Abu Dhabi Weather

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apartment Hunting

In the past week, my family and I have been getting reacquainted with Abu Dhabi. Because we arrived two weeks later than planned, the kids have had to jump into school 36 hours after arriving and I've had to start work. Essentially, my job has been finding an apartment and getting settled as quickly as possible. My previous job provided a place to live with the option of finding your own place. For my new job, I am just given money to find my own place. The upside is that I get to choose where I live, but the downside is that I have to navigate the Abu Dhabi real estate market.

Tha Al Raha Beach area.
We did some scouting before the summer break to see what was available. Prices have come down a lot in the past few years with all of the development. That was good news for us and we were looking forward to arriving after the summer break and having apartment owners lining up to offer us a place to live. Despite that being the expectation we were given, that ended up not being the case. To be fair, the prices before summer had set our hopes fairly high. Arriving well into the apartment hunting high season didn't help, either.

Given only two weeks to find a place, complete the paperwork, and arrange to move our worldly possessions out of storage into the apartment, we have been in a time crunch. My wife had very specific criteria and wanted it for the prices that we had grown to expect. Luckily for us, my wife's being picky worked out for us.

Eventually, we were given the contact number of an estate agent used by a friend. The agent deals directly with the owners so the prices are a bit lower. We were able to find a spacious apartment in the Al Raha Beach area for a price that was a lower than the other places that we had been looking at. It is a spacious apartment with a private beach and cafes and shopping within walking distance. There is a swimming pool and private gym.

If this sounds slightly shady, that's because it is. In the several months ago, there were 70 families that were facing eviction because of real estate fraud in Dubai. Even as recently as two weeks ago, more cases have come to light. All of them seem to be similar to what I am doing. To ease my mind, my friend who got a great deal on an apartment recapped his experiences. The main protection was that the checks were made out to ALDAR which is the major management company in Abu Dhabi. Also, I did some research and found this article from a few years ago that gave some advice to avoid fraud.

Assuming that we don't get scammed, we should be in our new place by this time next week. Assuming we DO get scammed, we'll be living in a one bedroom apartment on Hamdan street.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Visa Troubles

Since my last entry, I've canceled my visa left the UAE, and started a new job. I wanted to chronicle that whole bundle of headache, but because I had so much going on at that point, I never found the time. I will summarize by saying that the financial benefits of canceling the visa and having my new employer sponsor me made the trouble that I had to go through well worth the hassle. The other option was to just switch the sponsorship of my visa to the new school, but I don't know if that option would have been that much easier and it certainly would have earned me less money.

That said, I actually thought that I had gone through the worst of the process in getting my final clearances. I hadn't anticipated the potential problems that would arise with my school applying for my visa during Ramadan.

Companies need to apply for visas within 30 days of the new employee arriving. My planned arrival of late August put the day to apply for my visa at the beginning of Ramadan. The process generally takes two days, but because it was Ramadan when people are tired and hungry and thirsty and are dying for a cigarette, nothing gets done. (For a recap of some of my difficulties cause by Ramadan when I first arrived in 2009, click here.) Some of my cohorts' visas took a week, some two weeks and others three weeks. Mine and another new teacher's visa was not done within the three weeks so was not available before the Eid holiday when I planned on arriving. As a result, everything got pushed back by two weeks.

Because my family and I were in the U.S. staying with my parents, there was no real financial strain. The only strain was limited to straining my relationship with my mother for overstaying our welcome. The problem was that even though I was pretty sure that our visas would come through eventually, I couldn't help thinking that there was a reason that they were delayed and that there might be some random reason I was not being granted a UAE visa. Had this been the case, our lives would have been turned upside down.

Fortunately, everything came through and we were able to arrive last Friday. I have been fortunate that everyone has been so helpful in helping me cover classes while I have been running around getting re-established. Still, I missed out on the orientation and have sort of been dropped into the thick of things.

An additional consequence  is that I lost two weeks salary and am looking for an apartment after all of the best places have been already rented out. I will try to later recap my adventures of apartment hunting with a two-week deadline before we get kicked out of the hotel my school is putting us up in.