In Dubai, apartment rentals can go from as low as AED 355 to as high as AED 1,098 per square metre, and annual rents can go from AED 23,000 to north of AED 200,000.

For instance,Dubai Festival City apartments for rent can start at AED 112,000 for two-bedroom options and AED 140,000 for three-bedroom variants. Moreover, according to Property Monitor, the average annual rent at this prime property development is AED 124,464.

What does this tell you? Rent in Dubai is highly variable. How, then, should you choose an apartment to rent?

You may consider the following factors when looking for an apartment to rent in Dubai.

  1. Budget

Setting your budget should be the first step. Your budget will dictate which neighbourhoods you should look at for your apartment search.

UAE residents rank fourth globally when it comes to the percentage of monthly expenditure going to rent. Specifically, rent comprises 39.85% of UAE residents’ monthly outgoings.

Not only does rent make up almost 40% of UAE residents’ monthly expenses. When it comes to the proportion of income that goes to rent, the UAE also ranks 25th globally, with 35.06% of UAE residents’ income going to rent payments.

Moreover, expatriates in the UAE often expect to spend nearly half of their salary on rent. This is especially true in Dubai, the most expensive city in the UAE.

So, how much should you allocate to rent? It depends on what you can afford, ensuring you have sufficient means left over for your living expenses.

If you have no idea, choose from the three frameworks presented above. Your rent can be a little less than 40% of your expenses or approximately 35% of your income. If you are accustomed to a particular way of living, perhaps, you might have to part with 50% of your salary.

After picking one of the above ‘templates’, adjust it according to how much you and your family need for food, utilities, school fees, transportation, recreation, and other expenses. A good rule of thumb is to allocate no more than 30% of your income on rent. That will give you a good margin for living expenses.

Once you have a rental ballpark figure in mind, you can begin your apartment search in earnest, but only in the neighbourhoods that offer a rental range that approaches or is within reach of your budget.

  1. Activities and Lifestyle

The next thing you should assess is your lifestyle. What do you do or wish to do? What is your daily life like?

Specifically, if you are an employee, where do you work? If you have school-age children, what type of school do you want for them? What do you and your family like doing on weekdays? How about weekends? Do you cook, or would you rather eat out or order take-out?

Do you do your own laundry, or do you prefer a professional laundry service? Do you or does any other family member drive?

The answers to these questions and more will determine the amenities you require and guide you to the ideal apartment.

For instance, where you work should narrow down your options. Ideally, ‌pick a neighbourhood close to your place of work.

If the apartments near your workplace are beyond the budget you set, however, you will have no choice but to expand your search radius to include more distant neighbourhoods. In this case, though, you will have to find a place that’s accessible to public transportation or spend money on a car for convenience.

If you have school-age children, you want a neighbourhood with nearby schools.

On the other hand, if you are accustomed to going to the mall or going out with the family every weekend, you want a neighbourhood with recreational facilities on-site. The perfect example of such a development is the Marsa Plaza apartment building located close to Dubai Festival City Mall, a premiere shopping destination in the UAE.

If you or your family members are accustomed to an active lifestyle — say, you play tennis, swim, basketball, and other such sports — you want a neighbourhood with a gym or a club that cater to these activities. Finally, if you are used to eating out rather than dining in, you also want a neighbourhood that offers plenty of dining options.

  1. Value for Money

After narrowing down your shortlist of neighbourhoods according to your budget and your particular needs and preferences, the next step is to list down all the apartment rentals in your shortlisted areas. At this point, you can rank your list of viable apartments according to value.

Value or value for money is usually measured in the total amount of space and extra amenities and facilities you can get at a particular price point.

To illustrate, if you’re spending AED 124,000 on annual apartment rental, which of the apartments in your list offers the biggest space and the best amenities for that amount of money? That would be the apartment that provides the best value for money.

There’s actually great news for you on this front. Even if the UAE ranks eighth in the world when it comes to monthly rent (i.e., the UAE is one of the most expensive countries to rent in), it offers relatively greater value for money when it comes to prime property.

Therefore, you get more prime property space for every dirham you spend on rent in Dubai than you would in New York, Hong Kong or London. Specifically, when it comes to premium property, AED 36,731 will get you 454 square metres of space in Dubai, and only 139 square metres in Hong Kong, 209 square metres in New York and 269 square metres in London.

Successful Apartment Hunting in Dubai

Dubai is an expensive city. Therefore, choosing an apartment requires great care.

Remember to filter your options according to your budget and lifestyle. After that, compare your choices according to the amount of value each can deliver before deciding on which apartment to rent.