As I sit here writing, storm Jorge is starting to make its presence felt. Outside my window, it is currently wet, grey and cold, pretty much it seems, as it's been for most of February 2020. It's at times like these that thoughts often turn to sun, sea and sand. If you're anything like me, those long, lazy summer days are the highlight of the year and, as long as they seem at the time, they pass by all too soon here in the UK.
What if it didn't have to be this way? If you could live and work somewhere where annual rain days are usually counted on one hand, would you take it? What about a place where more than a few hours of rain makes headlines (Even if it was down to successful cloud seeding)? What if I told you that this place offers great standards of living, attractive salaries and a cost of living that is actually lower than London? Does it all sound too good to be true? Read on, it really isn't.
I'm thinking of Dubai. The most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, located right on the coast of the Persian Gulf: this is a city that really does combine sun, sea and sand. That's great, I hear you say, but what about work? For most of us, the truth of the matter is that life's not a beach and without work and an income, there's not going to be much opportunity to enjoy the highlights of a life in Dubai. In answer to that, I can say that Dubai has worked hard
to secure its position as the business hub of Western Asia. Dubai has a thriving economy and a varied business community. Before you ask, no, it's not all based on oil. Oil did help accelerate the city's growth, but it's not the critical player it once was, in fact it now only makes up 5% of GDP! Dubai is now a major finance centre, a trade hub, tourist hotspot and enjoys a strong aviation market. The government have also worked hard to ensure that Dubai is an attractive cultural centre, with world class attractions that include the latest in music, arts, culture and theatre.
Driven by all of these factors, the real estate market in Dubai is important. Following a difficult period over the last five years, 2020 looks like a great time to be in the city if you work in property and real estate; prices are climbing again, building rates are up and demand for staff is climbing. In fact, we're currently working with a number of firms located in Dubai who are actively looking for staff right now. Could 2020 be the year you make the leap? What would you need to know before you could emigrate from the UK to Dubai? We've had a look at the facts and are happy to share some handy pointers that could help you prepare for a move to Dubai.
Firstly, demand for staff in Dubai has been growing at an exponential rate and a lot of organisations are quite happy to support expats with securing their work permit. The easiest way to secure the relevant visa and permits is by securing an offer of employment while still here in the UK. This UAE Government page outlines the process and we've even found a handy guide that is an easier read. This is the best way to go about the process because it places the duty on the employer to ensure that all paperwork is completed correctly and that costs are covered.
So, you're interested, but what is the reality? Sun sea and sand isn't going to keep the roof over your head or put food on the table now is it? I've already mentioned that the cost of living is actually lower than London, but what does that look like? If we take a Valuation Surveyor as our example, let's just crunch some numbers. The average salary for an MRICS or AssocRICS qualified Valuation Surveyor is 30,000 AED a month, which at current exchange rates is over £6,000 per month. Did I mention that's tax free?
What does your £6,000 per month actually buy you?
The biggest expense will be rent. Rents in Dubai, certainly for brand new flats, in prime locations, will be quite high, but if you look at a flat that is slightly older, say 10 to 20 years old, they can be much more reasonably priced.
Bear in mind that accommodation in Dubai normally offers a lot more for your money too. They will often include much more space than you would get in London, parking, pools, air conditioning and sometimes access to Gyms and/or private member's clubs. Most family homes or villas even have a spare bedroom for a maid. Employing a maid is normal for the region, especially if you have a family with children, but by no means compulsory.
Adverts for 2 bedroom apartments are plenty, but one example I found was £80,000 AED per year or 6,667 AED per month. That's roughly equivalent to £1400 per month. When you look at rental values in London, that sort of space would cost a lot more! If you're looking for a larger villa in a popular expat area, then you will probably looking at a monthly rent of well over £3,000 so this might not be a great option to start with.
Driving is cheap, but the city is busy, so public transport is often a better bet for commuting. The cost of travel is much lower than London. This is offset by food costs that are probably twice as high as in London, but still affordable. The biggest savings are to be experienced when you look at night life and entertainment, where the comparison with London prices is extremely advantageous.
You will need to buy medical insurance and the cost of schooling is high, but all in, if you choose your accommodation wisely, you should be able to live very comfortably on your £6000 per month. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your rent remains at a level that is less than half your salary, leaving a lot of cash for your other expenses.
For a family of four, monthly living expenses (without rent) would typically be in the region of £11,593 AED or just under £2,500. Add in rent of between 6667 AED (£1,400) and 14,182.28 AED (£3,000) and you should still have a decent amount left from your 30,000 AED each month to use for other purposes.
Two things worth remembering: earnings in Dubai for expats are tax free and a lot of employers will also include medical insurance and gym membership in the salary package.
The reality check.
Dubai is Islamic, so the Islamic culture does need to be respected. Some of the freedoms we take for granted in the UK just don't exist in Dubai, so you will need to consider if a move like this is right for you. I'm not going to list all of the rules here, but the UK Government provide some advice for those travelling to Dubai.
If like me, you're still looking out that window at a grey UK day and would like to discuss the opportunities that are available now within the property sector in Dubai, we are recruiting for some great organisations and I'd be more than happy to speak to you.
Ruth who leads the Construction & Property team entered the recruitment world with extensive industry experience gained while owning and operating her own business within the property sector.
With fantastic industry knowledge and a great network, Ruth is perfectly placed to introduce employers and candidates who are a great fit for each other.