Posted on 10-09-2013
I originally was born and raised in the wonderful city of Sharjah (please hold your gasps till the end), and after 20+ years of living there decided that enough was enough and I needed to move to Dubai. After all, I worked there, shopped there, had friends there, went out there, and pretty much spent the rest of my time driving up and down from Dubai to Sharjah. So finally a few years ago I moved in with my sis into a wonderful villa. Fast forward to today, and it’s getting a little bit cramped in here. So bravely and with sheer determination, I have begun my search for a place of my own.
Now ask anyone in Dubai and they’ll tell you that if you’re looking for anything, the first thing you should to is go to dubizzle.com. Dubizzle is like the Middle East craigslist, except you can’t sell a bong or look for a third person to join you in your bathtub. So I spent an entire afternoon scouring the 28+ pages of apartments to rent on dubizzle. Now of course I have a budget in mind, and initially I think my expectations were a bit too high because all the places I saw listed gave me a serious inferiority complex when compared to what was actually in my bank account. But a few clicks later, I was pleasantly surprised – at least 28 properties were available to rent that were in decent locations and actually in my budget. This pretty much describes how I felt at that moment:
I then promptly scribbled down all the locations, phone numbers, costs, and everything I needed and closed my laptop feeling quite smug. This property thing wasn’t so hard after all – I just had to spend a day calling up these numbers and driving out to see the properties.
So on a bright and early Saturday last week, I woke up early, had a good breakfast, and hopped in my car, eager to kick off my house-hunting. I glanced a little apprehensively at the 19 properties I had written down, which were dotted all over parts of Dubai. Still, I was determined to see as many of these as possible – after all, what could possibly go wrong? I confidently dialled the first number on my list.
Me: Hi, yes – I’m calling regarding an ad I’ve seen for a studio apartment?
Realtor: Oh that place I rented out long time ago, 3 months back.
Me: Er – you did? Then why is the ad still online?
Realtor: Oh I guess I forgot to delete it.
And that’s exactly how it went for almost half of the listings I had written down. “Sorry sir, just went.” ”Oh I forgot I had listed that!” “That unit not available, but I have 3 bedroom instead?” I wondered who in the nine hells had given these people a brain or a realtor’s license. I move on to the next batch of properties and am relieved to find that the place is available and the realtor is more than happy to meet me there to show me the place. I drive out to my first point and arrive on time. I shove my car into the parking and bound up the building steps to meet the grinning realtor. We chat about the somewhat depressing location but he cheerfully adds that the sand around us will soon be transformed into bustling properties – in 10 years. We head up to the 27th floor where the studio is, and he throws open the door of the apartment.
At that point in time I would have loved to walk in two people fornicating on the polished tiled floor, but what I walked into was far worse. Standing right there in the tiny kitchen was a man signing an agreement contract with another realtor. He looked up at the two men who had just charged into his new apartment, and all we could do was stare dumbfoundedly. Before my realtor could even say anything, I spun around and punched the elevator button, wishing instead I could open the elevator doors and just jump down the elevator shaft.
My next realtor promised me a fantastic studio in Jumeirah Village Circle, so I promptly drove over to locate it. Now having been to JVC only once in my life, I wasn’t too sure of the roads and so was relying on Google Maps on my phone to give me directions. Unfortunately, Google decided to tell me to take a particular exit exactly 5 seconds after I zoomed passed it. To say I was pissed off would be an understatement, but what really peeved me off was when the phone blurted out “In 9 kilometers, take the U-turn“. Yes, that’s what you get for missing your exit on Dubai roads. Eventually I did take the bloody U-turn and pulled into JVC. I rang up the realtor for further directions and his response was as follows:
Me: Okay, so I’m parked in JVC at the entrance, where do I go from here?
Realtor: Where are you now?
Me: Just at the entrance, I’ve literally just come in.
Realtor: Okay, you see security box nearby?
Me: Yes – there’s a security box nearby
Realtor: Okay, just go to security, and tell him which building you want to go to and he will give you directions
Rather than express my frustration by driving through the security box, I pull up to it and discover it’s empty. I call a friend of mine who lives in the area and he helpfully guides me to an area where he thinks the building is. I drive over and after a few circles, fail to find it. I ring the realtor again:
Me: Hello, yes I still can’t find the building – can you give me any directions?
Realtor: Actually sir, I can’t give you directions because I don’t know where the building is…
Me: Sorry, what?
Realtor: Yes sir, I’ve not actually been there so I don’t know where this building is…
I hang up silently and make the adult choice to stay calm. I spot a new-ish looking building to my right and frantically call the mobile number that’s plastered across the side of the building.
Me: Hello? Yes I’m calling regarding apartments in the building in JVC?
Realtor: Ah yes, but that building currently under construction sir.
Me: Er, no, no it’s not, it’s finished.
Realtor: No sir, still under construction sir.
Me: No, I can see people walking in and out of it and there is laundry in the balconies.
Realtor: Oh, so they finished construction already?
And that was the end of that conversation. The rest of the places I saw were either magically no longer available (“You must be quick sir, property is going fast fast!“) or was just plain awful. I drove out to my last stop for the day in the middle of the afternoon, praying that this would bring me even a glimmer of good news. I met with the realtor at the building entrance, and he chatted to me on the ride up in the elevator.
Realtor: This sir, is great studio, last unit we have in this building. There is car parking also down, and below three restaurants also. Many people interested in this studio also, so you let me know if you like it sir, okay? Easy payment, only 25k in 6 checks..
Er – 25k in 6 checks? With something that sounded that good I knew there had to be something wrong. And boy was I in for a treat – unlocking the studio door, this is what greeted us:
Nothing quite says “Home sweet home” than seeing a bed that’s been the victim of a ferocious roman orgy. I gingerly walked around the tiny studio, covering the space front door to the back wall in five strides. In the bathroom four square tiles outlined the skimpy stand-in shower, and if I sat on the toilet and turned to my right, I would knee the bathroom sink. This must be what solitary confinement in jail must feel like.
So I’ve taken just a tiny break from househunting this week so that I don’t scream in frustration. Although to confess I did see a landlord about a place in Al Barsha today, but after showing me the place he then chose to reveal he was only renting it out to married people or families. THEN WHY THE HELL ARE WE LOOKING AT IT YOU CRETIN?
At the end of the day, what frustrates me the most are the idiotic realtors. I don’t think they should regulate the rents in Dubai – they should regulate the realtors, so that no one with an IQ of 62 is EVER put in charge of a property.
Care to share your property horror stories in the comments below?