x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Property-wise, Abu Dhabi is looking up

When I was house-hunting in 2008, there was little available in the capital, but helping a friend look for accommodation recently, it seems things have improved in Abu Dhabi.

"You never had it so good," the former British prime minister Harold Macmillan condescendingly told the public in 1957, referring to the country's economic bounce back from the harsh austerities of the post-Second World War years.

I couldn't help thinking about this phrase as I spent last weekend kindly accompanying a friend who was hunting for a new apartment. A little more than three years ago, this same pal and I were on the same quest, although that time I was the home seeker and he was the guide.

This was back in those turbulent times of 2008, when Abu Dhabi's F1 ambitions and nascent property boom meant thousands were eyeing up the capital as a place to live, yet supply was being overlapped by demand. With all the good places already inhabited or way out my price range, newbies to the city such as me were left scrapping over the dregs.

After weeks of infuriatingly unsuccessful searching, I was forced to settle for a top-floor studio flat in a divided-up villa in Mushrif. Well, although the letting agent described it as a studio, in reality it was just a room - a really, really small and incredibly shabby room. In fact, it was so grotty, the mould-encased walls and peeling paper made it resemble the kind of place that in hard-hitting US crime dramas, cops break down the door to discover a rotting corpse after neighbours complain about the stench.

I can cope with a certain level of grime, but what almost broke me was the completely erratic water supply. I lost count of the times I'd turn on the taps expecting a torrent, to instead be dealt nothing but air.

Moments later, without fail, the nice South African chap who lived downstairs would knock on my door and we'd climb the ladder to the roof where the water tank sat, then stand there staring at the barren vat. "Something's wrong with the stopcock," we usually agreed.

Thankfully, I've moved on to a better place, and so has Abu Dhabi's property scene. For on our weekend hunt, my friend and I inspected a succession of seriously plush apartments based in newly finished luxury towers. And thankfully, each and every one had an unending supply of H20, while a handful even came equipped with those fridges that have frozen ice on tap. So although the city's still got some way to go before it matches Dubai's tenant-friendly market, if you're on the hunt for homes in the capital these days, you really never did have it so good.