Living in a townhouse or villa is the ultimate dream for many expat families in Dubai. With rents falling in the mid to upper segment of the Dubai residential market over the past year, tenants who were living in two or three-bedroom apartments can now afford townhouses or villas for the same rental value.

Another trend playing out is tenants who were earlier living in well-established communities are now moving to emerging communities away from the city centre. A prime location is being compromised for newly built units, cheaper rents, larger living spaces and an increased number of cheques and other incentives. The affordability can be attributed to a number of developments that were handed over in 2016 and 2017.

“There is a high proportion that are currently looking to upsize their accommodation. Properties that people previously looked at and had on their wish list are now available for similar rents to what they are currently paying. There are a couple of choices that people have, reduce the rent where they are and free up some more disposable income or keep their finances the same but move to a property that is going to give them a better quality of life. This is evident across both the villa and apartment market,” observes Lewis Allsopp, CEO of Allsopp & Allsopp, a Dubai real estate brokerage.

“It’s widely recognised that rental values have softened over the last 12 to 18 months. With homes becoming more affordable, we have found an increase in the number of tenants who are moving to areas and homes previously out of their budget,” says Nick Grassick, managing director, PH Real Estate.

However, tenants upgrading from smaller apartment units are mostly opting for bigger apartments or townhouses, not so much villas as yet.

“Most people look in their neighbourhood if they are wanting to increase the size of their current tenanted unit. However, there are some who are looking at a premium location of the same size at new prices,” reckons Sanjay Chimnani, managing director, Raine & Horne.

“The area that we are seeing an overwhelming number of upsizing is in Green Community DIP. Currently, you can get a 5-bedroom, 5,900 square feet BUA, independent villa for Dh170,000 per year. The community itself is fantastic with lots of parks, pools, sports facilities, a lake, a shopping centre and the Marriott hotel,” informs Allsopp.

The improvement in social mobility is happening across the board, from traditional expat areas such as Dubai Marina and Downtown through to more affordable fringe communities.

“Subject to the areas you compare, tenants are now able to find townhouses for cheaper rents than some apartments. With rents becoming more affordable, families now have a greater choice of communities within which those homes are located,” mentions Grassick.

Certain townhouse communities are very well-priced on the rental market in Dubai. For instance, Meera and Nshama have townhouses for rent now at Dh110,000 to Dh130,000. “These are great value for money, especially for a young family,” says Chimnani.

Families opt for townhouses and villas because they offer a different lifestyle. For a lot of families, it offers the opportunity to get a property with a nice garden, private pool and children’s play areas with a community feel.

Although homes have generally become more affordable, with the majority of families taking advantage of this, there are specific cases where individual circumstances restrict the options available.

“There are also people that are downsizing at the moment. For some, this will be because of employment challenges and people understandably wanting to take on smaller commitments financially. For others, it will be because their family size is reducing, with kids moving out of the family home and the parents not needing as big a place anymore. It is a mixed market at the moment and there is obviously no right or wrong thing to do, it is just what suits your circumstances when you are looking,” clarifies Allsopp.

“Since prices have gotten better, most tenants have been able to negotiate better rents and more cheques. This is a big help if someone is going through an uncertain period,” Chimnani concludes.

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