This is a gold rush! According to Arabian Business, approximately 4,000 millionaires moved to the UAE last year which made it the largest net inflow of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) globally in 2022.
Many new residents have subsequently invested in properties and decided to renovate their home planning to settle in. Lots of buyers, much less available properties for rent… real-estate prices and rents went up, especially in the prime market. The National reported an increase of more than 50% in the Palm Jumeirah area. Long-time homeowners and investors have followed with renovation works aiming to resell their properties and strike it rich.
As a result, half of my cozy, quiet residential compound has transformed into a noisy, busy construction site. After 15 years in the Middle East, that’s OK. I have been used to it. But what surprises me is the poor quality of many renovation works.
How can we invest X Million Dirhams in a new property and pay so little attention to the quality of its renovation?
Uneven walls, poor mechanical and electrical installation, cracked grout, poor tiling job, wrong wood used for outdoor application, inconsistent design, bad isolation works, visible stains and flaws, uneven and inconsistent paint colors… I have seen it all in my street, in one of the most sought-after quarters of Dubai. Both homeowners and tenants will suffer. Property and community value may be affected.
Why so cheap then? I may see two main reasons.
First, homeowners are not used to engaging in such works. We usually renovate our kitchen or bathroom once in a lifetime, maybe twice. Not every year. Thus, they may not know who to trust nor what is the ‘right’ price for such work. They may not be aware of latest construction trends or innovations. As a result, they may not ask the right questions nor set the right budget.
As for contractors, they may miss skilled labors (carpenters, stonemasons, painters…). They may struggle to procure high quality building materials, or sometimes go for cheaper, less durable products to meet clients’ budget while maintaining their margin. One recurrent example is the use of non-washable paints.
Indeed, contractors face massive competition in the UAE. The market is fragmented and tends toward a red ocean.
More regulation and local implementation of international construction standards would lead to higher quality building and renovation. Incentive programs to support learning and development could encourage employers to train and certify their workers. More information about this industry and better control would finally be required should the UAE want to shift toward higher quality and more eco-friendly practices.
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