Such great news to share! WE GOT THE APARTMENT!
What a hurdle this has been. House hunting here was not what I was expecting. We started out by looking at properties online and then sending email inquiries to the agents for the apartments we were interested in. We were lucky to be working with a large housing budget — we had enough money to allow us the choice between an apartment with all of the amenities, or a large villa (we’re talking 3,000 sq ft. or more). Because it’s just the three of us and we only plan on having one car, it made more sense for us to pursue an apartment where Matteo and I would have access to a pool, walking paths, grocery store, gym, etc. within walking distance while Tony took the car to work during the day.
Once we knew the location of Tony’s school, we were able to choose our target neighborhood — Al Raha Beach. Right on the water/marina, central location with easy access both to central Abu Dhabi, the airport, and only 15 minutes to Tony’s school. The problem is that Al Raha Beach is a very popular area for expats and there aren’t a lot of vacant properties available. The first place that I saw was fine, but nothing special. Nonetheless, it was off the market in one day.
By luck, on Monday evening one of the agents to call me back about an apartment inquiry was an American named Larissa. I immediately clicked with her when we spoke on the phone. She’s a mom to a little girl just a little younger than Matteo so she was cool with me having to bring him with us to look at places, and she quickly had a great understanding of what we were looking for an apartment. While she cautioned us about how quickly properties go in Al Raha Beach (she told me it was like “NYC rentals in the ’90s”), and mentioned some alternate locations we might like, she didn’t try to steer us away from pursuing the neighborhood we wanted and seemed determined to help us find the right place. I got off the phone with her that night feeling better immediately.
On Tuesday morning, I had a phone call from Larissa early (at 7:30). Overnight, two apartments came on the market. One was snatched up first thing when the office opened, sight unseen. Larissa, in her infinite wisdom and kindness, had driven to the office to check out the key to the other apartment and was holding it for me to see (this prevented anyone else from seeing the apartment before me — how cool is that??). I scooped up Matteo and we jumped in to a cab to meet Larissa and see the apartment. It’s at Al Bandar — a three building development known for its stair-step facade. The apartment we were to see was in the “C” building, the most westerly of the three, with sea views from every room. Matteo and I saw the 4th floor apartment, and I knew pretty much right away that I wanted it. It ticked off almost every item on our wish list — 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, laundry, large kitchen, sea views, covered parking, 24 hour security, etc. Knowing that the place would go fast, and that we had to move quickly if we wanted it, I decided to move forward on securing the apartment without Tony first having a chance to see it.*
The rest of the day was spent in frustration. First, the owner of the apartment had to approve our nationality and the face that it would be a third party paid rental (part of Tony’s compensation package is paid housing). The brokerage agent couldn’t reach him by phone though, and so I spent hours just waiting to see if this person would even consider renting to us. One interesting note about rentals in Abu Dhabi is that the rent is paid on an annual basis not monthly. That means a lot of money would need to exchange hands. There was also some confusion on my part — at Tony’s orientation he was told not to sign anything or pay anything without first getting approval and I was being asked to pay both the commission and security deposit right then and there in order to proceed with securing a “3 day letter” that would give us three days to have the rental contract completed and the year’s rent paid. It took hours to square this away, and Tony ended up having to leave work early to take care of it since he is the employee and the work visa is in his name.
Confusion, stress, and short/annoyed miscommunication between Tony and I ensued. I wasn’t expecting to be gone so long and Matteo was hungry, bored and tired. Finally, realizing there was nothing more for me to do, Larissa sent me back to the hotel and waited for Tony to meet her. The two of them were able to get a lot taken care on that day — and Tony left with the 3 day letter we needed in his hand. Then things got confusing as the country entered the Eid holiday — most businesses and government offices shut down. So our three days didn’t really start until offices reopened on Sunday.
Today is Tuesday — the last day in our 3 day window to secure the apartment and Tony spent his morning making sure that we didn’t lose the place. He stayed at the housing office until the contract was completed, and then worked with Larissa to have it turned in to the “powers that be” so that the apartment is ours. The next step is to set up utilities and scheduled our furniture delivery. We should have keys by tomorrow afternoon! As in, WE GET TO MOVE OUT OF THE HOTEL! I am thrilled beyond belief. The hotel has been great, and we’ve made the most of it (confined space + nowhere to go = perfect potty training scenario) but I want to feel organized and in my own space. I want to do laundry in a machine, not a bathtub, and I want a kitchen so that I can cook for my family!
I’m also excited to have a home. To feel like we really do live here in Abu Dhabi. I’m excited to become a part of a community, and to help Matteo make friends and feel at home. I also admit I am PUMPED to live in such a cool building!
So that’s today’s excitement. I’m sure we’ll be sharing more as we prepare to move in to our new place, though updates may be spotty until all utilities and connections set up. I anticipate we’ll be in the hotel at least through the weekend though.
For now, be excited with us! WE GOT THE APARTMENT!!
*Tony still hasn’t seen the apartment! There hasn’t been an opportunity for him to see it, so at this point he won’t see it until we’ve started to move it. I hope he loves it!