Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I was a millionairess!

Marina Pinnacle Tower (second from left)
Ah, yes! I was a millionairess for a few days back in the summer of 2008, when I sold my first property in Dubai. What got me thinking about that was a visit I finally made to my second Dubai flat last Thursday (December 9).

I bought my first flat at Dubai Marina in 2004 when I dreamed of moving to the sun and fantasized about Dubai.

Property is a leisure pursuit that was set in motion during my years in London. This went against the judgment of my father, Esa, who always loathed doctors, insurance and property. I took his word for the first two, but caught the property bug.

During my first year in London in 1986, I made an offer on a flat on Oakley Street, Chelsea. It made me feel full-grown and independent. All the legal papers were completed just before Christmas when I went back home to Beirut to see my mum, Vicky. In the few weeks I was in Beirut, each time I boasted to family or friends that I was about to buy a flat in London, I was met with raised eyebrows. The conversation would quickly revert to whether there would be electricity or running water that day or if fighting would resume… It took the wind out of my infant property sail. So, I dropped the offer on my return to London.

But the bug stayed, prompting me to always keep an eye on the property market and view as many flats for sale as my time allowed.

The Cannes flat
My first plunge into the real estate rough seas was a flat I bought on the doorsteps of Cannes, on the French Riviera (see “I have a dream,” Sept 21 post). Although I only visited it once, funds from its sale in 2004 allowed me to dabble my feet in the waters of Dubai.

In London, meantime, when the rent on my flat in Cheyne Place was unreasonably raised, I decided to enter the local market and buy a place of my own. Of course by then, prices were nowhere near those in 1986 but I still found a one-bed in Wimbledon.

The Wimbledon flat: An unforgettable first night
It’s a wonderful feeling to move into your property and to know that you own it and are paying for it with hard-earned money. The first night there, in November 2002, was special and waking up in “my flat,” is unforgettable. But I didn’t spend much time there and apart from two Christmas Days, I hardly ever saw it in daytime because of a heavy work schedule.

The tiny one-bed flat in Chelsea Harbour
Soon after, I came across a good buy in Chelsea Harbour. Again it was a tiny one-bed flat, but a safe investment, given the motto “location, location, location.” The flat had to be redone to fit a more modern demand. When renovation work got underway, another flat caught my attention in Ormonde Gate, on the Chelsea Embankment. So I ended with three flats.

The years between 2004 and 2006 were mostly spent on sites -- choosing parquet flooring, taps, tiles, kitchen equipment, paint colors… and trying to get builders off their mobiles. Of course, deadlines were never met and I invariably missed the high spring selling season. So none of those flats got me even close to being a millionairess and I was glad to simply pass over the worry to someone else.

It was thus with great expectation and excitement that I made the five-minute walk from the office in Dubai Media City to view my new flat in Marina Pinnacle Tower, Dubai Marina, last week.

Marina Pinnacle Tower is a 71-floor development by Tiger Group. It will have four parking floors, professional housekeeping and child care facilities, high-speed Internet, as well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools for children and adults, fully-equipped gym, Jacuzzis, sauna and steam rooms on the fifth floor. Shops and restaurants will be placed on the ground floor.

When the global financial meltdown hit Dubai in 2008, the growing real estate sector came to a near halt and many developments were either canceled or mothballed. Unperturbed, I kept an almost daily vigil on Marina Pinnacle Tower. I followed every step of the construction because I can see the building from the parking of Thuraya Tower II, where I work.

I was excited to receive an email from Tiger Group, which have during the past two years sent monthly detailed status updates. Their email said, “We are pleased to inform that in order to take handover of your property in Marina Pinnacle Tower, you are entitled to visit the residential unit prior to the completion date.” Completion is now slated for later this month or early next.

I headed to Marina Pinnacle last week and was struck by the hurly-burly of final clearing and cleaning up. I was met at the lobby by Mr. Shaifur Rahman, who is in charge of escorting owners to inspect their flats. After getting his big bundle of keys, we headed to mine, which is on the 18th floor.

The view of Dubai Marina from the balcony

The view towards The Atlantis on The Palm
As we pushed the front door open, I was pleasantly surprised by how much natural light there was in the flat and by the views from its balcony -- the first spot I aimed for. The balcony’s left side looks out on the Marina and the right side on The Palm and The Atlantis. I started imagining what plants I would get, but rushed back inside to continue the inspection.

The living and dining room is an excellent size as is the bedroom, once cupboards are installed. The en suite bathroom is perfect and so is the guests’ cloakroom. I loved the open-plan kitchen, which will be fitted with a fridge, cooker, washing machine and a microwave. You can visit the flat with me here.

I went back out on the balcony to admire the views and dream again… because the flat is back on the market (see here), although in more difficult times than when I bought it.

But, hey… you know how I believe dreams do become reality. So maybe this flat will sell soon and I can move on. After that happens, I intend sticking to my dad’s motto: no doctors, no insurance and NO property!

[December 20 Update: An article titled "Tiger ready to hand over new Marina Pinnacle Tower to owners," appeared in the December 19 edition of Gulf News. You can read the article here.]