My angst-filled experience of buying a home in the UAE

I've finally decided to buy my own property. And I'm utterly terrified at the prospect

For sale' sign and house outline in grass. Getty Images

After 11 years in the UAE and almost Dh1 million squandered on rent, I have decided to bite the bullet and buy a house.

In a past column, I detailed my frustration with renting – the annual song and dance that I have to undertake as I try to renegotiate with my landlord, the untold amount of money that I have spent maintaining someone else’s investment, and the endless frustrations of living next door to a construction site.

So I have decided that the time is right. I am going to move anyway, so I might as well move into a place that’s mine. By all accounts, it is currently a buyer’s market, so it feels like now is as good a time as any. But, for a certified commitment-phobe, there is nothing more daunting than the idea of being indebted to a bank for the next two-and-a-half decades.

<span>For a certified commitment-phobe, there is nothing more daunting than the idea of being indebted to a bank for the next two-and-a-half decades</span>

Renting offers a level of flexibility that I appreciated in my younger years – the idea that I could swan off somewhere new at any time, with barely a backward glance, appealed to my free-spirited, independent side. But I never did swan off anywhere. I stayed put, made friends, built a career and began to call Dubai home.

More than a decade after arriving as a (relatively) fresh-faced 27-year-old, I feel settled. And as I edge ever-deeper into my late thirties, I’m filled with an unexpected desire to have a home I can call my own, furniture I genuinely love and a garden big enough for my two dogs to play fetch in. It feels like the grown-up thing to do.

Still, I am terrified. I am naturally risk-averse and scared of making the wrong decision. I am wary of real estate agents – are they acting in my best interests, or just trying to squeeze some commission out of me in a challenging market?

The questions mount up: is now really a good time? Am I actually committed to living in Dubai in the long term? Is that house exactly what I’m looking for? Should I hold out in the hope that something better comes along? Is that the best mortgage for me? What does EIBOR actually mean?

This makes house shopping an angst-filled experience. I have been organising viewings and speaking to mortgage lenders (and, in a ridiculous example of jumping the gun, perusing the sales for the perfect sofa for my new home). I have decided to stay in my current neighbourhood and upgrade to a slightly bigger space. You’d think this would make things easy, since all of the villas I am looking at are pretty much identical.

But, I've discovered, this just means you become obsessed with the details. You go searching for the tiny things that differentiate one identikit villa from the next. How high are the bougainvillaea in that garden? Is the lawn natural? How clean are the walls in this house? Are any of the tiles scratched in that kitchen? How are the hinges on those cupboard doors? 

There is the very real possibility that I will drive myself mad in the process of finding my first official Dubai home. But hopefully an awesome housewarming party and brand-new sofa will make it worth my while.