Expert speak. Michelle Stewart, owner of Island Estates Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI: Having just moved to Abu Dhabi from Australia, Frieda Mathew (name changed) was searching for a two-bedroom flat for her family last week. A real estate agent showed her some apartments but demanded a ‘viewing fee’ of Dh200 at the end of the tour.

“I convinced him I would pay in our next meetng. It was only when I enquired on a Facebook forum that I learnt the fee was illegal,” said Mathew. She didn’t contact the agent again.

Tricky deals

Going by the numerous posts on Abu Dhabi Q&A Community Facebook, it’s clear that many residents have indeed paid the fee thinking it to be a norm.

When XPRESS asked Michelle Stewart, owner of Island Estates Abu Dhabi, about the practice of agents charging a ‘viewing fee’, she was not only shocked but has warned residents against striking a deal with such agents.

“Many years ago, it was common for agents to take money, but that’s not the case any more,” says Stewart who has been in the profession for eight years.

However, some tenants justify the charge, saying agents should be compensated for their time and effort.

“My family and I viewed five apartements in a day. So, when the agent mentioned the viewing money, we didn’t think twice before handing it over,” said an Indian sales manager who moved to Abu Dhabi last month.

The legal point

But Stewart explains that the commission agents receive on making a sale cover all the expenses they incur.

“Any reputable company in Abu Dhabi takes five per cent for a lease and two per cent for a sale. Anyone asking for money upfront is usually unlicensed, which can cause even more problems down the line. For example, by leasing an illegal property the client loses the rent they have paid and has no one to turn to for recompense. This is more prevalent in areas such as Khalifa City or Mohammad Bin Zayed City, although it can happen anywhere. To protect yourself you should always ask a reputable company for a copy of their trade licence and trust that they will guide you through the process of obtaining Tawtheeq and setting up power etc,” said Stewart.

The writer is a Abu Dhabi-based freelancer.

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