Nine questions to ask if you plan to rent or buy a property

Service charges, running costs and rules on pets are among the crucial queries renters and homebuyers should ask, say estate agents

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Viewing a property is a vital exercise before signing any rental lease or sales agreement.

This helps prospective tenants and buyers to identify potential snags and assess the property’s condition before giving serious thought to living in it.

In a thriving property market, it’s essential that the end users — the people who will live there — undertake due diligence before committing to buy or rent a home, agents say.

The UAE property market has rebounded on the back of government initiatives such as residency permits for retirees and remote workers. Its expansion of the 10-year golden visa programme and the economic boost from Expo 2020 Dubai have also helped to increase prices and sales.

Dubai apartment prices for May 2022 — in pictures

The market has also benefited from the country’s widespread coronavirus vaccination programme, which has kept cases relatively low.

The Dubai property market registered 25,972 property transactions in the first three months of this year.

This was the highest number of quarterly deals since 2010, according to Mo’asher, the emirate’s official sales price index issued by the Dubai Land Department in partnership with Property Finder.

We asked property professionals about the key questions people should ask during a viewing.

1. When is the property available?

Your estate agent should show you properties that will be available when you’re ready to move, says Lewis Allsopp, chief executive of Dubai-based broker Allsopp & Allsopp.

When you are viewing a lot of properties or the broker has chosen to show you a few options you hadn’t asked about, make a note of when they will be free.

“If you are viewing multiple options, all dates and properties can get muddled, so it’s good to be clear,” Mr Allsopp says.

Prospective tenants should check whether the landlord lives locally and will be on call in the event of a problem, says Connor Manning, area manager at real estate broker Better Homes. If he or she lives overseas, would they consider having a company manage the property to offer peace of mind?

2. What’s the running cost of the property?

It is important to ask about general running costs, such as utility bills, says Ayman Youssef, vice president of estate agency Coldwell Banker.

“Certain areas charge for district cooling, which is a cost over and above the regular Dewa charges,” he says.

“In such cases, the buyer should have a fair idea of the average cost, especially during the summer. Tenants need to know if the property is chiller-free and whether the landlord will pay the air-conditioning costs.”

If you are planning to rent a property, you should ask if it has a maintenance contract, he adds.

Meanwhile, if you are renting a villa, find out whether you need to pay for any additional maintenance such as gardening or pool cleaning and, if so, how much you will have to pay for it, Mr Manning says.

Dubai villa prices for May 2022 — in pictures

It is crucial to understand if maintenance is outsourced and, in this case, both parties must come to a mutual consensus on the payment amount and process, he adds.

If you’re looking at buying a villa, you need to know if preventive maintenance activities such as air-conditioning cleaning, inspection of water pumps and compressors have been conducted regularly, Mr Youssef says.

Faulty or irregular maintenance usually leads to long-term problems, which can involve big expenses, he adds.

“For villas, check the age of the property and the structural integrity as older units come with associated issues due to wear and tear, which may add up to your maintenance cost in the longer run.”

3. How many parking spaces and access cards can you have?

If you are renting or buying a townhouse or a villa, this question may not be at the forefront of your mind but gated communities may require proof of residence to get in and out easily, Mr Allsopp says.

“These can sometimes come in the form of an access card or a sticker on the windscreen of your car. In some cases, these come at a small charge,” he says.

If you are renting an apartment, ask the broker how many car parking spaces will be allocated to you, if any. Also, ask your broker how many access cards you will receive and the cost of replacement if they are lost, Mr Allsopp says.

A new concept in renting apartments comes to Dubai

A new concept in renting apartments comes to Dubai

4. Are pets allowed?

If you have a pet, or think you might in the future, it’s important to ask about this early on. Many landlords will not accept animals in the house, says Mr Manning from Better Homes.

“Also, some developers will not accept pets in certain buildings or communities,” he adds.

5. What facilities do I have access to?

Ask the broker which facilities are available for you to use, says Mr Allsopp.

“If you are viewing a property in an apartment block, you are most likely able to access all facilities within the apartment complex such as the gym, pool and parks. However, if you are renting a villa or a townhouse within a community, there may be some facilities that are not accessible without paying extra fees,” he says.

For example, golf communities do not offer membership to tenants. Some tenants will be able to use the clubhouse community pool, if it has one, Mr Allsopp adds.

You should also ask the broker what amenities are in the neighbourhood. Perhaps there are hidden gems you weren’t aware of, he says.

“It is always advantageous to know about local shops and their distance from the property, as is the location of healthcare facilities and schools. Make yourself aware of available community groups in the area,” says Mr Allsopp.

6. How long has the property been on the market?

If a property has been on the market for a long time, this indicates it was priced too high to begin with, says Mr Manning.

Buyers may have more room to negotiate because the seller may be willing to compromise on the price, he adds.

7. Is the property mortgaged?

Before buying a property, check with the seller if the property is mortgaged, says Mr Youssef from Coldwell Banker.

If the property is mortgaged, it needs to be settled before the unit can be transferred to the new buyer.

8. What are the service charges?

Buyers often forget to ask about the service charges for a property.

Building service charges vary from a few thousand dirhams a year to up to Dh100,000, so need to be incorporated in initial cost calculations, Mr Manning says.

9. Have there been any upgrades or extensions?

If any modifications or extensions are made to the property, the developer will require the seller to have the relevant no-objection certificate, says Mr Manning.

“It’s important the buyer asks the agent if the seller has NoCs in place. If not, the seller may have to take down the extension or pay for the NoC cost after the deal is agreed.”

Updated: May 30, 2022, 4:14 AM