How to Choose the Right Property in Dubai: Principles of Tatiana Phanti from T.M. Properties

Tatiana Phanti, founder of Dubai real estate company T.M. Properties, has over 17 years’ of experience in the development of international companies, primarily in the real estate sector. Her familiarity with the industry has led to the success of her business, and the investment portfolio of her clients for the last quarter amounted to about 123 million dirhams; the value of her personal investments exceeded 7 million dirhams.

“We have some very high-profile clients,” she shares. “Those who buy property valued at over a million dollars, those who buy three apartments at once – and the average cost of an apartment in a good area when buying at the stage of excavation is $650,000. This is a 4-room dwelling: 2 bedrooms, a room for a nanny-housekeeper, a kitchen and a living room. I myself periodically invest for different purposes: for personal use and for investment. I go through all the stages, using my experience. So all the advice that we give to clients is tested on ourselves.”

When asked about how to decide on what type of property, and where in Dubai to purchase, she shared the following:

“There are many subtleties in this process, so it is better to turn to professionals for advice. The first question we ask our clients is for what purposes the real estate is purchased. Where the client will live, and with whom: with his family or alone – or will it be real estate for investment or business? It depends on which area to recommend. Some want to live near the sea, some want to live closer to the desert, some prefer the city center and/or business center. Some only want a basic sleeping area within walking distance to schools and supermarkets. We formulate an offer based on the wishes of the client.”

She discusses how she goes about choosing a developer, as well as the types of guarantees that developers offer.

“To choose a developer, we determine the area,” Phanti says. “There are several developers in each area. There are top developers, and there are those who offer more affordable real estate. Next, we proceed from the budget of the client. We find out how important a quality finish is. These options are more expensive. We tell the client about all the developers of the selected area. We show their pros and cons. There are developers who delay the delivery of the project up to six months. Some customers are fine with this, because they are satisfied with the price. They are ready to wait.”

She says she’s often asked if developers can be trusted – and what to do if something unfortunate happens.

“All transactions are reliably protected by the state. The money goes to the state and is released to the developer. The state plays the role of a guarantor. A contract of sale is concluded between the client and the developer. It contains a payment schedule. Payment is provided as a percentage of the construction stage of the facility. For example, an initial payment of 10%, at the next stage of construction another 10%, and so on. There is a special application in which, before paying, you can check how much the object is built.”

She adds that people often mistakenly believe that foreigners aren’t allowed to have 100% ownership of real estate, but clarifies that this is no longer in effect: “The law has been revised, and now a citizen of any country, with some exceptions, can become the owner of real estate in Dubai.”

She also talks about time limits for property ownership in Dubai, and how inheritance law works:

“There are 2 types of real estate: lease and freehold. Freehold – real estate, which is acquired forever for private use; lease – for 99 years. When buying on the secondary market, the period of ownership is reduced by as many years as the previous owners owned. If, for example, two previous owners owned real estate for 10 years, then the third owner’s tenure is reduced by 20 years. This property is cheaper. But a conscientious agent should focus on this client’s attention.”

She is familiar with the type of profit that can be expected from investing in Dubai property, and shares information on how payment is made and whether installments are accepted.

“When buying real estate for investment, it is important to enter at the start of sales. The price will be much cheaper, and the object will acquire investment attractiveness. Income will be up to 40%. Everything depends on the project. Almost 100% of developers give installments without the participation of banks. There are various payment schedules. The installment plan is suitable for both investment and living. An agent with investment experience plays a big role. They will advise which project to enter, and which one is not worth it.”

She adds that some developers offer the following payment schedules: 60% at the construction stage and 40% upon receipt of the keys. There are payment options with the ability to pay only 30% in the first 6 months and 70% upon delivery of the object, and some developers even offer a post handover payment plan when 50-60% is paid at the construction stage, the client receives the keys and pays the remaining 40-50% for for 2-3 years absolutely without any interest.

Regarding property maintenance in Dubai, Phanti says that the buyer pays property tax (4% of the value of the apartment) and a management company is typically appointed a few months before the commissioning of the object. 

“Basically,” she says, “large developers have a subsidiary company that deals with maintenance of facilities. They become the manager. An annual service charge is assigned; the price depends on the area and the comfort of the complex: how many pools, greenery, restaurants, bars. The more prestigious the project, the higher the price of service, which can be paid quarterly.”

She also says that clients don’t have to physically be in Dubai to create distance deals: “After selecting an object and agreeing, the booking process takes place: you need to pay, as a rule, 2% of the cost of the apartment to secure the reservation. Then, traditionally, 50% is due at the construction stage and 50% at the delivery stage. When concluding a remote transaction, the developer issues a booking form, which is done before the sale and purchase agreement. The first installment is paid, after 3 months another 10% is paid. After paying 20% to the developer and paying real estate tax, the transaction is fixed in the land department. At this stage, you can sell the apartment, even if the object is not delivered.”

She says that it’s even possible to obtain a residence visa by owning property in Dubai, as real estate investors can, under certain conditions, obtain a residence permit in the United Arab Emirates. Phanti says that to apply for a residence visa for 10 years, the minimum cost of investing in real estate must be $544,499 USD. Once the property is handed over, the client receives a residence permit and a 10-year visa, opens a bank account, invests, and receives income.

“In September 2022,” she states, “amendments to the law were introduced: investors can obtain a resident visa before the property is handed over, but the price must be paid in full. There are other changes with this law; for projects not yet completed, a minimum of AED 2 million must be paid but the cost must be at least AED 4 million and the project must be at least 50% completed. Our consulting company helps to obtain a residence permit and residence visas of the United Arab Emirates. This work begins from the moment of signing the contract of sale.”

She says a common question she gets is how someone can invest if they don’t speak English, but shares that for those clients, her company accompanies them from the construction stage to the moment of delivery. Phanti’s company has speakers of English, Greek, Russian, Romanian, Italian, Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Uzbek, and Tajik. She states that her team is constantly replenished with specialists from different countries so that it is possible to communicate with clients from any country in a quality manner.

“We control the construction, we can accept the finished object. There are a number of companies that, for a moderate fee, check all the technical aspects of finishing and communications. The day of acceptance is appointed, the company comes and evaluates. If there are shortcomings, the developer eliminates them within the agreed time. In cooperation with our agency, the client receives a full package of services: at the choice of the developer, the object, the delivery, and acceptance of the object. The client does not need to be present in person. We can take on long-term and short-term rental obligations. When choosing an agent, we advise you to pay attention to his experience. Only in this case, annoying mistakes can be avoided.”

What’s most important to Phanti is how much she loves her job and values her reputation. She attributes the success of T.M. Properties to this. She adds, “Communication with different people, very cool and interesting personalities, gives me great pleasure. I am glad that most of the people who once became interested in my business stay with me for a long time. Many become my friends, and we communicate a lot on any topic, including non-business ones. I’m proud of my company. This is a reliable agent who organizes everything at the highest level. Clients simply enjoy the new properties.”

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