The things you do to rent a house.

Depending on the economic climate you find yourself in, housing can be expensive OR extortionate. It's just the way it is, no-one likes it (except maybe the landlords), but really, that's renting.

Generally speaking, most employment packages list your housing allowance as a separate thing, and it is this part of a package that is really worth negotiating on.

In many cases what may be enough cash to rent a multi-story, swimming-pooled, gymnasium-equipped, metro palace in one country may not get you a 2 bed apartment in a crappy building in down-town Abu Dhabi.

The trick is to NOT convert the amount to your local currency and then use that as a reference point for housing.
It's one of those things you just have to suck up and get on with I am afraid, but the sting diminishes after a while, so that's a good thing.

Another bright piece of information is that rent is paid a year in advance here. Yes. That's right... a YEAR, up front, in full. Thankfully though this is 99% of the time ponied up by your company, so you never really have to see it, apart from carting the cheque from your Company to the real estate folk.

Oh... and you will usually have to place a 5000dhs "Bond" (don't actually know if we get it back or not) AND there is often a 5% commission to be paid to the Real Estate Broker. Power water and air-conditioning bills are often included in the rent - but make sure you ASK and make sure that this is the case.

Occasionally you might see properties advertised with payment being available by more than one cheque. While that sounds all nice, and infers that you just have to show up at periodic intervals with the next payment cheque and a smile - it's not actually the case. It simply means that at the time the lease is signed and keys are handed over you hand over a stack of post-dated cheques, these cheques are then presented to the bank and cleared as their dates come up. So there's not that much benefit, other than the ability to stop payment (maybe) on outstanding cheques if, god forbid, situations go pear shaped.

Don't be all gloomy! It just is what it is, and I figured that in the pursuit of fair play and full disclosure, that I'd just get all the potential costs out there!

Lastly if you are not yet in the country, do all the online looking you like - but most agents won't be able to help you until you are here. They have enough on their plates it seems with house hunters who are actually IN the country, without the added stresses of those who may or may not be coming as well.

How we rented a place.

We had 3 weeks to get everything done here in AD before I had to head back to Australia to wind up things there... The plan was that I was to leave my wife to get on with getting used to the new job, while I started the preliminary searches for housing etc.

There are some really good people here and I will list the 2 companies that we had great (if short) relationships with later on, but there are also some others that maybe are not so scrupulous. We arrived when the property market was very strong, and there was simply more demand than supply - so we were kinda looking at settling on just about anything at the time.

We were put on to a real estate broker, Judy, who was really nice and helpful, listened to what we were after, gently let me me know that I may need to adjust my expectations, and proceeded to show me a place that would suit our situation.

It was perfect.

And we didn't get to live in it.

Something went wrong, and we (wife and I, and our broker friend) couldn't work out what it was - but in the end even the broker said that the deal was smelling bad, and that we should move on to something else. We suspect that what had happened was that the person Judy was liaising with turned out to be someone trying to sublet the house (an illegal practice, unless certificates of no objection are produced on the owners behalf), as a result silence ensued when I asked, through the broker, whether this was the case. This is no slight on Judy - our girl on the ground in this deal - it was all about the "landlord".

If something feels a bit off - it might just be acclimatisation, if something feels decidedly WRONG, and there's no money down or contracts signed - my feeling is to back out, find something else.

Which we did, but we also are honest about the situation; we are not particularly hard to please AND know that we won't be here forever - a few years maybe, but accommodation we end up in is not likely the house our pension cheques are going to be sent to (if there was actually a postal system - more on that later) No, we didn't need perfect.. just suitable.

We had similar issues with another property, not through Judy this time - again, as soon as it became clear that we weren't going to produce a cheque without correct paperwork CLEARLY stating who the landlord was - the phone went silent.

So, time was ticking away. We had moved to a cheaper hotel. We were still homeless.
My Wife, on a whim, phoned the first real-estate agent in a local newspaper that had anything close to what we were hoping to live in.

We were in luck... the guys at Transworld were really helpful, and in no time at all we were standing in what is now our little home.

We had a couple of kinks that we had to stumble over, one being the need (due to the cheque being made to my wife and not the landlord) to take our year cheque to a bank and have it cashed... then walk said mound of cash through the city to the real estate office - I wasn't scared of it being stolen, but I am very much aware of my own ineptitude as a result I was very nervous about it falling out of my bag, or me simply leaving my bag (and therefore our entire year's rent) at an internet cafe.

I managed to get the cash to whom it was intended - a very unusual situation, but it worked. I would have preferred NOT to have had to pay in cash but it was just thesituation we found ourselves in. But in the end all were happy - they got their money and we got our keys.

Cheat Sheet.
Be certain about what you want, and then adjust if need be to what you need.
Be open to things as they present themselves.
Look at the web sites but the best thing to do is pick up the phone.
Pick up the phone when you are actually here or no more that a couple of weeks before to introduce yourself - don't expect too much to be done until you are here.
Sites of interest we dealt with Judy - call her direct if you like +971501314492. She's ace. initially dealt with Jamal, but then Shanish - both great guys.

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to

Thanks for visiting.