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How to haggle down a house price as an expat in the UAE

With property prices dropping, there’s never been a better time to get your foot on the property ladder in Dubai. Not only has the market settled, but a saturation of luxury living apartments and complexes have given consumers more purchasing power and freedom - and left developers and homeowners with no choice other than to lower their prices and sell properties at a reduced asking price. That’s great news for expats like you, who is ready to make an investment.

Whether you have been renting in the United Arab Emirates, or you’re moving to the country and want to settle down, finding your dream property can take time - even more so if you’re on a tight budget and have requirements like a minimum number of bedrooms or the need to be in a prime city centre location. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together some top tips for haggling down a house price as an expat and getting the very best real estate for your money.


Know your budget

Before you start looking for properties, you should know your budget. Whether you’re retired and you are looking to relocate from the United Kingdom to the United Arab Emirates, or you are a young professional with a career and some savings, it’s essential that you calculate exactly how much you can afford to pay, whether you need a mortgage or you have savings.

The mortgage market in the UAE is not as large as it is in the UK and in other countries, but there are lenders who offer mortgages. It’s important that you take the time to find the best one for your needs, and secure a mortgage in principle that you can show to estate agents. You will need to show your lender your financial commitments, current income, the loan amount, and explain lifestyle factors, like the number of dependants, living expenses and more.

As soon as you have secured a mortgage in principle, or you have a set budget to spend on a property, can then start to look for your dream home. Discuss with your partner your maximum budget - a figure you simply cannot go above - and calculate things such as renovation costs, fees and other expenses that you must add on top of the price of your property. That way, you’ll be able to make realistic offers and know how far you can go without breaking the bank.


Look at other properties

Do your research when looking for a property in the United Arab Emirates, checking out similar places in the same area. Sites like Rightmove, Property Finder and Just Property are great for finding properties in your local area, and you can use your knowledge to argue that an asking price is above what it should be for its size and location. It may be that you love a property but you know that a similar property sold for 100,000 dirhams less a couple of months ago, or that because it only has 3 bedrooms, the property should match similar houses in the area on price.

If you think that the property in question is overpriced, then speak with an estate agent to see whether or not there is any room for negotiation. The owner may decide to drop the price, or they might refuse and you can then look elsewhere if you don’t want to pay the full asking price.


Give it a thorough viewing

You can usually work out whether or not you like a property quite soon after you view it, but it’s important that you don’t let your excitement and enthusiasm take you away from finding a home that is suitable for your requirements. It’s easy to see a property through rose-tinted glasses once you have imagined living there, so it’s essential that you take a step back and view the property with a fresh set of eyes. This may mean arranging a second or third viewing to be sure.

If you go back to the property, then make a checklist of the things that would need repairing or replacing. It may be that the property would need a new bathroom, or that the air conditioning doesn’t work. If you think that you’ll need to spend money to get the property up to scratch, then you can use this to negotiate a lower price and get the very best deal on your new home.


Say you’re interested in another property

Dubai, in particular, has a thriving property market, with hundreds of new apartment buildings and complexes popping up across the region. You can use this oversaturation of the property market to your advantage, and let your property broker know that you’re interested in more than one property - and are in talks with other real estate agents. Indeed, they do it when they’re trying to get buyers to up their offers, so why shouldn’t you use the same tactics?!

Having the upper hand - and the confidence that you have another property lined up if this one doesn’t work out - can help you to negotiate a better deal. The agent will be more likely to enter into a negotiation with you and the homeowner and find a price that suits both parties - and if they don’t, you can up your offer or walk away from the deal and look elsewhere in the country.


Ask for some extras

If the homeowner refuses to budge on price, then stress your circumstances when putting in an offer and haggle on additional benefits of extras when buying your first home in the country. For example, you could ask the seller to pay towards fees or ask them to leave furniture and appliances in the property. This will shave off some of your set-up costs and allow you to move straight into the property without having to splash out on a new refrigerator, washing machine and oven, which will also reduce the pressure of moving to the country and starting a new life.


Accept that they won’t budge

Whilst there are some things that you can do to bring down the price of your dream home, you must also accept that the property market in the UAE is very different to that of the UK or the United States. Homeowners see their properties as investments, and the country’s rental market is particularly strong, with the average rent for a family of four coming in at around AED 133,644 per year (around £28,000/$36,500), which means people are less willing to accept offers below their asking price. In circumstances like these, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pay a little more for your property, safe in the knowledge that it should increase in value and provide a generous return on investment should you leave the country and rent out your property.


Make sure you subscribe to Money Saving Expat for advice on living in the UAE and getting the most out of your money every week or join the conversation on the MSE forums.


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