Bigger homes in Dubai for smaller rents: Why more residents are moving to the suburbs

Residential units outside the city are more affordable to buy, too


Sahim Salim

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Published: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 7:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 23 Sep 2022, 1:53 PM

Filipina expat Rachel Delacruz was a city girl and loved the easy access to everything that came with it. However, when she got pregnant with her first child, she had this overwhelming desire to have her “own personal space”. That’s why she decided to move to a suburb — Damac Hills 2 — which is about 50km away from her office.

“When I got pregnant, I wanted a place that had a semblance of home. That’s why we moved here,” she said.

Delacruz got a brilliant deal. She moved from a 2BHK apartment in the city with an annual rent of Dh60,000 to a 3BHK townhouse that costs Dh40,000 a year. What’s more, “it comes with a garden”.

Rachel is among thousands of UAE residents who are moving away from the hustle and bustle of the city for some after-work peace and quiet. Though it has meant hospitals being farther off, lesser eating out and fast food options, she loves the fact that her now three-month-old will grow up in a “large space he can call his own”.

Most popular suburban options

Research done by real estate marketplace Property Finder suggests that there is a “growing trend” of residents and locals relocating to the suburban localities.

Scott Bond, UAE country manager, Property Finder, classifies these areas as suburbs:

Graphics by Raja Choudhury
Graphics by Raja Choudhury

“(Residents are relocating) in search of a home befitting their Dubai lifestyle with housing at competitive prices, peaceful privacy and a bigger space,” he said.

According to Scott, the most popular suburban localities are Dubai Sports City, Damac Hills and Al Furjan.

How much do tenants typically pay?

Scott said residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to villas and apartments they can get for rent in the popular suburbs. “These areas have become extremely popular, thanks to their family-friendly amenities, green lifestyles and strategic locations.”

Graphics by Raja Choudhury; Source: Property Finder/KT Research
Graphics by Raja Choudhury; Source: Property Finder/KT Research

Buy or rent?

According to agency-owned real estate website houza, there is a “significant growth” of both renters and buyers within these communities.

“Many who moved out to these areas during the pandemic have become accustomed to the locality. With the continuing concept of ‘work from home’, a rising number of people are willing to buy a unit for a permanent relocation. It is a trend typically seen with families, especially those who also have children,” said Sarah Hewerdine, head of marketing at houza.

With property prices shooting up within centrally located communities, many are widening their search pool to alternative areas further out. “It helps that they do not have to compromise on space or the number of bedrooms either,” said Sarah.

Owning residential units: City vs suburbs

Collectively, in villa suburban communities, sales in the third quarter of 2022 have doubled as compared to the same period last year.

Graphics by Raja Choudhury; Source: houza
Graphics by Raja Choudhury; Source: houza

Today, affluent buyers will find it much easier to strike a deal for a “slice of suburban life” in Dubai’s exclusive villa and townhouses enclaves, “where homes sell for a fraction of the price five years ago”, Property Finder’s Scott said.

“The boom in these real estate suburb communities has motivated them to make major lifestyle changes, which has often meant relocating and moving into bigger spaces available at competitive prices,” he added.


Pros and cons

Cheaper units are the biggest draw of living away from the city.

The biggest disadvantage is longer commute times. “Traffic along the Al Qudra corridor, in particular, could be challenging and again add to stretched travel times,” said Sarah.

Scott advised tenants to know the value and lifestyle factors that come with each property “before making your mind to choose between an elegant rental apartment at Dubai Marina, a spacious villa in Arabian Ranches, or a European-styled townhouse at Jumeirah Golf Estates”.

Suburban living has well and truly arrived

According to houza, since the Covid-19 pandemic, cost-effective villa communities outside of the centre of Dubai have been gaining more popularity. “It’s a trend we’ve witnessed across global cities as they continue to develop economically and grow demographically. A typical case of London or New York would elucidate how those wishing to save money or attain more space, perhaps for a growing family would opt for a move further out,” said Sarah.

“There is still a stigma around buying further out in these communities, with some feeling they will be located on the edge of Dubai. However, with a longer-term investment horizon, say 10+ years, they’ll be considered more centrally located as the city evolves.”

Sarah added that Dubai is now seeing a shift in its residential landscape. “As the peripheral areas of the city gain traction amongst residents and investors, the concept of suburbs is finally becoming popular.”


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