If that seems a little down beat, it is important to note that while the percentage of you saying home ownership makes you feel happier still the overwhelming majority that think, overall, home ownership is a source of happiness. Over seven in 10, or 70.3% of you to be precise think home ownership boosts your sense of wellbeing. It is just that this figure is down from 78% in 2018 and from a staggering 89% in 2014.
As interesting is that, compared to 2018, there is a very similar percentage of respondents saying home ownership does NOT affect how they feel, meaning that this year 14.5 percent of respondents say owning their own home actually works against a sense of happiness. This, as noted, is likely to be caused by the inability to offload property in times of financial stress, in a market where prices have been in decline.
Part of the reason why more homeowners may be feeling financial stress is simply that ownership is far more democratic and widespread. While once it was the preserve of the highest ends of the middle class, today affordable housing is the sweet spot for almost all developers. As a result, today 13.34% of respondents live in homes they own, compared to 8.71% in 2014. We are becoming, slowly, a nation of homeowners.
What should be worrying for developers, however, is the numbers of you interested in becoming a homeowner (or buying another property) is in decline, just as stocks rise to their highest ever levels.
Over one quarter of respondents said they were thinking of buying a property when we first asked the question five years ago, and fell only very slightly in 2018, when 24.24% of you said you were interested. In 2019 however, that number has fallen sharply. Today 20.56% of respondents, or one in five of you, say they are interested in becoming a homeowner.
We cannot compare accurately the reasons why this is with last year, as we added additional options, based on your open-ended feedback last year.
What we can say for sure is that the cost is no longer the top reason you're not interested in buying a property, with a sense of "risk" overtaking it.
In some senses this is positive for the UAE in that it controls some levers to mitigate the sense of risk should it want to. Some 12.47% of respondents are held back by the fact that there is no permanent residency tied to property ownership, and 8.9% of respondents are concerned whether there are adequate legal protections. Both concerns can, if there is the will, be addressed.
What is clearly much less of a concern this year when it comes to buying a property is value for money. It was chosen by only 6.61% of respondents as a reason why not to buy. Given the fall in house prices across the UAE, this is perhaps not so much of a surprise.
Finally, some good news. Most of you think that the areas in which you live are increasingly well managed and are more likely than ever to say that fees their managers charge you represent good or fair value.
In 2019, 84% of respondents say their development or community is either Very well or Well Managed, up from 78.6% last year and 78% in 2014. A significant 8.3% MORE of you say your area is Very Well managed than the time of our first Happiness survey. Whether this is master developers getting their houses in order pre-Expo, or just getting better, will be revealed over the next two surveys.
In terms of cost over two thirds of you, 67% to be exact, now think service and maintenance fees represent either fair value (56.5%), or Good value (11.31%) for money. This compares to 55.61% who thought fees were Fair (43.88) or Good Value (11.73%) last year.
Given your feelings towards rising costs elsewhere (not good!), developers, communities managers and agencies such as RERA, and the Dubai Land Department that provide control and oversight, deserve a pat on the back for delivering quality, and in large part, value at the same time. As anyone managing a budget will tell you, that's no easy feat.
Next: Happiness and Money
Happiness 2019 Index
Happiness Rises Across the UAE
Why You Choose to Live in the UAE
Your Biggest Worries Living in the UAE
Who is the Happiest in the UAE?
The UAE and Kids, a Great Mix
Property Ownership - Happiness and Stress
Happiness and Money in 2019
Happiness and Employment in 2019
Happiness and the Expo Effect