It is very interesting to watch the development of the re-sale market in Dubai, and to note the very high premiums now being made on upgraded property. There is not much to it, beyond a little patience with contractors.
One house in the Meadows villa compound was recently advertised as 'premium upgraded'.
A visit to the villa revealed that the owner had installed marble floors throughout, four marble bathrooms with gold taps, new kitchen and wardrobe units with wooden fronts, a swimming pool, garage door, new front door, and extensive landscaping with two pergolas.
The interesting thing is that this villa sold last week for $1.3 million, just eight months after the owner bought it for $490,000. How much did this upgrading cost? Well, contractor friends say $150,000 would be top whack.
Dubai has a collection of very capable sub-contractors, some of whom have been working on private villas in the emirates for many, many years. The standard of workmanship can be as high as any in the world, and the cost much lower.
Even the marble, so beloved by Europeans and Arabs, is far cheaper in the UAE than elsewhere; locally produced marble is as cheap as some plastic alternatives, and the commonly used granite is certainly cheaper.
Now nobody is about to pretend that upgrading a house is without its downside, particularly if you try to live in it at the same time. Sub-contractors can be as temperamental as opera stars, and timing is always a little late and budgets somewhat wide of the mark.
However, this is not a Do-It-Yourself situation. Dubai is a low-wage economy as far as construction skills are concerned, and sub-contractor prices reflect this basic fact of life. On the other hand, the good firms are enjoying a boom in business and prices are rising.
Thus there is an argument that if you are going to upgrade your Dubai property, then it is best to get on with it.
From a practical point of view it is much easier to complete major building works while you are not living in a property, and with sub-contractors' prices rising there is another reason not to delay.
How extensive an upgrade is advisable? The example cited above is an extreme case. Other Meadows villas have settled for marble floors, a wooden front door, and new kitchen and wardrobe doors, plus a small swimming pool outside and a bit of landscaping. This is a cheaper option.
But the example above does tend to suggest that buyers will pay a substantial amount for a really luxurious home in Dubai.
At the moment that suggests that going the whole mile and really lavishing money on a villa in a good location is likely to be a very good investment. It seems over-capitalizing a home in Dubai can not be done right now.