A French Expat Tries Buying in Dubai. What Could She Find for Under $1 Million? – The New York Times

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When Clementine Martini arrived in Dubai six years ago for a new job, she was elated to find that the United Arab Emirates’ biggest city was more than a manufactured metropolis of glass and steel towers.

Instead, she said, she found a safe, vibrant and cosmopolitan social scene, and a natural wonder. “Contrary to what most people think, nature is everywhere,” said Ms. Martini, 44. “Dubai is the perfect combination of living in a global business hub with access to the beach and desert.”

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Born and raised near the French seaside city of Marseille, Ms. Martini worked in public relations in Belgium for a decade, then relocated to Qatar for a couple of years. She landed in Dubai in 2018 as a senior manager for global campaigns at the Dubai tourism board, and lived in rentals as the city grew around her.

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Last year, she considered investing in property in France or Belgium for an additional income stream, but with housing prices and inflation rates surging across Europe, the returns wouldn’t make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, Dubai was experiencing its own boom, fueled by a wave of foreign buyers: Home prices rose 19 percent from September 2022 to September 2023, according to a market report by the real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

With her own rent of about 15,000 dirhams ($4,000) a month set to increase, Ms. Martini grew more comfortable with the idea of investing her money in the Gulf.

“The price per square meter is actually half of the price of Paris real estate, in addition to access to amenities such as parking, a gym and swimming pool,” she said.

With a budget of around 3 million United Arab Emirates dirhams ($815,000), preferably for a two-bedroom apartment in one of Dubai’s higher-end condo towers, Ms. Martini sought the help of Clement Audon, a broker at BlackOak Real Estate.

He called Dubai a seller’s market at the moment: “It’s been like that for the past three years. Now rent is high, tenants are buying rather than renting.”

Ms. Martini initially focused her search on a couple of older buildings that she had identified as having bigger floor plans than some of their newer counterparts. While many apartments in Dubai come with huge windows, she wanted a good amount of wall space for her art collection, as well as extra space for visitors.

Mr. Audon said that 75 percent of home purchases in Dubai are cash deals, but recently he has seen more buyers take out mortgages with standard 20 percent down payments, which was Ms. Martini’s plan.

Among her options:

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