Sales Manager Kit James lives in Dubai with his wife Mary-Jane and their children Iona, 12, Archie, 10, and Hamish, 7.
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In March 2005, while working as a partner for a major estate agency, Kit James received what was to be a life-changing offer for them all. The opportunity to head sales for IFA Hotel and Resorts was too good to refuse but it meant uprooting his entire family from their beloved Oxfordshire.
Arriving in the city for the first time for an interview, Kit recalls: "When I saw Dubai I have to say that I found it to be absolutely phenomenal. The speed and the sheer scale of what they're doing here is completely gobsmacking and I remember feeling absolutely amazed by it all!"
The contrast was particularly sharp for Kit who, at the time, was living in a typically rambling rural property in Oxfordshire, part of a Victorian manor house. The family was happily settled in their home and schools.
Back in the UK, Kit remembers breaking the news that they were all to move abroad to a country which none of them had even visited. "It was a mix of emotions but they knew that once here they would have a very good quality of life."
After much discussion, the family decided it was best if Kit moved alone at first: "One of the main reasons was that it was the beginning of summer and temperatures were soaring in Dubai. It gets so hot that it wouldn't have been the best introduction to the region, especially for the children. We decided that I'd come here on my own for six months and rent while looking for somewhere to buy that was big enough for us all."
Kit soon found a flat to rent and began the real house hunting process: "I looked at various villas and quickly found where the best areas are, those near to international schools."
Any fears he may have had about uprooting the family to a strange country were quickly allayed as he discovered Dubai is an ideal place in which to bring up children: "It truly is a very benign international society here. You have people from all religions who are happy to live side by side."
However the house-hunting process also alerted Kit to the fact that not all developments in Dubai are of the best quality and he struggled to find somewhere suitable. Finally, after what he admits was 'a long, drawn out process' he succeeded in buying a four bedroom villa with maid's and family room. Set on a corner plot in a development called The Meadows, the house had a total floor area of 4,099 sq ft.
Part of a large area called Emirates Hills, the house was built by one of Dubai's biggest developers, Emaar Properties. The property cost 4,140,000 dirhams (around £570,440) but Kit discovered that arranging a mortgage was far less straightforward than in the UK: "The mortgage loan process here is still somewhat unsophisticated, largely due to the fact that it is a very new market and all lenders and banks are still fairly cautious, particularly when it comes to buying on the secondary market," he said.
Once everything was finalised the house was theirs. Mary-Jane and the children immediately flew out and the family were happily reunited: "There was huge excitement and huge relief really at all being together again. At the beginning, despite my work, it felt as though we were all on holiday as there's just so much to do here," Kit recalls. The family have quickly settled into their new lives in Dubai.
They are all members of a beach club and enjoy activities such as quad biking and camping in the desert as well as traditional activities, which they'd enjoyed in the UK, such as theatre and cinema. Kit remembers celebrating his 40th birthday with a barbeque in the desert with family and friends: "I remember looking around and thinking this is as good as it gets."
Finding the city to be "a very child-friendly place" helped the family to adjust and Kit notes that Mary-Jane and Iona both find one activity particularly enjoyable: "They both seem to do good service to the many malls around here."
The family has also adapted to the benefits of living in a villa with pool and having a maid who lives with them in the separate maid's accommodation, which is common to homes in Dubai. "She is wonderful, really part of the family and we all love her, it's not reality as we know it but we're enjoying it while we have the chance."
Another benefit to living in Dubai is the country's tax-free status, but there are also some downsides. "Dubai is an expensive place to live," warns Kit. Another obvious drawback to any visitor is the current state of roads in Dubai which, especially in peak times, struggle to cope with the increasing volume of traffic, but new roads are being built constantly in an effort to improve accessibility.
Tapping into the huge expat community now living in Dubai has helped the family quickly establish new friendships. Dubai attracts a wonderful multicultural population allowing them the chance to meet people from all over the world. Initially Kit and Mary-Jane had debated whether to rent rather than buy but, after seeing their home already rise in value, they are glad that they decided to take the plunge.
Does Kit worry that the bubble may be about to burst? "Who knows? All I know is that life in Dubai is great. Being part of the property boom at the moment, both professionally and personally is very exciting and it seems only natural to join the market. All in all buying in Dubai has been a very positive experience."
Ginetta Vedrickas is a freelance property writer who contributes regularly to The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Mail on Sunday and The Daily Express.
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