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Long-time Dubai residents may remember the Chicago Beach Villas which once stood on the site of Madinat Jumeirah; the first gated community in Dubai, and what were widely considered some of the most desirable properties in town. Since the launch of the freehold market in 2003 the property scene has changed immensely, but it seems managed properties are still a hot ticket with scores of tenants clamouring to sign up to lengthy waiting lists in order to get the keys to the property they want.
“We were very keen to find a property in a managed compound and the one we now live in particularly, but we’d been told it was highly unlikely we’d get anywhere near the top of the waiting list within the timeframe we were looking at,” says British expat Jennifer Gibson, 33, who lives in Nakheel Villas on Hessa Street.
Fellow Briton Lynn Coy, 42, a resident of Jebel Ali Village, tells a similar story. “We told friends we were looking to move here and lost count of the number of people who told us we’d be lucky to even make it onto the waiting list,” she says.
John Stevens, managing director of property management company Asteco, confirms the difficulties tenants face in finding their desired managed property. “We typically see a turnover of tenants of around five to ten per cent per annum,” he explains. “We’ve noticed a trend in tenants leasing from the freehold market whereby they tend to move frequently, whereas those residing in our managed properties tend to stay for a number of years, normally only moving when family or employment conditions change. We have some tenants who have been in the same Asteco managed property for twenty years.”
Record your interest
Despite this, says Stevens, if there’s a particular man- aged property you’re after, there’s no harm in recording your interest even if no vacant units are available immediately. “For popular premium compounds and apartment buildings experiencing a high number of enquiries, it can take longer to secure a unit due to a lower turnover of tenants, so we maintain waiting lists for these properties,” he says.
Coy and Gibson say their decision to seek a managed property was based on many factors, starting with the desire for long-term security. “We knew the management company responsible for the compound we wanted had a reputation for being fair with rent increases, even offering rent freezes for the first two years of a tenancy, and as we wanted somewhere we could put down roots and really settle - without fear of exorbitant price hikes - this was a huge draw,” explains Gibson.
Coy agrees. “Having been evicted from our three previous homes thanks to private landlords wanting to sell their freehold property, we were looking for more security with our next move,” she says. “We weren’t sure how much longer we planned to be in Dubai, and the last thing we wanted was to get settled in another property only to find another eviction notice taped to the front door. Not having a private landlord means we don’t have to worry about that, and also, we feel we’re less likely to face unreasonable rent increases each year.”
Avoiding private landlords with a tendency to disappear when issues arose with maintenance was another plus for both Coy and Gibson. “We’d experienced issues with an unreliable private landlord in our first rental property in Dubai, and had ongoing maintenance issues we had difficulty resolving,” Gibson says.
Coy was luckier, but still considered a managed property a safer bet. “While we’d say we’ve been lucky to have landlords who’ve attended to our maintenance needs reasonably quickly, it is really reassuring to know we’ve got maintenance staff here in the compound to deal with issues promptly as and when they arise,” she explains. “Our villa was completely renovated before we moved in, too, so thankfully we haven’t had any major problems so far and any issues we have had, have been dealt with promptly and efficiently.”
Again, Stevens confirms. “In a managed compound or apartment you’re more likely to be in a position to be able to contact the landlord when any issues arise, or at least the property management company appointed to manage the property on the landlord’s behalf,” he says. “In comparison, although some private landlords are entirely contactable and have maintenance contracts in place, there are many examples of tenants being unable to contact their landlord when an issue arises.”
Both Coy and Gibson agree the sense of community - reportedly often lacking in some freehold areas around town - is an attractive feature when considering a managed property compound. “We love the sense of community down here; for whatever reason, it’s a very friendly place to live,” says Coy. “We regularly visit neighbours and have them come to us, and our daughter has lots of friends here. We have our annual Christmas fayre and organise other get-togethers as and when. We also have the Jebel Ali Recreation Club - handily within walking distance from our house! - and we’re looking forward to the new club opening towards the end of the year.”
Sense of community
Gibson attributes the sense of community to the property management company and communal facilities, among other factors. “The way the compound is managed encourages people to stay long-term, so there’s a real community feel,” she says. “There’s a clubhouse and sports facilities on-site so we’ve gotten to know lots of people already. It’s also a fantastic place for children; the kids all get together by the pool for games at the weekend and at Halloween, the management even distributed letters encouraging anyone who wanted to decorate their homes and gardens to leave the outside lights on so the kids knew which houses to call on. It was a magical night and everyone really got into the spirit of things. Given we live away from our families, that community spirit is worth its weight in gold.”
Stevens says one last benefit of managed properties in comparison with private freehold properties is the management of shared areas. “When living in a freehold area, the owner is only responsible for the unit itself,” he explains. “But there are of course common area issues that fall under the Owners’ Association so the responsibility to rectify any issues isn’t always clear. In a managed compound or apartment building, the owner is responsible for the entire property.”
So is there any way of bumping yourself to the top of the list and getting your hands on that elusive set of keys? Sadly no, says Stevens, although you might just get lucky if your moving date suits the property and the management company better. “There’s no way of jumping the queue, but when a unit does become available the timing may not be right for the prospective tenant at that particular time, or it may not be suitable for a variety of other reasons,” says Stevens. “In this instance, we would approach the next person on the waiting list.” If you’re lucky, that next person could just be you.
Source: Catherine Harper, Special to PW