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
Kristen Bocanegra and her family began renting a home when they relocated to Dubai from the US seven years ago.
The American, her 45-year-old husband Juan, a former Olympian who works as an IT security specialist, and their eight-year-old daughter Maya fell so much in love with their home in The Sustainable City that they didn't want to move anywhere else.
In February this year, they bought the property from their landlord.
Ms Bocanegra, 46, who also swam competitively, runs a swim coaching business, Tidal Sport Training, in the community and teaches many of the local children.
Here, she takes The National on a tour of her home, which is also shared by the family's adopted three-legged dog, Ra Ra.
How would you describe your home?
It's pretty much a standard four-bedroom corner unit.
It's central, in terms of where everything is. It's a beeline to either the pool or up top.
Every bedroom has a bathroom. We have a maid's room downstairs, which has a bathroom, and an additional bathroom downstairs.
So that's technically five bedrooms, six bathrooms.
Because our nanny lives out, we use the maid's quarters as storage space.
We have a small garden, but there are lots of different open spaces around.
What prompted you to buy the villa?
Security. We rented it for six and a half years and we had talked about buying for the past three or four years. And then we were in a situation where our owner decided to sell.
Spaces that were available to rent here were scarce, people were fighting over them. So that was the time we just had to buy. And it worked out really well.
We’ve been the only people that have lived in this house. We love it, so we basically doubled down and bought it.
How much did it cost you?
We bought at Dh3.65 million. The landlord gave it to us for – at the time, I believe – under market value, because we’ve been here so long.
I checked yesterday and if you go by current valuations for a four-bedroom corner unit, it is worth Dh4.45 million.
Why choose that villa?
They opened The Sustainable City in January 2016. My husband moved out here first, in June of that year. He took and sent two videos, one in Arabian Ranches and the other here, for me to see.
There’s so much light in these houses, like everything is windows. And we happen to be on the corner where the sun gets us most of the day.
I needed as much light as possible, and that’s how we chose the villa.
What advantages are there to this area?
One of the nicest things is we have group residential parking. We have two spots allotted. There are, if you have an electric car, different places you can plug in.
Our two spaces are centralised, so anytime I get in my car, you have to walk by all your neighbours. In the morning, you see them to say hello.
Our car is maybe 100 metres from our house. If you’re carrying a lot of stuff, there are buggies that free-roam the community that you can access anytime.
The primary component to living here is the walkability.
What facilities do you have?
We have a yoga studio, a coffee place, a bunch of different places to eat and a communal gathering area. The weekends can be very vibrant.
There's an enormous amount of green space and two pool facilities – one is a leisure pool and the other is a lap pool.
I have a full-time business and four coaches that work for me. We cover about 170 kids in the community every single week.
There's also a community gym with all glass that looks out into the community and a small football pitch, tennis courts and a community farming area.
We also have a duck pond, an animal sanctuary that has donkeys, turtles and goats, a school, which is amazing. We also have an equestrian centre.
There's a track around the community which you can run, bike or walk on. Then on the outskirts we have a cycle track.
Around the back, it connects directly to Al Qudra, the main cycling track.
Have you personalised the property?
We haven’t done any renovations. We’re not really in any big rush.
Our garden isn’t planted yet. We’ve started our seedlings, but they’re not ready to go in.
We’ve two spaces outside of our villa around palm trees where we usually have our tomatoes and kale and we usually grow beans and jalapeños … all sorts of stuff.
What improvements are planned?
This can be a runaway train. It can very quickly go from, “I've never really liked these cabinets” to: “We need to rip out the whole kitchen.” It can get overwhelming.
There are homeowner groups here that show renovations they've done, and they've been exquisite. We've been here seven years, we haven't done anything.
Are you better off owning versus renting?
We were paying Dh175,000 a year. Rates right now are double that, so the timing was right.
The one place I think, psychologically, we all go to is home for that sense of safety. And to feel like that could have been pulled out from under us at any minute … it was worth investing.
We’re paying a little bit more (per month) now that we own, but we would be paying almost double (the rent) here now.
Do you plan to stay in your home?
We’re not going anywhere.
My business is here, my daughter’s school is here. She rides her bike to school and back. This is the kind of stuff my mum used to talk about when she was young.
It's such a nice feeling as a parent to have that. So we're staying here until she's in college, that's how we're perceiving it right now.
We have our house, so that sense of security is here which is what’s important for me. And it’s important for my daughter that we don’t feel like we’re going to be moved out.
How are your bills?
They’re OK. Light was one of the reasons we chose this place but light is also the death of your AC bill because it can get hot very quickly.
It’s super easy to recycle in different allotted bins. We generate an enormous amount of compostable trash which we compost and then feed into our garden.
We don’t have a service fee here. Maintenance is free; you pay for parts, but the labour is free.