I am super lucky that for nearly 3yrs, I have been in the same apartment. It was fabulous and I am going to miss it, but the lease was up and the owners want to sell.
Enter stage left, the biggest headache I have had in a long time.
Realtors have a bad name in this city and it became abundantly clear why that is, in a very short space of time. I would like to say that there are a few good ones, but they really are few and far between.
You have the stunning Russian girls, who basically won’t bother with you if you are not a rich man. Single or married, it appears not to matter. They are just husband hunting. You have the lazy ones who just tell you which apartments are available and send you off to view them on your own. They do even sometimes remember to tell you to take a flash light for evening viewings as the unit will have no electricity as it is vacant. You have the lazy ones who you email and call daily, until they finally get back to you when you have found yourself somewhere already. You have the ones who barely speak a word of English, and talk at you in rapid fire babble until you hang up.
Then, you have the odd treasure that it is a pleasure to do business with. I was very luck and had 4 such realtors helping me find my apartment.
These services will cost you a minimum of AED5,000 or 5% of the value of the first years rent cheque.
And what do you get for that fee, I hear you ask? Well, they find you an apartment and show you around, and if you want it, put you in contact with the landlord and draw up the contract for signature. After that, buggery nothing, no matter how many problems arise.
I eventually did find a lovely apartment. The realtor was very nice, and a pleasure to deal with initially. I had issues with money transfers from the UK, and he was supportive and kind. Of course, if one was to be a more negative person, you could say that was because the transfer contained his fee.
When finally the money was all sorted, I could get my key! I was so excited! However, he couldn’t go and get it for some reason, and the company’s driver was fully booked. As I had furniture being delivered the next morning and movers all ready to do their thing, I had to have it that night…. so on a Thursday night at peak traffic times, I found myself jumping into a taxi and heading into the centre of Sharjah to pick up my keys. 2.5hrs later and AED250, I was back in my old apartment and all excited to be moving the next morning.
The alarm went off at 6am and I finished packing a few bits. I jumped into another taxi and headed to my lovely, shiny, new apartment. I opened the front door…. and cried! It was absolutely filthy. Despite promises and assurances made to the realtor and to myself, the place hadn’t been cleaned at all.
This is where the realtor got points. I rang him at 8am and he answered the phone and metaphorically wiped up my tears. I rather suspect he was in the early stages of a monumental hangover so I really appreciated the fact he took time to help me, even if he was still in bed and not entirely awake. Upon his advice, I emailed and text the landlord and told them that I was getting a professional cleaning team in and that they could foot the bill. I rang the furniture people and the movers and cancelled everything. I then jumped back into a taxi and headed back to the clean sanctuary that was my old apartment. At least my faith in my realtor had been restored.
Another AED100 down the pan though.
The next day, my alarm went off again and I jumped in yet another taxi (yeah, I know I need a car!), and headed back to the new apartment to meet with the supervisor for the cleaning company. Given that there was mould growing in the dishwasher, I was not going to just let any person with average cleaning materials into my home. I wanted a good job, and I had been using them for years so knew they would do so. She arrived and quoted 20hrs of cleaning (yes, it really was that bad!) and a charge of AED1,000 which would include all the appropriate cleaning products. I text the landlord and told them the cost, and asked him to confirm that this was acceptable. Then I jumped in another taxi and went home.
Another AED100 gone.
By lunchtime I hadn’t had a response, so messaged my realtor. He agreed to send an email (a very well written email at that), and ask them to consent to the charges. Again, here my realtor gets points because he was emailing and texting from an Australia Day celebration at a beach bar called Barasti. I was also there and saw him later in the day. I would like to clarify that I am not a stalker and had no idea he would be there!
Long story short, they didn’t. This is the point at which my realtor told me that as he was not the property manager, he couldn’t help further. Great.
I went home early from the party and spent a good chunk of the rest of the afternoon calling around other cleaning companies, trying to find someone cheaper. They call came back with quotes which were roughly the same as I already had. In desperation I contacted the landlord and offered to pay 50% of the charge. AED500 is a lot of money, but really, not much for peace of mind, and a clean and hygienic apartment! Of course, they agreed at this point.
Sunday rolls round and the cleaners come in to do their thing. It was spotless when they left!! (In case you are interested, the company I used was EcoMaids http://www.ecomaidme.com/our-services/)
While I am looking around the now clean apartment, I note that there are a few things that aren’t working properly. For one, the fridge isn’t working. One of the windows doesn’t shut. The hand spray by the toilet is broken. The water pressure is low. The spy hole in the front door is broken. There are blown lightbulbs everywhere.
Of course, these are things I now have to sort myself because the realtor isn’t the property manager. Ugh.
I have managed to fix the fridge myself (yay me!), and got the plumbers in for all things water related. The rest can just wait. I have spent so much time and energy running around, I am doing just the bare essentials from here on in.
So, what do realtors do for the AED5,000 fee? Not much once their commission has been received. Thankfully I had one of the good ones who helped more than he should.
Let this be a lesson to anyone apartment searching in Dubai! Do not hand over the commission until you make sure everything is done.