My Own Home takes you inside a reader-owned property to ask how much they paid, why they decided to buy and what they have done with it since moving in
French national Celia Ouali recently bought and moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Dubai’s Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC).
The home in Reef Residency is her second property purchase since moving to the UAE six years ago, having previously lived in Al Ghadeer at the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Ms Ouali, who is single and came to the Gulf 12 years ago, is a French professor at Sorbonne University, in the UAE capital.
She says her new home has more space to entertain friends.
Ms Ouali, 36, showed The National around the apartment.
Tell us about your home
It's on the 33rd floor and has two bedrooms plus a maid’s room, with floor-to-ceiling windows… I bought it mostly for the view. It’s extremely spacious.
It is 156 square metres with three bathrooms and a guest toilet. The building is five years old and I paid Dh1,160,000 (about $315,800).
What made you buy your own property?
I prefer being a home owner. It’s not necessarily just that it makes financial sense, even if I think that long term it does make sense. It’s more about the feeling that it gives.
I was lucky, it was the first one I saw and I liked it. After that, I saw others and didn’t like them as much. This apartment was rented short term so was already decorated and colourful.
I could see myself in it, it was already very welcoming. And the view I have means I can see Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai Marina, Burj Al Arab, and Burj Khalifa from the apartment.
Why choose this area?
For the price. I trust Dubai’s future, but also my feeling is, the higher the cost of the property, the higher the risk of losing in case it devalues.
Also JVC is still close (enough) to Abu Dhabi.
Choosing where we live is the most important decision in life, so I don’t necessarily choose from a rational point of view. Even if it’s far from work, this is where I feel good.
How did you discover this home?
There were not many apartments for sale on the higher floors. People (tend to) buy and keep them. I think the last two-bedroom apartment sold was two years ago, so when I saw the opportunity, I took it. I thought it was a good deal and a good moment to buy.
I’ve always browsed property portals on the internet, keeping track of the market. I was not necessarily looking, but I was browsing until an opportunity came. This one had everything I wanted so I came to visit on March 8, and signed for it on April 30. I got the keys on June 10.
Where were you living before?
I was in a terraced apartment in Al Ghadeer, between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Very quiet, very calm, a lot of nature.
But for maybe eight months I had been feeling that I had outgrown it and I wanted to go back to the city. It had one bedroom, I needed more space and a bit more energy. I hesitated between renovating, making it new, or moving somewhere else.
Technically the rent I get from that apartment covers my fixed fees here; the service charges, electricity and everything, are more expensive because it’s bigger.
How do you find the purchasing process?
Because I’m a single woman it can be quite challenging to deal with estate agents, they tend to sometimes infantilise me as if I don’t understand things. Buying my first apartment… I feel more empowered to negotiate on my own terms. At the end I’m the one in a position of power, the one who wants to buy.
I don’t have a loan, I bought with cash. I always had nice salaries and always saved.
I negotiated and managed to knock Dh50,000 off the asking price to cover the expenses, but it took two months to close the sale, so I lost two months of rent from the other apartment. In property, time can be money.
What are the benefits of owning rather than renting?
There is a big mental benefit, to have a sense of home when we live in cities like Dubai; to feel that we belong, to feel grounded, that we don’t need to change houses every year if we get evicted.
If there is a problem with maintenance, the AC, there’s more control, I fix it myself, I don’t wait for someone. French people are very into DIY - when we know how our environment works, we feel more at home.
The second benefit, of course, is that I can have an investment, although the choice of property needs to make sense financially. I haven’t taken risks, because this money would be thrown at rent anyway.
What upgrades are you planning?
For me, lifestyle is a lot about what you do inside the home. The neighbourhood does not matter as much.
I have a budget of Dh45,000. I will redo the kitchen, some projects, hire someone to do decorative plaster mouldings to make it look a bit like a Parisian apartment. And a built-in library in the living room.
I bought some furniture from the other place, but was also lucky because this apartment came with furniture that I liked and each bedroom came with a TV. If I need extra cash, I can rent the other bedroom on Airbnb.
Are there advantages to living in JVC?
I like the convenience, that it’s growing, it’s very close to the motorway. I am new so I don’t spend much time in the area, I always drive to Downtown or to Abu Dhabi.
The traffic in the morning can be quite heavy, but it depends on at what time you leave. And living in big towers is noisy. The insulation is not that good, so I hear my neighbours.
Will you stay in this property?
I buy to redecorate, to create projects, not just from an investment perspective.
I will take care of it and I will outgrow it. It’s just a stepping stone. Also, I’m planning on meeting the love of my life, getting married and choosing a property with him.
My big dream is to renovate a castle in the south of France, so I’m getting some training on Dubai apartments.