We've just arrived in Abu Dhabi and begun searching for a home to rent. Even though my husband works in the capital, would Dubai be a better option, with more choice and lower rents?
Prioritise when picking a home
We've just arrived in Abu Dhabi and begun searching for a home to rent. The more I read and hear, however, the more confused I'm becoming about where to look. Even though my husband works in the capital, would Dubai be a better option, with more choice and lower rents? Of course, it'd be better if he doesn't have to commute. We have a two-year-old and will need to think about nursery school for him next year. What should my priorities be?
As you've noted, finding your ideal home in Abu Dhabi is a challenge. Even in the current climate, demand for good-quality residential accommodation still exceeds supply. However, with an increase in Abu Dhabi's population, as well as the volume of commuter traffic from Dubai, journey times have increased significantly and a number of our clients living in Dubai are finding their commute a struggle.
Remember that living in one city and working in another also restricts the amount of social interaction you will have with colleagues, possibly making it more difficult to integrate. If you subsequently decide the commute is too much and you wish to relocate to Abu Dhabi, the move can be quite an upheaval for any small child who has established friends and a routine. Much depends on the type of property you are considering. Prices for villas and larger, family flats are quite similar in both cities; the real difference comes for smaller units like studios and one- or even two-bedroom apartments, of which there is a lack of supply in Abu Dhabi and an excess in Dubai.
List your must-haves, such as outdoor space, parking, number of bedrooms, maid's room, and prioritise these into those you cannot live without and those on which you are prepared to compromise. You'll inevitably find that friends and family visit soon after your arrival, but this does wane so consider whether it's wise spending money on a property that exceeds your requirements (a commonplace mistake).
A good brief will help your leasing consultant find the most suitable property. While you can undertake your own search, an agent who has good contacts with local landlords and excellent market knowledge will know what is becoming available. Many popular buildings are snapped up before they can be marketed. When considering locations, remember that areas evolve surprisingly quickly here and if you intend be an expat for the medium to long term, look at what is coming to your area in the near future. To help focus your search, drive around and familiarise yourself with different areas and their distances from some of the key locations such as the main malls, the airport, restaurants and beaches, as well as schools and workplaces.
Even though your son hasn't started school yet, you must plan for it. Proximity to good educational facilities is a must and areas off the island, such as Khalifa A, offer a great selection. Also consider outside space in which he can run around - for eight months of the year the climate is very pleasant. Some newer villa compounds have excellent children's facilities on-site, which will give him the chance to mix with other young children. And, of course, having a young family immediately opens many doors socially. Many of these compounds are located off the main island, making rents slightly cheaper. For example, a three-bedroom town house can be rented for Dh230,000 per year. Good road links into the city mean that journey times from these off-island areas can often be quicker than commuting across central Abu Dhabi.
When viewing properties, consider the following: Always check the air conditioning system - central air-conditioning is more economical than window units or split air-conditioning. Access to a car is important and this should be a decisive factor because parking can be an issue. If you view a property during the day, make sure you go back to the building in the evening to see how congested the area is before you decide. Typical rent for parking spaces is an additional Dh15,000 per year.
Very few buildings include white goods or kitchen appliances, so factor that into your budget or look for a building that does offer them. Is there construction adjacent or does it look as if there may be? Abu Dhabi is rapidly growing and a new tower being built next to your bedroom could affect your sleep for at least a year. Wherever you choose, remember that this is likely to be an entirely new lifestyle with different demands (and benefits) - and, above all, be prepared to adapt.
* Emily Davies was talking to Andrea Menown, the leasing manager at LLJ Property, Abu Dhabi; 02 495 0500; www.lljproperty.com