Coping with the aches and pains of getting a mortgage in the UAE
Communications professional Alex Malouf talks about the complicated journey to financing your home.
October 8, 2013 5:11 by Alex Malouf
Having lived in the Gulf region for two decades, I’ve become pretty accustomed to almost anything that comes my way. I’m not fazed by the ups and downs of our customer service or the need to deal with people using non-verbal signals.
I’ve adapted myself and now I’m used to the Gulf region and its peculiarities.
However, there’s one mystery that does remain. My family and I recently embarked on the process of becoming homeowners in the UAE. We’ve done our homework and called dozens of real-estate agents. So we have countless stories to tell of the wonders that we’ve seen in terms of finding a place that suits our needs.
After doing all of the ‘due diligence’, we stepped into the realm of applying for a mortgage. If you’re a first-time buyer in the country and you’ve experienced applying for and receiving a mortgage in a different part of the world, then my advice to you would be: Expect the unexpected.
Firstly, there’s the question of who will provide the finance required for the area or block you are buying in. Not all banks will finance equally and some will fund only in specific areas. Straight from the get-go, the area you plan buy in and even the developer of your new property may limit your choices.
Once you know which banks will finance your property, you have to start hitting the phones – and this you must do quite literally. The impression that most people have is that the UAE is a place that welcomes investors. I’m sure that if you are buying in cash, you will be welcomed with open arms.
However, if you need a mortgage, the key virtues are patience and resolve. I’ve had bank officials telling me that it will take mortgage advisors at least one week to call me. There are no simple forms to fill in and no online services.
Once the advisor called me back after a week or two, he told me that I have to prepare a list of documents specifically addressed to the bank or financial institution. And rather than doing everything in one go and sending all of the terms and conditions alongside a list of requirements (which, after all, would make sense), you’ll be forced to bounce emails back and forth to understand the what, why and how of each bank’s mortgage services and application processes.
It’s frustrating, nonsensical and rather a shame that banks haven’t structured their mortgage teams better and ensured a level of service that customers deserve. Coming from the UK, I know that I’d have a wide choice of mortgage providers there who’d walk me through every step of a process.
Instead, most banks in the UAE are making customers do the work. Isn’t it time for banks to change the way they deal with mortgage customers?
And, if you know a good mortgage advisor, please do share the details.
A British national with Arabic roots, Alex Malouf has lived in the Gulf region for two decades – in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the UAE. Alex lost his heart to journalism years ago, but he has worked with a range of multinational companies in the technology, energy and finance sectors to develop their marketing and communications approaches in the region. He’s currently based in Dubai, but calls Bahrain home.