Inside the life of real estate agents in Dubai: Midnight calls, relentless hustle, high stake windfalls

For the 35,000 odd men and women engaged in this demanding profession, competition is not merely fierce, it's a relentless battle they face daily

by

Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Sat 23 Sep 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 13 Oct 2023, 12:46 PM

Dubai's real estate market is on fire, scorching its way to a staggering Dh177 billion in transactions during the first half of 2023. This financial frenzy sets the stage for the captivating lives of real estate agents in the City of Gold.

Yet, beneath this glittering exterior lies a world of unwavering dedication, cut-throat competition, and stories of both triumph and despair.


Realty bites: Struggles and triumphs

For the city's 35,000-odd real estate agents, competition is not merely fierce, it's a relentless battle. They operate on commission, devoid of a fixed salary, where their very livelihood hinges on sealing deals. In pursuit of that one monumental transaction capable of sustaining them for months, they invest up to a year chasing potential clients. Their profession demands unyielding effort. Last week, for instance, marked an extraordinary spectacle.

Hundreds of real estate agents descended upon Nakheel’s head office, with some taking their dedication to the extreme by camping overnight, all in a bid to secure a villa at the developer’s latest waterfront project, the Palm Jebel Ali.


However, the rewards, as Nesrine Belaid would attest, often prove to be well worth the struggle.

Arriving in Dubai amidst the global pandemic in 2020, the young Tunisian faced a daunting challenge when she joined Dacha Real Estate.

"I had only one month to sell a property worth Dh8 million or risk losing the listing," Nesrine recalls. "We executed a marketing strategy, reaching out to other agents and my personal network. Eventually, the property was sold and transferred within a month. I represented both the buyer and the seller in that deal." Nesrine hasn't looked back since, selling Dh100 million worth of properties in one plush neighbourhood alone.

She is now contemplating buying her first car. “I like the new BMW4 series,” she says.

Aya Saad Abdulmunem, an accomplished Swedish-Iraqi senior property consultant at D&B Properties with six years of experience, shares her perspective: "Real estate is a lot of hard work. I often find myself up until 2 am, conducting marathon Zoom meetings with international clients due to time zone differences. Honesty and integrity have been the cornerstones of my success.”

Yet, for every Nesrine and Aya, there are countless others trying to break into this intensely competitive market, often without luck.

Step into any property launch event, and you'll spot them instantly. It's almost a cliché. Young men sporting perfectly groomed beards, donning designer suits paired with gelled hair and sockless shoes, and women dressed to the nines, rattling ROI numbers and actively pursuing anyone who has left their business card. Only a handful of these agents are licensed.

“Estate agents worldwide always seem to come out badly in research studies which look at the worst professions in the eyes of consumers," says Nigel Sillitoe, CEO of Insight Discovery that specialises in strategic communications, market intelligence and event optimisation.

According to him, the reputation of real estate agents in the UAE is even worse. “This is confirmed by our annual worst reputation survey, which has been conducted every year for the past five years. Estate agency firms have consistently been voted the fourth worst 'profession', to deal with, only beaten this year by recruitment companies, telemarketers and credit card companies,” he explains.

Graphic by Samlal Sisupalan
Graphic by Samlal Sisupalan

Innovation and unconventional tactics

In the quest for success, many real estate agents have embraced digital innovation, leveraging platforms like Instagram as powerful tools to reach a global audience and provide detailed property descriptions.

Amid this landscape of innovation, unconventional tactics have also found a place. Recently, a European woman lounging in a swimming pool, urged potential clients on Instagram to 'take a swim' with her before considering a property purchase — a bold approach that swiftly cost her the job.

Rejection is a harsh reality

Beyond these strategies emerge tales of resilience and lessons in handling rejection, which can be disheartening, especially when months of effort are at stake. Not everyone can adapt or endure periods of zero sales despite their utmost efforts. Many stumble and fall by the wayside, some becoming nervous wrecks in the process.

Kristina Lytvynenko, a Ukrainian real estate agent working for Preemient Properties in Jumeirah 1, underlines the importance of emotional stability and focus. A former professional athlete, Kristina reckons working in real estate is not everyone's cup of tea.

Hasan Bin Khalid, who started with Damac in 2016, agrees. “You either have it or you don’t. I used to be a telemarketer before so when they asked me, ‘How would you sell properties, you have never sold anything in person’, I said, if I was able to sell something I haven’t seen, to people I don’t know, I don’t see, in a country I never went to, do you think it will be difficult for me to sell something in person and something I can see, something tangible? I was promptly hired.”

However, amidst the glamour and real estate ingenuity, seasoned agents like Briton Zara Mason, formerly in the car sales business in Birmingham, UK, before relocating to Dubai to sell homes, view rejection as redirection.

What’s a typical day like?

Most real estate agents follow a somewhat similar routine, driven by the same goal: to find clients their ideal properties. Khalid, for instance, recently incorporated social media into his daily regimen, creating engaging reels and TikTok videos that showcase new projects and provide insights into real estate issues and processes.

Sofia Stavrakoglou, a luxury investment portfolio manager at Elysian, takes a distinctive approach. Alongside her business partner, she has carved out a niche in the market, focusing on the sale of hotels, buildings, raw lands, ultra-high-end mansions, and more. This specialisation brings unpredictability to her schedule in a city that never sleeps.

