My Own Home: Dog lovers pay off mortgage for Dh900,000 Dubai Production City apartment

Real estate asset manager Chris Romaine and his wife snapped up their two-bedroom home in 2014

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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

Property owner Chris Romaine is a 41-year-old real estate asset manager from the UK who has been in the UAE for 12 years.

He has lived in Dubai Production City – formerly known as IMPZ – for the last 10 years, and prior to that a one-bedroom unit in Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina.

Mr Romaine initially rented a two-bedroom apartment in Production City, and after two years, decided to buy a two-bedroom flat in the same district in 2014.

He has lived there since with his wife and their son, aged three, plus Bruno the pug.

Here, he invites The National to take a brief look around his home, and why Dubai will be his long-term home.

My own home: Chris Romaine bought in Dubai Production City

My own home: Chris Romaine bought in Dubai Production City

What can you say about your home?

Our apartment is in The Crescent Tower C and is 1,380 square feet.

It has two bedrooms and three bathrooms, and is located on the first floor.

Our balcony is connected to the mezzanine level, meaning we can hop over to the playground and swimming pool common areas.

The air-conditioning and Dewa costs average at around Dh1,200 per month.

What prompted you to buy?

Both my wife and I were opposed to the idea of renting, especially as we saw Dubai as our long-term home. Plus, rental prices were already high in 2014.

Also, negotiating with landlords at renewal time is time consuming. At least with buying and taking a mortgage, you are already paying towards your own asset.

We secured a good rate and took only an eight-year mortgage – so it's already paid off.

The knowledge that we own our apartment is reassuring, knowing that nobody can push us out.

How much did your home cost?

Unfortunately, we bought at the peak of the market.

We paid Dh970,000 for our two-bedroom. It lost 50 per cent of its value just after Covid and has been recovering since.

It was a good deal at the time, especially as the Me’aisem City Centre mall was just about to open.

The process was smooth, but it helped that I was already in real estate. I basically directed the deal from start to finish and was fully aware of the costs.

Thankfully, saving for the deposit was easy as I pay our expenses and living costs, and my wife, who is a crew member for Emirates airline, saves her entire monthly salary.

We took 50 per cent finance and put down a 50 per cent deposit.

What attracted you to this district?

I initially found the area from working in property management. An international owner was looking for his two-bed furnished apartment to be managed.

I really like the area, and during my initial inspection decided to invite my wife to see it. She liked it, and I agreed with the owner that we would take it for rent.

We had been looking in all the usual expat hotspots like Marina, JLT, and Downtown.

As my wife would need to get back and forth from the airport, we wanted somewhere affordable and easy for her. Dubai Production City is directly connected to Al Khail Road, so it’s only 30 minutes away from the airport.

Plus, there are always plenty of taxis parked out front of the building.

When we eventually bought, we wanted an uninterrupted view of the lake - there were no plots or development that could go in front of it - and to live on a low floor too, in case of an emergency.

I really like the high ceilings throughout the apartment, adding to the feeling of space.

What else appealed to you about this area?

Convenience was key. Great location, and depending on traffic, it is 20 minutes from nearly all of Dubai.

The master community has a 2.8km running track around two large lakes.

This area is extremely pet-friendly and amazing for walking dogs.

We have utilised that well and having our son…he goes on his little trike. It’s been a nice area for him to grow up in with plenty of space.

Just down the road is Me’aisem City Centre which has a Carrefour hypermarket and several chain shops and restaurants.

The community also has several retail shops located on the ground floor, including barbers, beauty salons, mini supermarkets, takeaway restaurants, and, of course the shopping mall, only 10 minutes walk away.

There is also a bus that travels through Sports City and Motor City and ends up in Mall of the Emirates. This runs every 20 minutes.

Any downsides to the building?

There are predominately studios in the 10 Damac buildings and this puts pressure on the community and its facilities.

Service charges are quite high considering the quality of the building, and the common areas could be maintained better. There are always pros and downsides to these things.

What upgrades have you made to your home?

We certainly made the apartment our own and made various improvements, mainly decorative.

We converted the guest bathroom into a storeroom, as we really didn’t need a third bathroom.

We decorated the bathrooms to be a lot brighter, and the kitchen to our personal taste, and other small things like replacing old light switches and wall sockets make a big difference. We also installed our own chandeliers.

It’s all about creating an ideal environment for yourself.

We plan to move into a villa in the coming few years, so we haven’t really got any more major plans.

What is your apartment worth now?

We bought the property for Dh970,000, and it’s currently worth about Dh750,000. It went down to below Dh500,000 just after Covid.

Although we bought at the peak of 2014, we don’t regret buying when we did. We have already paid off the mortgage because the money we saved on rent went into our asset.

I don’t believe the improvements will add significant value to the apartment. But, because it has been well maintained and looks clean and modern, it certainly will be on the higher end of the market in the area.

It will most likely rent and sell quicker when compared to available stock in the area.

Do you plan to stay there?

We plan to spend two to three more years in the apartment while our son is still young.

Then it’ll be time to finally move to a villa. We will certainly not rent and are saving up to purchase our new long-term Dubai home.

We will probably sell this apartment because, from my experience, I see medium to low value apartments having limited scope of appreciation in Dubai during market downturns.

Will you buy more property?

We actually bought two three-bedroom villas – in Villanova and a new area called Rukan, next to Serena – as investments.

Both are rented out (and) the annual rent pays the mortgages and service charges. We like both enough that if we decide in a couple of years time to move in, then we can.

We will continue to look for more opportunities in Dubai as we have great confidence in the longevity of this country’s economy and future growth.

Updated: October 18, 2023, 1:44 PM