My Own Home: Ultrarunner paid Dh3.5 million for two-bed sanctuary in Dubai's Old Town

Downtown apartment is now worth Dh4 million a decade after she purchased it

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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

Jola Chudy has called the UAE home for almost two decades during which time she launched her PR and communications consultancy.

A recreational ultrarunner in her mid-40s, she shared a villa in Mirdif with friends on first moving into the country, before renting a one-bedroom unit in Old Town, Downtown.

In 2014, Ms Chudy, a Briton who runs Jola Chudy Consulting from home, bought an apartment in the Old Town, which she shares with her son Henry, nine, and two cats.

Ms Chudy showed The National around the two-bedroom sanctuary in the heart of bustling modern Dubai.

My Dubai Home: Peaceful apartment with a large garden hidden in central Downtown

My Dubai Home: Peaceful apartment with a large garden hidden in central Downtown

Do you have previous property ownership experience?

I have been a homeowner since my late 20s; firstly a ‘fixer-upper’ house in West London purchased with my sister, and then an investment flat, also in London.

I always wanted to buy something in Dubai to make a home – as much as spending a lot of time in the beauty of the outdoors is a huge part of my life. I’m currently training for the Marathon Des Sables in April.

It’s equally important for me to be surrounded by a harmonious environment at home, especially as I work from my apartment.

What can you tell us about the place?

My Dubai home is a two-bedroom, three-bathroom corner unit with a private garden that always seems on the verge of going a bit feral. I bought it in early 2014.

I’m fortunate my monthly bills are reasonable and that the area is quiet, despite being minutes away from Emaar Boulevard and Dubai Mall.

If I pop out for a stroll, I am usually greeted by the sight of queues of tourists waiting their turn at the Wings of Mexico statue.

What attracted you to the area?

I fell in love with what the community offered then and continues to deliver: a balance of peace and seclusion, while being right in the thick of things in Downtown Dubai, ‘the centre of now’ as Emaar’s tagline neatly encapsulates the area.

I found the property online originally and, as I was renting in the neighbourhood just around the corner in another block, it was quite easy to make a decision; I knew the area and recognised immediately that this apartment was quite special.

I do wish I had an extra room now that I run my business from home, but it’s not a major regret and I make do.

What inspired you to buy?

Rents in Dubai are high and always seem to be going up.

I did not like to be beholden to a landlord, especially as terms here are based on annual contracts – I wanted to buy as soon as I could to mitigate the cost.

In terms of my sense of place and home, it’s important to make my house a home and as a tenant, there’s only so much you can do cosmetically to stamp your personality.

How much did your home cost?

I paid Dh3.5 million in 2014 when prices were high.

I’ve seen the value go up, down and up again since living here – but it’s home for the long term so the fluctuations have felt somewhat irrelevant. It’s worth around Dh4 million now; I had it valued for my golden visa recently.

The buying process was relatively pain-free; the seller had a conveyance company and that helped a lot with all the admin, but our bank was also very helpful.

I sold my share in my London home and used that as a down payment; saving money in my 20s made a huge difference.

These days, with school fees and the cost of a child, there are plenty of other things my money gets spent on.

What drew you to this particular property?

The apartment is light-filled, has high ceilings and looks out on to trees and greenery, a rare and quite special feeling of being in a green oasis in the middle of the centre of Dubai.

The living space is large and open-planned and feels serene and peaceful, even with small children running through the garden.

Emaar is known for its quality build so that also reassured me as a buyer, as one hears of problems with properties here.

There haven’t been any significant issues; even my fridge, an original from when the development was built [and] probably qualifying for antique status, is still going strong.

What are the benefits of your address?

I fell in love with the charm of the architecture – a modern take on the traditional wind towers of the UAE.

Surrounded by skyscrapers and looking on to Burj Khalifa, the low-rise, sand-coloured blocks are clustered around cobble-stoned pedestrian walkways and framed by springs of fuchsia bougainvillaea.

It is a charming, unusual and highly desired bit of real estate in Dubai that still attracts buyers and tenants despite many newer developments coming online.

There are swimming pools, a pet-friendly cafe run by a resident, and hotels and restaurants within strolling distance. It’s looking pretty good for its age and has a feeling of community and safety too.

Rush hour can be frustrating, but luckily as a ‘work from home’ business owner, I don’t often face traffic.

What improvements have you made?

I created a third room out of nothing. I knocked through a walk-in wardrobe and a laundry cupboard, having studied the apartment floor plans at length and identified additional space in between the wardrobe and a small built-in cupboard.

In this, I keep my bikes and bike trainer … it’s super handy for all the accoutrements that come with triathlon training, along with all my sports equipment, as I am an avid recreational runner and ASICS FrontRunner – so I have quite a lot of running shoes.

I’ve added herringbone tile flooring and landscaped the garden. I’m currently eyeing up the kitchen and bathrooms – they’re next on my list for a makeover.

How else have you personalised the property?

I love bold colours, so my bedroom and parts of the living room feature bold, tropical patterns and rich wallpaper.

Along with updating the light fittings, I painted the standard mahogany doors and frames white to lighten the space further.

Although I am not naturally handy or particularly skilled at DIY, I enjoy the creative process and have been lucky to have a fantastic decorator, Lesleigh Groos, who interpreted my Pinterest boards to perfection and helped bring them vividly to life.

Do you feel financial advantages over renting?

It makes sense to buy if you can, from my perspective. At least you get some of that back, and you can always rent the property out if your plans change.

Although interest rates around the world are high right now, which has impacted the mortgage, it’s currently still cheaper than what someone would pay to rent it.

It will be interesting to see how the market performs over the next two years and I’m keen to buy another investment property to rent out in Dubai.

Would you sell if you moved or left the UAE?

I don’t think I’ll sell this property. Once the mortgage is paid off, it will represent a good source of rental income if I leave, which means it is also part of my retirement plan.

I have no concrete plans of where to retire just yet, but knowing I have a base here is a huge source of security.

I’m keen to add to my portfolio as my business continues to grow, as I think property, while perhaps not the most exciting of investments, generally is a pretty safe bet.

Updated: January 24, 2024, 12:34 PM