From fake listings to colluding agents – a Dubai tenant’s search for a rental property
20 April 2019
For the last two weeks, Dubai resident Melanie Swan has been looking for a home to rent. She has a clear idea about what she wants: A three-bedroom villa in a quiet and peaceful community, preferably in the Ranches or the areas around it. Interestingly, her search for her dream home has thrown up challenges along the way – from fake listings to colluding agents, to time wasted by landlords who have listed their properties with multiple brokers, creating a falsely inflated pricing where neither the tenant nor the landlord is favoured.
“We’ve been dealing with around 15 agents in the last two weeks. While some of them have made us feel that they are doing us a favour by showing us the property, a few of them will do anything to close a deal,” says Swan. Also, because landlords list the same property with multiple agents, “he thinks he has five offers, which in fact are from the same tenant doing their best to bag a bargain, and meanwhile, he thinks that’s reason to simply increase the price,” she admits.
When responding to ads posted on various property sites, Swan was told that most of them are there for “fishing”. “You see a good price and call, only to be told ‘it’s gone, but I have something else, though it’s a little pricier’,” she says. “We have gone to see the same property shown to us for Dh120,000 that we know has been listed at Dh100,000 and the agent tells us that the listing price has been put up to get people to call.”
False advertising or fake listings create an imbalance in the market, say experts. But who does this ultimately lie with? Are the landlords listing properties with multiple agents to blame or is it the agents or the platforms hosting these ads?
Choose the right agent
Zarah Evans, managing partner of Exclusive Links, says, “Involving multiple agents can deplete the quality of a listing and often the price, as you find the same tenant negotiating on the same property and landlord but through two separate agents. Multiple listings can also create a false sense of the amount of properties listed in the market, reduce the quality of listings and cause confusions for the end user not knowing which way to turn to get the best deal.” Evans feels that property portals should make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of listings and to encourage more quality assurance in the market place. “The key is certainly finding the right agent that you trust. Check if your agent has a good presence in the area in which you are looking and are they an area specialist. Read up on the agency, look at their areas of specialisation, coverage, testimonials and position in the market. Agents that engage in fake listings are doing a complete injustice. As a tenant you should also consider the description of the property and the images being used when you check it online.”
Elaine Jones, executive chairman of Asteco Property Management, says, “Technically fake listings should not be able to occur. However, we have to keep in mind that in a soft market the expectation of the landlord may not be that which a potential tenant would pay. All property advertisements need a permit (Trakheesi – see box below) that has to be paid for, so an agent must make a judgement call as to whether it is in his interest to pay for the cost of an advertisement and Trakheesi permit at a rate that he does not feel is achievable from renting or selling the property, or decline the opportunity. Fake listing of a unit should not be possible. Fake listing at a different rent is.” Jones asks people to watch out for the approximate rent for a property in a particular location. Where a rent appears to be artificially low there will be a reason for it. Either the property is in a bad state of repair, has negative attributes or the property is not real. Judgement will protect against wasting time.”
For Swan, who requested agents to show her single row only villas, turned up to find back-to-back villas where “your window opened into your neighbour’s home”. Where we were shown single rows, they backed onto a power plant or a construction site. We were also quoted premium prices for homes with sand pits as back gardens. We have been told there are park and pool views, only to turn up to find a barricaded sand pit which is clearly not going to be ready until the next tenancy contract, and the agent tries his best to say ‘it’s due to be open in three months’” says Swan.
According to Jones as part of the process for listing a property the landlord has to provides an NOC (valid for three months) which includes property detail, location, community number, and unit number building information as a consent to advertise the property. “To resolve the problem of multiple or fake listings, the NOC should maybe include the price range at which the property should be listed and leased at. At our end we make sure that our CRM is programed so as not to enable multi listing of the same unit number.”
Sometimes brokers put up multiple listings to attract customers but it is an unethical practice, says Mahmoud Al Burai, vice president of international real estate federation of Arab countries. “Customers who come across attractive prices that is way below the market should avoid them. Look at the Rera rental index and credible listing platforms and get an idea about average rents in a particular area.” Al Burai advises that fake listings should be complained about to Rera. “Rera will then investigate the complaint and ask the broker to show Form A that has the agreed upon listing price. The broker will be fined in case he is playing around.”
The process for listing a property is as follows;
Agent agrees to list landlord property and agrees rent range
Landlord provides an NOC (valid for three months) which includes property detail, location, community number, and unit number building information as a consent to advertise the property
Using the information in the NOC, providing the NOC and copy of title deed, the agent or the agency then makes an application for a Trakheesi permit and pays the fees to the Dubai Land Department
Agency and property portals need the Trakheesi Permit number to be able to advertise the property
Credit: Gulf News