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The Complete Guide on Working With Real Estate Agents in Dubai and the UAE

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Real estate agents in Dubai and the UAE work slightly differently than in other countries and cities. If you just arrived from abroad and are looking to buy or rent your first apartment or villa in Dubai, there are a few important issues to look out for.

Creek Beach in Dubai Creek Harbour January 2023
Real estate agents like to recommend off-plan properties because they pay higher commissions.

Dubai real estate agents prefer to sell you new (off-plan) apartments and villas

Have you ever noticed the many booths full of real estate agents and small miniature models of buildings across the city? You encounter them in the airport arrivals hall, in shopping malls, and even on the promenade of Jumeirah Beach in Dubai Marina.

Have you ever wondered why these prominent agents are almost exclusively trying to sell unbuilt off-plan real estate, and rarely finished apartments and villas on the secondary market?

The answer is simple: real estate agents tend to get paid significantly higher sales commissions by property developers for un-built off-plan property than they get for selling finished property in the secondary market. Developers pay around 5% in sales commissions to agents, while in the secondary market, sales commissions are around 2%.

Due to these incentives, many real estate agents spend most of their time recommending off-plan properties, forgetting to even mention the often cheaper and more lucrative properties available in the secondary market.

Keep this in mind, and remember that in many cases, you can earn higher rental and capital appreciation returns on ready apartments than on off-plan property. We specialize in helping property buyers assess and calculate the expected returns of property investments. Check out our services here.

Dubai real estate agents do not like to talk to each other

In some countries like the US, it is customary to hire your own (buyer's) real estate agent to support you in finding a property and negotiate on your behalf with the real estate agent hired by the property's seller.

When a sale takes place, the agent hired by the buyer and the agent hired by the seller split the sales commission 50:50.

In Dubai, this rarely works. You may be able to hire your own agent to represent you in the buying process, however, they will not come very far in securing a good investment for you.

Contrary to the US or Europe, sales commissions for agents in Dubai are much lower. While in the US and Europe, the sales commission may be around 5-7%, in Dubai, it often hovers around 2-3%, and never tops 5%.

When splitting the very low 2% commission between a buyer's and seller's agent, not much would be left for each of them. This is why many seller's agents outright refuse to deal with potential buyers who bring their own (buyer's) agent with them.

The only way around this is for you to voluntarily pay a higher commission so that both agents get their 2%. However, this is an uncommon practice and will require lots of explaining to both agents.

Alternatively, most buyers search for properties themselves on platforms like, and contact the seller's agent directly. This strategy will get you way more results than if you hire your own agent to do this work for you.

Now being on your own trying to figure out a new property market is tricky. We at The Dubai Navigator are Dubai's first and only 100% independent real estate consultants with the sole mission to educate you and support you in identifying the highest return properties out there. We are not associated with any real estate agents or sellers, and never earn a commission - that's the only way we can remain independent advisors without a hidden sales agenda.

Most property listings on platforms like and are fake

The United States uses MLS databanks that list all currently available properties. These databanks are usually only accessible by real estate agents. As a result, you are forced to hire your own agent to help you find and buy a property.

Dubai does not have such a centralized database. As a result, agents do not really have an advantage over you in terms of access to information.

In the UAE, the closest you get to a database of available listings are independently run web platforms such as,, and

The problem with these platforms is that real estate agents upload both real and fake offers. For some buildings, 80%+ of the listings shown are fake.

These fake listings have the sole purpose of luring in customers with photos of attractive properties, and then trying to sell them less-in-demand properties instead.

Even properties listed as "verified" or something similar are regularly fake. To achieve verified status, some agents pay the platform extra money to visit and verify a property.

The trick is to keep the listing online even after the property is sold after 1-2 weeks. Some of these "verified" listings are kept up for 1-2 years. Website visitors will think "this is a verified real offer", not realizing that the property was sold a long time ago and now acts exclusively to click-bait new customers.

Many real estate agents do NOT know the market

90% of the UAE consists of foreigners. Many residents, including real estate agents, arrived just 1-2 years ago, and only intend to stay for the short to medium term.

As a result, you have many real estate agents operating in the market and "advising" clients without proper knowledge of areas, buildings, and general market trends.

The Dubai property market tends to move up and down over periodic 5-year periods. Prices peaked in 2008, 2014, and now again in 2023. It went down by around 30% after 2009 and after 2015.

How can real estate agents with just 1 or 2 years of experience have the knowledge on how different types and styles of properties perform in different market climates when they have never experienced multiple cycles of ups and downs?

How can such agents provide you with honest, reliable advice if they are pressured to earn a commission, and are financially incentivized to sell you often overpriced off-plan property?

I have followed and experienced the Dubai property market first-hand for more than 10 years. I have seen the outcomes of hundreds of investments over the years. I never have and never will take commissions on sales. Instead, I am leveraging my finance education from the London School of Economics to assist buyers in estimating and calculating expected rental and capital gain returns based on advanced cash flow analysis and historic patterns.


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