Rick Guy is a big fan of The Old Town apartments – the series of low-rise blocks arranged around the outside of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard in Emaar’s Downtown Dubai master-planned community. Well, sort of.
Mr Guy, a British property professional, has developed a sideline in buying properties in the community, ripping out the fittings, upgrading them and selling them on.
He says The Old Town has a lot to offer. “You’re a five-minute walk from Dubai Mall, you’re on the Boulevard, you have the Opera House, numerous restaurants.”
The Old Town buildings, meanwhile, are a rare thing in that most are three-storey buildings, and even the taller mid-rise apartments are no higher than about eight storeys.
“It’s the only development in Downtown that is low-rise, and you’re certainly not going to get any more because the [land] values are so high that you have to go up so many storeys to make it stack up,” says Mr Guy.
In pictures: See how Mr Guy has refurbished the apartment
For the property developer, there are only two downsides to the area: the traffic and the original decor.
This is where Mr Guy has found his niche, having converted four apartments in The Old Town and a property at Emirates Hills.
The Old Town conversions have all been similar in style, although each one is tailored to the individual property.
His latest is a 1,354 square feet, two-bedroom property on the sixth floor of a Reehan community building, on the market for Dh3.7 million with Dubai-based agency Ascot & Company. “Apart from the tiles underneath the floor, there isn’t a square inch that hasn’t been ripped out and changed. All of the ceilings are new, the bathrooms are new, and they’re all marble,” he says.
Kitchen spaces are also opened out to create a brighter kitchen/dining area with a breakfast bar, and in the bathrooms baths have been removed and replaced with wet rooms.
Rick Guy tells Michael Fahy about the rationale behind his refits:
What are you looking to achieve with these refurbishments?
I naturally go for a western, modern, quite simple and light look. I’ve seen what sells in London and I’m trying to do the same here in Dubai. It really is just a case of opening it up, making it feel bigger and getting in a lot more natural light.
Who would live in a house like this?
If someone wanted a pad in Downtown which is a good size, a good layout with a full Burj Khalifa view, they can just walk in here, drop their bags and turn the TV on. The difficulty I’ve found is that a lot of the people who like these are end users. End users often come with a mortgage, and mortgages sometimes can’t stack up at the value that we are looking to sell.
Why is that?
In London, if you buy somewhere and it is substantially [upgraded], a valuer will look into what work appliances have been put in, what finishes have been put in, etc, and they take that into account. Here, they just look at the last four or five sales that have been completed, take an average and put that as the value. It’s a risk-averse approach to take.
Why do you change kitchens?
Sometimes there is a culture if you have staff cooking for you of having the kitchen segregated. But I don’t think that’s really the case in the Old Town. I open up the kitchen and create more space.
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