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
After 20 years of renting, Toufic Hobeika and his wife Iryna Zinenko finally found their dream five-bedroom home in Dubai Hills for Dh5.3 million.
The couple chose the villa in Sidra 1 during the neighbourhood’s launch in 2016 but were unhappy with the finished result. In mid-2019 they started a nine-month remodelling of the entire interior costing Dh3.5 million.
After finally leaving their rented Palm Jumeirah penthouse in February 2020, the couple and their three daughters made themselves at home in the Dubai Hills community, enjoying their 12-metre lap pool and a Dh1.3 million kitchen.
Mr Hobeika, 42, an entrepreneur, has received offers of up to Dh18 million to sell the 660-square metre property but has no intention of leaving any time soon.
Here, Mr Hobeika and Ms Zinenko invited The National to explore their spacious family home.
Please tell us about your home
The plot size itself is 7,100 square feet (660 square metres) and the built-up area is now 5,200 square feet (483 square metres) after we extended the original bedrooms.
We’d been in Dubai for 20 years, saving for our dream home. We picked the plot and the design but when the house was built the finishings didn’t inspire us. We spent around nine months on renovations to make sure everything was perfect.
We wanted something a bit more upscale, minimalist and modern so we stripped it down back to the shell and core and we changed everything.
Everyone was telling me that I’d never make my money back but I didn’t do it for investment purposes. This is the house we're going to live in for an extended period and I want to feel really at home.
We also like to entertain people, so it was important for us to have properly equipped kitchens and plenty of space. It wasn’t an issue for us to spend almost as much on renovations as the cost of the house itself.
What made you buy your own property?
I've been here for 23 years now, and I fell in love with Dubai a long time ago.
I wanted to put down roots because I think we're going to be living here for the rest of our lives.
When you rent, you feel like you're always on the move. We’d been evicted before and we wanted to live somewhere that we feel stable.
We love it and I wanted to own a house that our children can grow up in.
Why did you choose this area?
We took a long time to decide where to buy because nothing really inspired us until this community was built, and now we love Dubai Hills.
We like the minimalist cube-like designs of the houses and the location itself is very well connected.
There are plenty of highly rated schools and the community is lovely; you almost feel like you’re living in a village.
It’s far away from the buzz of Dubai yet it’s still walking distance from Dubai Hills Mall and anything else we might need.
How did you discover this home?
I was already on the lookout and then I received a newsletter from Emaar about Dubai Hills and the properties that were going to be built there.
We consider Emaar to be very high quality and the delivery times were very quick.
We saw the drawings for the very first phase of Sidra and we liked them, so we decided to investigate further.
How did you find the purchasing process?
I heard that Sidra had around 1,000 villas across three phases, so I assumed we had plenty of options.
We didn’t go to the opening day of sales as I thought it would be crowded but when we went to inquire a couple of days later, we found out that everything from phase 1 was sold on the first day.
When the next phase was released, we were ready and we were given half an hour to pick our plot from the master plan.
It was a bit stressful but it shows how robust the market is in Dubai.
What gains are there from owning rather than renting?
When you have a family with three kids, stability is important.
Over the years we’ve seen that people who invest in real estate in Dubai end up making money, so if you can afford to buy then why not?
The rental yield here is one of the highest in the world, which means the rent is very high compared to the purchase price.
For me, it makes sense to buy and then you can also spend money on renovation and make the house feel personalised to you.
What renovations did you carry out?
We changed everything on the inside and I project managed the whole thing to get it exactly how we wanted.
The original kitchen was pretty small, so we sacrificed a second living area and extended the kitchen to take that space too.
This kitchen is now the central point of the house and it cost somewhere around Dh1.3 million and has a teppanyaki grill station.
We made a lot more open spaces throughout and our bedroom is separated from our bathroom by just a glass door, which we really like.
Outdoors we worked extensively on the landscaping. We added a big 12 x 3.5-metre lap pool and put a barbecue smoker in the corner.
I come from Lebanon and my wife is from Ukraine, so we planted lots of fruit trees to make it feel like home.
We have lemon trees, pomegranates, figs and a huge mango tree that grows more than 200 mangos every year.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in Dubai Hills?
There aren’t too many disadvantages to living in Dubai Hills, though I would like it if it was greener.
The problem for buyers now is the prices; they’ve went through the roof. I have brokers calling me every day ready to pay Dh18 million for our villa, which is unbelievable.
They’ve been closing deals on similar houses without upgrades recently for Dh12 million.
It’s a good thing that we’ll eventually get the money back that we spent on renovations, but there’s no number you could put on it that would make me move now.
Will you stay in this property?
We might potentially move in 10 years or so, depending on our financial situation, but at the moment we have no plans to leave.
This isn’t an investment property – it’s our family home and we love it here.