography. House hunting can be extremely stressful but it gives you an extraordinary insight into the very culture of a country you are unfamiliar with, hence it can be taken as the first great adventure of your new life abroad.