Home run

Better Homes has gone from a one-woman business venture to one of the top names in real estate in the UAE.
Home run
By Holly Sands
Mon 14 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

Better Homes is one of UAE's most reputable real estate agencies offering buyers an international level of professionalism. Holly Sands asks CEO Linda Mahoney how better homes gained the region's trust.

Founded in 1986 by Linda Mahoney, Better Homes has gone from a one-woman business venture to one of the best-known names in real estate in the UAE.

The real estate professional is in the market daily and is therefore in a good position to provide current information.

22 years on, the company now employs over 300 staff to manage, sell and lease a large portion of both residential and commercial properties in the region.

How did you get into the business of real estate?

There were a series of events that led me to this business and I am pleased to be part of such a dynamic industry.

Why is it necessary to have a real estate agent?

Without the right help, finding the required property or selling your own property can prove to be a lengthy, complicated and traumatic process.

Using a reputable agency generally reduces the hassle as well as providing clients with the necessary industry knowledge and expertise.

Property is a valuable asset and in the same way that one handles any investment, one would generally look to the professionals.

This market can be confusing not only to newcomers but to those of us who have been here for years.

The real estate professional is in the market daily and is therefore in a good position to provide current information.

How much is your typical commission charge?

This figure varies depending on the type of transaction.

What do you do that sets you apart from other realtors here in the UAE?

I think the fact that we have been going for such a long time; 22 years now, helps in that we have developed a high level of industry knowledge and expertise in that time.

As such an established agency, people in Dubai know of Better Homes and feel confident that we are trustworthy and reliable, which is vital when dealing with such high-value transactions as a property.

We are constantly looking to innovate in order to improve our standards and service levels to enhance client satisfaction levels.

What have you done in terms of marketing to differ from other companies?

We offer clients the largest selection of properties in the Middle East in addition to a very broad range of real estate services.

These include residential sales & leasing, commercial sales & leasing, property management, short-term rentals and project sales & marketing.
We are also extremely proud to have the only certified property consultants in the region.

How would you describe the current real estate market in the UAE?

The UAE market is very buoyant. There has been a lot of growth in recent years and there are some great projects under development here.

We recognised that there were some great opportunities outside of the UAE and set up a new international sales division.

For instance, Dubai Land, Dubai Waterfront, Business Bay, Old Town, The Palm developments, The Cove in Ras Al Khaimah, Al Shams in Abu Dhabi to name a few but of course there are so many others all with their own unique selling points.

As Dubai becomes a more mature market, we see emerging markets in neighbouring emirates like Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman - which means the UAE has something to offer everyone.

What initiatives are you using to promote the Better homes brand, have your strategies changed with the region's property growth?

In line with the region's growth we have looked at new ways to meet our client's needs, increasing the services we offer and opening more branches across Dubai to provide a greater level of flexibility and access to our clients.

What services are these?

We opened a call centre to handle all client enquiries and conduct after-sales surveying to measure customer service; we increased the number of boutiques to offer clients easier access to the services they need; we have increased both our residential and commercial sales teams significantly; we set up a dedicated staff training centre to ensure all our consultants are fully equipped to carry out their role; we launched an international sales division to offer UAE residents property investment opportunities outside of the UAE and we recently launched BH Plus, a new division offering assistance to clients and organising a range of services from interiors to insurance. All of these steps were taken to improve our service standards.

We recently opened an office in Abu Dhabi in response to requests from clients. Internationally, we continue to expand with Better Homes now operating in Saudi, Jordan, Bahrain, Pakistan, India and the UK.

We recognised that there were some great opportunities outside of the UAE and set up a new International sales division, based here in the UAE but dedicated to selling UAE and expatriate residents, a range of exclusive projects in various locations across the world.

What feedback have you had from this?

The division only recently launched so its still very much early stages but so far the feedback has been very positive and we have a growing number of clients interested in our overseas projects.

What exclusive projects are you involved with?

At the moment we are focusing on a number of projects in the UK, US, France, India, Morocco and Crete. Over the coming months we will be adding a number of other countries but in each case we are doing a tremendous amount of research to ensure that we are giving our clients only the best investments and properties while also ensuring that they have all the information they need to make a decision.
We have a collection of exclusive properties from one of the world's leading property developers; George Wimpey from the United Kingdom.

Wimpey is one of the UK's largest property developers with over 125 years experience as a building company.

We recently showcased four of its most prestigious developments in Dubai, all based within close proximity of London's 2012 Olympic Games village.

What kind of customers do you deal with?

A mix of local and expatriate residents.

Do you see a lot of people looking to buy purely as an investment?

There is a wide mix in Dubai right now. The market has moved slightly with a growing number of end-users buying but it still remains popular with investors, mainly due to the high levels of capital growth and strong rental returns that are being achieved.

What's your opinion on investing in off-plan properties?

Investing in off-plan can offer very good value for money for buyers and produces higher rates of returns for investors, particularly those that purchase at pre-launch.

Whether or not to buy off-plan very much depends on the individual and their needs, but there are still some very good deals to be had with off-plan property.

Can you give examples of these deals?

The one thing I would say is that as with all real estate purchases, I would always recommend dealing with a reputable agency.

Is buy-to-let still worthwhile?

There is a strong market for buy-to-let in Dubai at present, fuelled by the shortage in completed units against the high demand for properties to rent.

Both residential and commercial landlords have achieved, and continue to achieve, very good returns from leasing, providing an added incentive to new investors to the market.

What are most people in the market for right now?

This is extremely varied and is very much dependent on the individual's clients requirements.

We receive a large number of enquiries everyday for commercial and residential property from both end-users and investors, all with their own needs and expectations.

The growing number of landlords and owners in Dubai has also generated a high demand for property management and short-term rentals services.

Quick facts• Better Homes was founded over two decades ago in 1986.

• As well as being involved with sales, leasing and property management, the company provides commercial advisory, project marketing, engineering and interiors services.

• While currently operational in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Pakistan, India and the United Kingdom, Better Homes has recently launched a branch in Abu Dhabi.

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