x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Nightmare in Dubai – I can’t avoid moving home

Just for a minute I thought I had found a way to avoid moving home in Dubai. But no such luck.

The nightmare of moving home has begun. As I wrote last week, about the only form of therapy I have in this awful process is to communicate with you, dear reader, so here goes.

I am due to move in the second week of February, and already a quick search on the internet in my favoured locations – Dubai Marina or its environs – shows a distinct lack of available properties, with the ones that are suitable a huge mark-up on my present rent: 50 per cent on average.

This was dispiriting to say the least, but then late last week, a ray of light.

I read in a well-respected UAE newspaper that, as the Dubai law was currently set up, maybe I had some leeway on the moving deadline after all.

Ownership of my current apartment – a nice three-bedroom flat on the 44th floor of a Marina tower block with stunning views – has changed hands several times in 2013, the last in July. A property expert said that the new landlord had to give me 12 months’ notice from the date of purchase to quit the property.

Well this was a straw at which to clutch. The immediate imperative to move would be lifted, and another property might be more freely available next summer. I saw a glimmer of light.

But it was quickly blotted out. The new landlord, who I have to say has been reasonable and understanding throughout the past six months, was adamant: he had been to the Rent Committee, and had been advised that my February deadline to quit was still valid.

A visit to Rera, the property regulator, was equally depressing. The authority could not advise on the law, and the only way to test it would be to bring a case against my landlord at the Rent Committee. If I lost, this would cost me several thousand dirhams in fees.

I don’t want to waste time or money on bringing a case, so it seems I’m back to square one: I have to get out, with wife, child, furniture and the rest, by the middle of next month.

This is only the first lurch on the emotional roller coaster of the Dubai property market, I suspect.


The other side of the renewed Dubai real estate boom, of course, is the fortunes that developers and landlords are making. Nobody knows this better than Damac, the upmarket developer that has come through the crisis successfully and has gone on to better things.

In its heyday before the crash, Damac was renowned for its marketing methods, called “gimmicks” by some and “advanced promotional techniques” by others, like giving away a BMW to each lucky buyer of a glitzy Damac apartment.

One of the company’s achievements in 2013 was to successfully apply for a listing on the London Stock Exchange. It did this in the form of global depositary receipts (GDRs), which are a form of quasi-equity without a lot of the hassle straightforward equity brings in an initial public offering.

The GDRs have done pretty well since they came on the London market in early December. Yesterday they were trading at US$15 each, a healthy increase on the $12.25 listing price. One reason for the increase was a research note from analysts at Deutsche Bank, one of the advisers to the issue, which labelled Damac GDRs a “buy” and put a target price of $16.90 on them.

I had a quick chat with a London adviser to Damac, who was obviously pleased with the way things had gone for the GDRs.

So pleased in fact that he was able to quip: “Of course, the real reason they’ve done so well is that investors get a free Maserati with every GDR.”

Joking of course.