Many people have recently upgraded to better value for money accommodation. Rents have been softening over the past few years, allowing a large number of budget-conscious residents to swap cramped rooms for spacious town houses, villas or apartments.
In Dubai, where rents continue to decline, the recent residential developments near Emirates Road, Al Khail Road and Jebel Ali have become a magnet for tenants. These neighbourhoods have seen an influx of residents from areas as far away as places such as Sharjah and Ajman. Based on the data supplied by Better Homes, 14 locations offer the most affordable rents. These are International City, Silicon Oasis, Discovery Gardens, International Media Production Zone (IMPZ), Dubailand, Jumeirah Village South, The Greens, Mirdif, Al Quoz, Deira, Bur Dubai, Karama, Al Qusais and Al Nahda. Many of these locations are in what property experts call the "New Dubai" area, thus they offer relatively new residential units.
Rents for studio apartments start from Dh16,000 to Dh40,000, while one-bedroom flats are up for grabs for anywhere between Dh25,000 and Dh55,000. Two-bed apartments are going for as low as Dh35,000 to as much as Dh80,000, almost half the price of similar units in prime locations.
Those who are looking for absolute low prices need to focus their search on two areas, International City has the cheapest studios and one-bedroom flats, and Al Nahda offers the most affordable two-bedroom flats.
There's no doubt those who could not afford to rent even a small studio back in the days when home values were high will be tempted to move into any of these budget communities. But there are other factors that can reduce or increase monthly living expenses. Lack of access to public transportation and basic facilities, and poor building maintenance, among others, can easily eat away any savings on rent.
To find out whether apartments with low price tags are worthy of a look, Gulf News asked real estate experts to assess the pros and cons of living in some of the affordable neighbourhoods.
Located on the corner of Al Khail Road and Emirates Road, International City comprises clusters of country-themed residential buildings. The location is "not that bad", but the lack of public transport can cause financial strain for car-less tenants. Concerns have also been raised about difficult access during rush hours, as well as a poor sewage system and landscaping in the area.
"Unfortunately, International City came on at the start of the financial crisis and in order to fill the buildings, the owners let these to labour companies, and this has brought with it crime and low-income people who cannot afford to support the retail shops in the area, many of which have closed down," notes Charles Neil, CEO of Landmark Properties.
"The developer has taken little care. There are sewage problems, landscaping has not been carried out, and owners are not maintaining their properties because they are getting low rents. Many owners are not paying their service charges and therefore there is even less money available for maintenance of the infrastructure."
"It has a very rundown look about it, and it is less than four years old. The only benefits of living there are that services are cheap, and the most basic needs such as supermarkets, restaurants, tailor shops are located there."
- Good: Rents for studios and one-bed flats are cheapest in Dubai
- Bad: Lack of public transport, sewage and landscaping issues
Situated on the intersection of Emirates Road and Al Ain Road, Silicon Oasis is a bit out on the desert fringe, just like its neighbour —International City. Studio apartments can be leased for Dh28,000 to Dh30,000 a year and one-bedroom apartments for Dh45,000 to Dh48,000 per annum.
"It's a community in the making, located outside of Dubai's hustle and bustle," says Paul Musson, manager for residential sales and leasing, at Better Homes head office.
Some of the apartments are equipped with washing machines and built-in electric stoves, and tenants have access to swimming pool, gym as well as bus services, but there's no Metro station nearby.
- Good: Rents are cheap; apartments are semi-furnished
- Bad: Finding public transport can be a challenge
Discovery Gardens is a freehold residential community close to Jebel Ali Freezone, Dubai Marina, Dubai Internet and Media City. Studios there cost between Dh25,000 and Dh32,000 and one-bedroom flats between Dh31,000 and Dh52,000, according to Better Homes' price list.
While the location is much better compared to International City and it does not have a major sewage plant next to it, the community has limited access to the Metro. "Quality of build is poor there as well. Things are slightly better there though," says Neil.
"There is demand from people working in Abu Dhabi, therefore the income bracket of the inhabitants is higher on average than in International City, and more landscaping has been done, so aesthetically it appears better."
However, this doesn't appear to be an ideal choice for those who want to enjoy upscale living on a budget. The flats are not equipped with washing machines and dishwashers, and buildings don't have amenities such as swimming pools and gyms. Bear in mind that furnishing an apartment can be costly, as well as getting membership to private gyms and sports clubs.
- Good: Rents are cheap; residents have easy access to bus services
- Bad: Metro station is not accessible in all areas
International Media Production Zone
IMPZ (International Media Production Zone) is a freezone and freehold area near the Arabian Ranches and Sports City. Rents there are actually cheaper compared to Discovery Gardens. The location is ideal for mid-level office staff working for the companies in the freezone.
Just like the other large-scale developments on Al Khail or Emirates Road, IMPZ is well-connected to the main thoroughfares. Residents looking to rent a studio for anywhere between Dh23,000 and Dh30,000, or a one-bedroom for Dh38,000 to Dh40,000, can find some good options there.
However, there is no Metro station on site and there are very few completed buildings to choose from. "It's growing slowly," says Kumar.
- Good: Very low rent
- Bad: Location is out of the way
This "centrally located" and established community offers mid-rise residential apartment blocks with direct access to main roads, shops, food outlets and much more. Studio apartments can range between Dh35,000 and Dh40,000, while one-bedroom flats cost between Dh50,000 and Dh55,000 a year.
This is an ideal choice for the budget-conscious consumer looking to upgrade to quality accommodation. However, don't expect ready furnishings and convenient Metro access. Only the new flats are equipped with dishwashers and built-in stoves and while there are buses plying around the community, Metro commuters have to go to Emaar Business Park.
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of money-saving opportunities. The area is only a couple of kilometres away from Dubai's main attractions, parks and beaches, and tenants have access to facilities like gyms, community pools and party halls.
- Good: Rents are value for money
- Bad: Metro station is not within walking distance in all areas
Bur Dubai, Deira and Karama
The older and more established commercial districts, Bur Dubai, Deira and Karama, which used to be the entry points for people looking to live in Dubai, still offer affordable rates. Deira's residential blocks rent out studios for Dh24,000 on average and one-bedroom flats between Dh40,000 and Dh55,000.
In Bur Dubai, prices don't differ much, with studios costing between Dh32,000 and Dh40,000; one-bedroom from Dh40,000 to Dh60,000 and two-bedroom between Dh60,000 and Dh80,000. In terms of location, these areas are a good choice for those looking for more value for their dirham. "There are many retail amenities and schools and hospitals are nearby. But some people think these areas are getting a congested and the some of the buildings have aged. New infrastructure is also not coming up," says Vineet Kumar, Asteco Property Management's head of business development in Dubai.
- Good: Ideal location for those working in old Dubai and on Shaikh Zayed Road, convenient Metro access
- Bad: Some buildings are a bit old; roads can be congested at peak times