'Price not found", or a "villa" with no location given. For anyone who has ever hunted for a flat in Abu Dhabi - online, in print or on foot - vague ads spawning a seemingly endless hunt for housing can be one of the capital's more frustrating experiences. Thanks to a new government initiative, it may also be a hassle of the past.
As The National reported yesterday, Tawtheeq, a new system created by the emirate, will streamline the process of finding, registering and contracting leasable properties. Within six months, all property owners will have to register their units in the system. Consumers should be the immediate beneficiaries.
"The aim is to provide the services to the community with the least effort and the least inconvenience," said Ali al Hashimi, Tawtheeq's project manager. "It will be easy to accomplish all rental transactions with ease, in the convenience of residents' own homes."
Over time, the system is expected to save the Government money in auditing costs. It is also hoped that a single clearinghouse for rental agreements will bring a level of consistency to contracts.
Transparency in the rental market is not only good for those looking for a place to hang their hat. It's also crucial for investor and consumer confidence. In Dubai, a similar system - Ejari - has helped protect the rights of both tenants and landlords by providing easy access to contract and pricing terms. Over time this has given consumers greater buying power.
Renters in the capital have not always been as fortunate. As Jessie Downs, the head of research at Landmark Advisory, told The National two years ago: "The majority of landlords in Abu Dhabi are remaining very stubborn on pricing. It is worsening the housing shortage in the capital." Allowing easy access to detailed market information could help re-balance expectations.
In its most recent profile of the capital's real estate market last April, the marketing company Jones Lang LaSalle reported that transparency and consumer protections remain shortfalls in the capital's competitiveness in the property sector. Among the steps recommended to improve this deficiency were "sharing of accurate market information" and "greater enforceability of contracts". Tawtheeq is a step in both these directions.