Happiness 2018: For Happiness Property Matters

Owning your own home does make you happy, giving you a sense of security and an anchor point in the UAE. But it's not what it was... WhichSchoolAdvisor.com looks at the impact of home ownership on happiness.
Happiness 2018: For Happiness Property Matters
By David Westley
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Our survey shows a growing number of respondents living in their own home. However, while owning your own property still makes you happy, it does not make you as happy as it once did.

The reasons why owning your home gives a boost to a resident's sense of well being are numerous. For many however it is simply about security, and not having to pay someone else rent.

Said one respondent:

"I think the biggest factor is not having to deal with landlords who try to hike the rent each year or do not have a clue about the current market when it comes to renewal. I did rent for a couple of years before buying and when that time comes around it is very stressful and not a happy time!"

Added a second:

"I am not effected by fluctuations in the rental market. Not having to move every year due to this..."

Others like the ability to make changes to apartments and houses they own.

"As an owner you are able to make changes to your property which make you more comfortable and ultimately happier."

The ability to be able to walk away and rent their properties if and when they meave also gives owns confidence.

"I am not worried about and rent can lease when leaving UAE for extra income."

For others, more fundamentally it helps them put down roots.

"It gives a sense of permanency in the UAE and security of owing assets.

"It's my house... My heaven... A comfort zone with security for my family and kids..."

"It’s our property and our son can call it home."

"Because we can make our house into our home and an anchor point in Dubai."

"The feeling and confidence and security of home ownership is amazing compared to living in a rented property."

"I feel safe."

The vast majority of respondents that own their own home agree with these sentiments. In 2014, 89% of respondents said owning their own home made them happier. That figure has fallen, but it still a dominant 78.06% today.

Reasons property owners are not always happy centres on perceived broken promises made by master developers, and a lack of management.

"What was promised when we bought has not materialised and where there was supposed to be landscaped gardens, there are now two new buildings going up."

"Lack of control generally over the property and forced charges that you have to pay..."

"[The master developer] is extremely unprofessional and poorly managed. Major noise pollution in the area with no law to protect residents in the area. The property was sold as sea view then buildings were built in front with no consideration to the promise of what they sold. Owners have no say in the matter."

For other it is simply about losing money  in a market that once favoured landlords, but has now swung towards the tenant:

"It would have benefited me more if I would have continued to rent as the property prices have declined and I am losing over 50% of my investment..."

"Rents go down while mortgage rates go up - with job insecurity. Having a mortgage is actually a nightmare. Service fees are SOOO high..."

"Prices are decreasing..."

In addition, some owners worry about the costs, and ability, to keep their property in good order.

"Trying to get any level of service for maintenance and repairs is very difficult and frustrating. Many companies just want to sell you new, expensive and unnecessary stuff i.e. rip you off. Consumer satisfaction is a joke generally with little recourse to the law. Dealing with under-skilled, over-priced people who seem out to cheat you daily is depressing!"

Finally others fret just because of an increasing feeling of job insecurity...

"Because there is no protection at work and therefore could be sacked tomorrow. Same for all expats..."

In terms of respondents to the survey, the numbers who own their own home is still small (comparatively), but on the up. Just over 10% of respondents to the survey said they own their home, up from 8.71% when we first conducted the survey.

However, our survey suggests growth may slow.

In 2014, 25.15% of respondents said they were thinking of buying a property, a figure falling, marginally, to 24.14% today. While the drop is small, the concern for developers would be that there is a hugely increased stock of housing for sale. As we approach 2020, there will be a slew of additional developments coming online.

The reasons for not buying a property is evolving. That there is more affordable housing stock is recognised in the survey with fewer respondents (as a percentage) citing price as the reason they would not buy - even if it remains the single largest reason putting buyers off. Meanwhile the perception of risk has increased - understandably given that an investment into property now would mean buying as asset that is currently falling in value. Finally, less people expect to be here beyond the short term, with the numbers saying that do not expect to stay in the UAE rising as a reason not to buy property in the emirates.

As something of a bright spot, respondents living under a master developer is increasing, and contrary to the grumbles, many of you think they are doing a fine job. 48.35% of you now say you live in a master planned development, compared to 44% in 2014. The big four according to our respondents are Aldar, Dubai Properties, Emaar, and Nakheel.

The good news is that despite grumbles most master developers get the thumbs up. The number of respondents saying they are "Very happy" has actually increased to 25.37% from 23.55% in 2014. More importantly less respondents say they are frustrated with poor performance.

As soon as it comes to money however, there is less generosity of spirit. Very few people think service and maintenance charges are good value, and opinions here seem to be deteriorating, not improving. This is no doubt resistance to rising costs is tied into tighter purse strings and heightened sensitivities to costs within households in general. As the economy improves, and companies begin to share their wealth with their employees again, so we would expect these hardened attitudes to rising costs anywhere, to gently begin to soften.


Happiness 2018 - Four years on, are we still as happy?
Happiness 2018, The Infographic - Key Stats
Happiness 2018: How and Why We Did This Survey
Happiness 2018: What You Choose the UAE
Happiness 2018: Who are the Happiest People in the UAE
Happiness 2018: Property Matters
Happiness 2018: Expo 2020 and Happiness
Happiness 2018: Growing up in the UAE
Happiness 2018: The Changing Face of Expats
Happiness 2018: In Search of the Dolce Vita
Happiness 2018: How the UAE is Switzerland

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