Renting a home in Dubai: why the grass isn't always greener elsewhere

Why sometimes staying put is the best option

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 09 APRIL 2019. Standalone picture of buildings reflected in the water pools of The Greens in Dubai for Weekend Cover. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: Weekend.
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My name is Farah Andrews and I am addicted to searching for new homes. It may seem harmless enough, the odd click on Property Finder here, a Bayut search and Dubizzle browse there. But I worry that it gives me a sense that the grass is always greener in another community, which is ironic because I live in The Greens.

Some people binge-watch Netflix shows and others while away their evenings on their PS4. Me? I can lose hours clicking through potential homes. Do I want to live in Satwa? Relocate to Umm Suqeim? Embrace Palm Jumeirah living? Or up sticks and move to Jumeirah Village Circle?

The problem is – and please take the word "problem" with a sizeable pinch of salt – there is always somewhere new popping up in Dubai. These shiny, untouched communities catch my eye and within the time it takes me to browse three or four sleek apartments, most of which are way out of my price range, I have started dreaming about what it would be like to pack up my home and settle into somewhere new. This only makes my worries about that lush, green, well-watered grass being better than where I am now more acute.

Most recently, Dubai Hills has caught my eye. What looks like an entire city seems to be under construction off Al Khail Road. Villas, apartments, parks, hospitals, hotels and a mall – it seems to have it all. So, naturally, I have been browsing through the homes and have mentally made the move 20 minutes inland, am already running around the Mulberry and Park Heights buildings and spending my evenings at The Duck Hook.

A villa in Dubai Hills. Courtesy Luxury Property
A villa in Dubai Hills. Courtesy Luxury Property

Then I have to remind myself that I don't go running on the lakeside running track outside my current home, so a residential relocation probably won't increase my motivation.

My searches are not limited to homes for rent. I go through waves of regretting not having tried to buy a home when I first moved here, telling myself that I have thrown hundreds of thousands of dirhams down the drain in the eight years I have been living in the UAE. My inner monologue (which can be very chatty) then reminds me that paying for somewhere to live for the best part of a decade is not money wasted. But perhaps it would have been nice to have invested it.

The browsing then switches to fictional places to buy, which is often not helped by my colleagues at The National producing galleries that take us inside some of the glitziest mansions the city (and has to offer.

The Palm Jumeirah villa that Chris Hemsworth "moved into" in his September Bayut campaign costs a tidy Dh24 million, but you could rent it for Dh750,000 … sure, that's about Dh700,000 per year more than I pay right now, but if I clubbed together with friends, could that five-bedroom, beachfront dream be a reality? No, no it could not, Farah.

A property on Palm Jumeirah dubbed the 'Hemsworth villa'. Courtesy
A property on Palm Jumeirah dubbed the 'Hemsworth villa'. Courtesy

But, I digress, enormously. There is no doubt that Dubai is a renter’s city, which is what feeds into the possibility of packing up and moving, whether it’s across town, into a new community or just across the hallway. Perhaps I am lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to the ease of moving.

Rents are dropping and I could, in the long run, save a few dirhams

The (oft-ignored) rational half of my brain knows that moving house is comparable to losing your job or the breakdown of a relationship on the stress scale. Why on earth, then, am I tempted to volunteer for that stress on an annual basis? It is also that half of my brain that knows looking around is wise. Rents are dropping and I could, in the long run, save a few dirhams, which is what we're all ultimately striving to do here, right?

Ultimately, however, it's the lazy half of my brain that will win. She knows packing up everything I own, then re-registering my Dewa, Ejari and du would be a headache. Is a new park to (not) run around worth that? 

The renter's itch, as I am going to dubiously refer to it, is a problem. But we all need to remind ourselves that while the grass may be greener in that sleek new out-of-town community, if we commit to watering the lawn (or the plants on my balcony) it could be every bit as green where we are living now.