Sofia's day begins after a morning workout, and it often becomes a dynamic see-saw, ranging from attending developers' latest launches to embarking on a five-hour journey to the local trustee office for property transfers and a myriad of other unforeseen tasks. She explains, "In this environment, a mellow, flexible mentality and the ability to stay on one's toes are vital attributes for success,” says the Greek woman who comes from a family of architects.

For Kristina, a typical day begins at the crack of dawn with a workout to kickstart her day before tending to clients. However, the predictability of her evenings varies. "In the evening, I usually do my homework or unwind with dancing or yoga sessions with my friends," she shares. "But this routine doesn't always hold, as meetings with clients and deal negotiations often extend well into the night.”

Zara Mason, on the other hand, embraces the dynamic nature of the profession “The beauty of this job is that no two days are the same, so one day I could find myself completely back-to-back with viewings, driving from one location to another, and the next day, I could find myself in the office for most part of the day completing admin tasks.”

Veena Khetpal, originally from Mumbai, India, moved to real estate in 2017. The mass media graduate succinctly describes her daily routine at Greha Pravesh Real Estate. “Every day is a new day, but what remains constant is coffee, calling your clients and arranging meetings. And of course, helping people to get their dream home.”

Zoheb Shiraz Hamirani, also originating from Mumbai like Veena, describes his typical day as one that kicks off early, centered on managing emails, updating listings, and staying informed about market trends.

"I meticulously examine the residential index, regularly peruse the land department website, track world GDP, and even delve into minutiae, such as the number of business licenses issued in Dubai. It's all about staying on top of my game,” adds Hamirani who has a substantial following on Instagram.

Knowledge is power

In real estate, knowledge is power, asserts Saina, hailing from Iran. “It's not just about understanding new launches and trends, it's also about truly comprehending a customer's desires.”

The industry thrives on guarded contacts, closely-held listings, and real-time lead pursuit.

Imran Amjad Chaudhry, the founder of Stamp Real Estate, invests substantial time in networking and industry events to nurture client relationships and stay abreast of emerging trends.

“Every deal is a rollercoaster ride and every negotiation is a delicate dance,” says the Libya-born Pakistani as he reflects on a challenging endeavour involving a newly constructed building featuring 200 apartments in the heart of the city. “The demanding investor required multiple virtual property tours and posed numerous inquiries. Legal document complications added complexity to the deal. Nonetheless, we persevered, working relentlessly to resolve all issues. After months of negotiations, we successfully sealed the deal — an exhilarating experience.”

Keeping pace is not easy

Staying a step ahead in the ever-evolving property scene is no walk in the park, especially with international developers entering the fray. Sales transactions surged by 8.1 per cent month-on-month, hitting an all-time high of 12,134 for August. The numbers don't lie — so far, there have been 85,060 transactions, marking a 41.9 per cent increase as compared to the same period last year and an astonishing 125.4 per cent leap from 2021. These 2023 monthly transaction volumes are shattering all previous records, setting the stage for a market poised to outshine the highest-ever annual sales record established in 2009.

Graphic by Samlal Sisupalan
Graphic by Samlal Sisupalan

Danube Properties alone has launched five projects this year, bringing the grand total to 10 in a mere 19 months. Meanwhile, the ambitious Samana Developers hopes to launch 12 projects by the end of 2023. June witnessed Emaar Properties unveiling the colossal $20 billion project known as The Oasis, while Nakheel, riding a wave of demand for luxury homes, introduced the first waterfront villa project on the Palm Jebel Ali

“To say Dubai’s real estate market transacts at the same speed, if not faster than stock market trading, would be an understatement,” says Sofia. “Here, you'll find developers rolling out launches and selling them out faster than you can register your interest. In this marathon, the winner takes it all and I am sure all of us brokers want that Olympic olive wreath translated into high-pay commission cheques with our investors' best interests at heart, of course.”

Work:life balance

Balancing work and life can be quite the challenge for these modern-day alchemists. Sofia, with a hint of incredulity, admits, “That's a complex word. To an outside observer, my life may appear perfectly balanced. While I'm grateful for the opportunities, I'd be dishonest if I claimed my life is consistently and healthily balanced. There have been numerous moments when I've caught myself not fully present in the here and now. Here's a story that captures my brain's perpetual motion: I could be in a lotus position, engrossed in breathwork during my daily yoga, and suddenly find myself mentally rearranging a floor plan into a luxurious penthouse.”

Nurturing client relationships

Nurturing client relationships is akin to tending to a well-tended garden. Agents understand that the seeds they plant today may not yield immediate results, but with patience and care, they can flourish into valuable transactions. This understanding drives real estate professionals to protect their clients' interests zealously, guarding their privacy like a vault. “I prioritise client relationships over individual deals,” says Nesrine. “Losing a single deal is a small price to pay compared to losing a valued client. A satisfied client is not just a one-time transaction, they can become a source of future business and referrals to others.”

No shortcuts

With an artificial intelligence (AI)-propelled analysis predicting Dubai's real estate market to grow by 15 per cent in 2024, the landscape will remain a coveted arena. However, it's no easy game. Aspiring agents will be drawn to the allure, but not everyone will emerge triumphant.

There are no shortcuts or part-time gigs; it's a daily hustle, forging connections, attending meetings, and sealing deals. For these agents, their daily grind is their own thriving enterprise.

mazhar@khaleejtimes.com

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