How Dubai changed the life of a British property agent

How Dubai changed the life of a British property agent

10 October 2023, Gulf News

Dubai: A British expat, who specialises in selling luxury properties in Palm Jumeirah and Emirate Hills, says there is no place quite like Dubai when it comes to being a realtor – despite him foraying into the business during the global downturn.

Barnaby Crompton, better known as Barney, relocated to Dubai from London in 2008 when the world was reeling under recession. But ironically, as the 42 year old told Gulf News, it was the real estate sector that brought him to Dubai that very year.

“I was an estate agent from the age of 17. And the recession in the UK had been going on for about six months. When I looked elsewhere in the world to find a market that was doing well, Dubai came up as the only real estate market that was bucking the trend at the time, so I moved here in September 2008,” he said.

The phone stopped ringing

Barney recalls how the phone stopped ringing soon after. “I was assured by colleagues that the phones would start ringing again and it was totally normal, but the phones didn’t really start ringing again for another nine months. In the interim, I managed to sell four properties before Ramadan started, and then it was a lot of twiddling my thumbs,” he claimed.Yet, Barney decided to stay on.

“What made me stay was the obvious potential income that you can earn selling property in Dubai. You know, two per cent commission is a standard. There was no tax and property values were relatively high. I knew that if I could stick it out here for long enough, eventually the market would turn in Dubai as a major city. The market was never going to slide into the sea like the lost city of Atlantis. I knew the market would return. And I saw that I could make a lot more money here, rather than being an estate agent in the UK where the returns are far less lucrative, and then you get taxed,” he said candidly.

Why only luxury properties

Over the years, Barney, who has sold individual properties worth over Dh200 million each, said there is a reason why he sticks to luxury properties.

“You can’t have one foot in a market where you’re selling normal houses, while also another foot as a super prime sector of the market. You must do one or the other,” he said.

Besides the returns, Barney said there are many factors in favour of selling luxury properties and being in the real estate sector in Dubai.

Moving into a house in 7 days

“Selling a property in Dubai doesn’t really differ much now – all the new processes, protocols, laws and entities are in place – other than the fact that you can see a house, be the owner of the house and move into it within seven days, which I don’t think is possible in any other city that I’m aware of,” he said.

Diverse demographic

According to him, “Another thing that differentiates Dubai from the rest of the world is that you’re never really dealing with the same demographic of people. Dubai is such a rich and cultured city with so many immigrants that you can sell to families from Africa, China, Europe and the Indian subcontinent – all in the same week, whereas having sold in the UK, I can say predominantly the buyers are British. But it does mean you have to be well-versed in dealing with different ethnicities, cultures and beliefs. This keeps it more exciting and entertaining.”

Emirates Hills or Palm Jumeirah?

As someone who deals with properties in the two poshest areas of Dubai, what does he base his recommendations on with his clients – Emirates Hills or Palm Jumeirah?

“What I think holds no bearing on my clients’ property search,” he explained. “They come to me wanting a specific type of property. Now if they want a 30,000 square foot house, I would recommend going to Emirates Hills. They can find properties with seven and eight bedrooms there, but if they want something that’s slightly smaller, with a smaller footprint, less bedrooms, but a beach lifestyle, I would recommend they look at the Palm.”

‘You can grow into a multimillionaire’

Asked about his own growth as a multimillionaire in Dubai, he said, “I didn’t think I would feel quite so uncomfortable talking about it. You can grow into a multimillionaire; I have investments all over the place. I have substantial investments in gold and art, which I have in storage and in some of it on my walls at home. I have property in Oxford, on the Palm, in Jumeirah Village Triangle. I don’t even think of myself as a multimillionaire, I think of myself as somebody who is doing their best to look after their family, their children and their future.”

He has one piece of advice to those looking to enter the real estate market: “We are in the service sector. Anybody who tells you that we are salespeople is wrong. Our job is to find our clients what they want, whether they want a buyer for their house, or a house to live in. We can only do that by understanding their requirements and then fulfilling them. I don’t think I’ve ever ‘sold’ a house to someone. But I have found countless people places to live and I’ve found countless sellers, someone who will love their house and are prepared to pay the right amount of money for it.”

Leisure and family life

With so much happening on the work front, Barney says he has little time for anything else. “Outside of real estate, I don’t really have much of a life. It’s one of these jobs where, you know, they say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m quite happy to work at weekends, late into the night. My favourite way to spend the weekend is to be in the pool with my wife and children. I like traveling with my family, and we’ve just come back from Crete, visiting my mother-in-law. I like to do family stuff and then to really compress or decompress on my own, I go and play golf,” he let on.

Barney said he is married to “the kindest, most understanding woman who ever walked the face of this planet”.

“Her selflessness and desire to help me and my kids to better ourselves is constantly astonishing. I’m married to the perfect woman for me. You can never put in to words the love you have for your children. It’s a never ending love. My daughter has her own set of educational challenges and she’s definitely taking after her mother in the kindness stakes. She’s a carer in her heart, she’s kind to a fault to her little brother who is a total tyrant,” he added.



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