Money & Me: ‘I’d like to be financially independent by 40’

Scott MacFarlane, founder and managing partner of Family Homes DXB, grows his wealth by investing in property and bought his first home at the age of 26

Scott MacFarlane, founder and managing partner of real estate business Family Homes DXB, says his biggest luxury is being in control of his time. Leslie Pableo / The National
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Scott MacFarlane, a British expat, has invested in property in Dubai since 2018.

That is how he sensed an imbalance between estate agents, which register record-breaking transactions and earn millions of dirhams in fees, and families struggling to keep pace with rent increases.

He launched Family Homes DXB, a Dubai-based real estate business, in January to tackle this imbalance.

“We are on a mission to get as many families as possible off the rental cycle and into home ownership if they plan to be in the UAE for three years or more,” says Mr MacFarlane, 35, who moved to the UAE in 2016.

The brokerage has unveiled a scheme in which it offers cashback towards school fees to every family that buys or sells a home.

“We take the 2 per cent broker commission and then refund a percentage of their school fees as a cash payment post completion of the transaction,” says the founder and managing partner.

The cashback's value is pegged to the property purchase price. The more expensive the property, the more money the family receives, he says.

“We’re aiming to help families at the lower end of the scale because those buying property valued between, say Dh2 million [$544,588] and Dh6 million, need the cashback more than families buying at a higher price point.”

Mr MacFarlane studied management at the University of Edinburgh before working in marketing and events for two years in the UK.

He has worked in the education supply sector in Dubai for more than eight years. He is also the co-founder of a travel and events agency for schools in Dubai, with an office in the UK.

Mr MacFarlane lives with his fiancee in Arabian Ranches 2, Dubai.

Did wealth feature in your childhood?

I went to state school in Edinburgh in the UK. My mum and dad both worked in banking at the operational level. I wouldn't say by any stretch of the imagination that we had wealth in the family. We were a working/middle-class family.

I wasn't steered in any particular direction by my parents. I was encouraged to go to university because they did.

I learnt that hard work is required to make any headway in life. That's especially pertinent when you move to a city like Dubai that moves so fast and doesn't sleep.

People typically move here because they're ambitious and prepared to work hard. To compete with that, you need to carry those behaviours, practices and habits with you.

What did your first job pay?

My first annual salary was £17,000 ($21,347) as a marketing executive at the age of 22.

I lived in Edinburgh and worked in Glasgow, so I would travel about 1.5 hours to go to work and the same time to get back.

I knew that I needed to work extremely hard to get to a point where I was comfortable. I wanted to earn enough money to buy a car and later buy a property.

How do you grow your wealth?

I am a big believer in real estate. I bought my first property in Edinburgh in 2015 when I was 26 because I thought renting was a waste of money.

I’ve always been a huge advocate of buying the cheapest property on the best street and making it liveable.

I believe in living in a property for some time, saving up to buy another one and then renting [it out], so I try to buy, hold and then rent. That’s my investment strategy.

I still have a couple of properties in the UK and a few in Dubai as well.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am a saver and a calculated risk taker. I spend money on things that will give me either great experiences or good returns.

For example, I would never buy my tin foil from Spinneys, instead I would buy it from Viva. I’m quite prudent in my spending and search for value.

In 10 years, when I am wealthier than today, I still wouldn’t spend Dh50 on something if I didn’t think it's worth the money.

Have you been wise with money?

Yes. If you make the effort to learn about how real estate can make your money work for you and get into it as early as you can possibly afford to, there’s a good chance that you will be able to stop working for money earlier than if you decide not to.

What has been your best investment?

My apartment in Edinburgh. I lived in it for three years, fixed the mortgage at a good rate and then rented it out. It's barely been empty for the eight years that I've rented it out privately.

It's also appreciated in value quite significantly since I bought it.

Any cherished possessions?

The photograph of my fiancee and I on my bedside table from our first date.

I don’t have any materialistic purchases that I look at every day.

How do you feel about money?

What I value more than anything on this Earth is time and freedom. It’s tough to argue that money doesn't give you options, choice and freedom.

That's why I work so hard because I want to be in control and spend my time as I wish.

I am a saver and a calculated risk taker. I spend money on things that will give me either great experiences or good returns
Scott MacFarlane, founder and managing partner, Family Homes DXB

Any financial advice for your younger self?

There’s a couple of properties that if I had my time again, I probably wouldn't buy, but investing has a little bit of risk attached to it.

You can do all the research and due diligence, but there’s always going to be an element of risk.

Fortunately, I've never been too hampered by any one investment I made.

I also wish I had this knowledge when I was 20.

When I started working for myself, that's probably when I started to research and understand how money works.

Any key financial milestones?

I can't think of a particular milestone. I still own all my shares in the travel and events company that I co-founded in 2012 and work very hard on it.

At some stage, there will be a plan to sell a portion or all of it, to try to get back some of our investment of time over the years. However, we're in no rush.

What luxuries are important to you?

Being in control of your own calendar. Things like fast cars and fancy watches don't interest me.

If I ever get to the stage where I can have those things as well as choice, freedom and time to spend with my family and friends, then it’d be awesome.

I much more value being able to do and work on the things that I'm passionate about, rather than buying fancy things.

What are your financial goals?

I'd like to become financially free in the next five years. I want to get to 40 and have passive income streams and be able to spend the vast majority of my time with family and friends.

I'm always going to have passion projects. I couldn’t see myself lying on a beach for the rest of my life. I would much rather have my brain working.

But being free and having choice by the time I'm 40 would be a wonderful place to be.

Updated: May 17, 2024, 6:02 PM