Newly arrived in Dubai? Eager to start your exciting new life in this international hot-spot, but not sure if the pace, the costs, and the cultural adjustments will really make Dubai the place you’re going to spend the next five to ten years of your life in?
One way you can hedge your bets a little is to economize on spending your cash on major necessities – like a brand new car and furniture. Now you need somewhere to live and you need a few items under your roof and inside your walls, but you don’t have to go to the expense of buying everything brand-new.
A little selective and judicious picking over of departing expats’ stuff can save you thousands of dirhams (the local currency), while still filling your living space with smart and serviceable items that can make your new Dubai life comfortable, stylish and amenable.
Start with a list
If the above suggestion sounds like the way to go, you might like to give some thoughts to what you can and can’t live with secondhand. Dining table? Chairs? Well, OK, there aren’t really any major hygiene issues that can’t be dealt with once the items are installed in your apartment or villa. Sofas?
Getting a little more personal, but again, there are plenty of products available in the cleaning materials section of the supermarkets that can refresh and sanitize. There are also professional companies that will come to your home and steam-clean the fabrics on furniture as well as deep clean with industrial-strength vacuum cleaners all the crannies and crevices.
Beds? We’re getting a lot more personal now and individuals will have different tolerance levels, but again, the same cleaning professionals can be employed. After all, many other people will have slept in the beds at the Burj Al Arab before you sink your head into the pillows.
Get an idea of prices
You could spend quite a while running around all sorts of high-end, middle, and budget furniture stores getting an idea of what you can expect to pay for what you are going to get. If you have the time and inclination, good for you, because the more informed you are, the better armed you are when it comes to assessing asking prices and bargaining on the second hand market.
At the very least, spend a while in IKEA in Dubai’s Festival City and make some notes on what a decent quality bed, mattress, sofa, and dining table will cost brand-new. If you have more time available, you could also check out Pottery Barn, Bloomingdales Home, Dwell, Flamant, Marina Home, Ethan Allen, Laura Ashley, and White Company; the good news is that these furniture outlets are all under one roof in Dubai Mall.
So where’s all the pre-loved stuff?
In a word, Dubizzle. At the time I added the hyperlink to the Dubizzle.com name, there were 14,256 separate “furniture for sale” ads. Filtering according to which rooms you are looking to furnish will reduce the number in each specific category, but there is plenty to see and plenty of choice. Typically, each ad will show a main photograph of the item, but clicking on the ad will likely show more pictures.
You’ll also get a telephone number to phone the owner(s) and an indication of exactly where in Dubai the item is. This last piece of information can be every bit as important as anything else you might learn about the item, as it might be located quite a distance from where you are living.
You may save quite a lot of money by purchasing second-hand, but expend quite a lot of time and energy going and inspecting the goods close-up.
A question often asked at the telephone conversation stage of any purchase is, “Is your price fixed or is it negotiable?” Best to sort these things out clearly before advancing to the actual inspection stage.
Finally, if inspection and negotiation produce a deal that’s satisfactory, there’s the question of how to get the often big and bulky item to its new home. More on this later, but it’s something to consider; it’s unlikely that the seller will offer delivery.
Notice boards, garage sales, intranet “for sale” pages, second-hand shops
Before Dubizzle.com kind of killed all the competition, some of the above were very popular alternatives to written, paid classified ads in the Gulf News or other English language newspapers. Most of the big, popular expat supermarkets like Spinneys have a “For Sale/Wanted to buy/Services/Lessons/etc.” noticeboard either in the entrance foyer or near the checkout.
People with stuff to sell make their own ads and Spinneys displays them for free for two weeks or so. However, in the last year or so, I’ve noticed that they are beginning to disappear or at least be very sparsely populated in comparison with 8-10 years ago.
Garage sales are quite popular especially within the larger housing compounds, when people are getting ready to leave. Unsurprisingly, these are advertised through Dubizzle. A general search of the site using the keywords “garage sale” will show what’s available.
If you’re working for a large organization in Dubai, like a university, or some other institution with a lot of employees, it’s not uncommon for the company to have a “for sale” page as part of its website. Usually, these pages are only available to members within the organization, so I can’t display an example, but ask colleagues if the company you are employed has such a page.
Finally, what about shops that specialize in second-hand goods? Yes, there are some, but I have no personal experience with them. Again, a general web-search using the keywords “second hand used furniture appliances Dubai” will show you what’s available, but expect the wares to be mostly pretty low-end stuff. That doesn’t mean they will be cheap, either.
Transporting your purchases
There are plenty of companies that will do this, but prices will vary considerably. It’s very much a case of “you’ll get what you pay for.” If you want skilled movers, with proper packing and protective materials, it’s going to cost more – a lot more – than the Afghani/Pakistani day-hire men who just have a truck, muscle power, and a few ropes.
Expatwoman.com (don’t laugh – it’s the best knowledge-bank in the Gulf!) will have discussions and advice on who is good and what to expect to pay. Of course, you can get a surprising number of sizeable items in the back of a 4×4, so if you have already purchased, or have a willing colleague, that is another option.
Getting second-hand furniture professionally cleaned and deodorized
A general web search will give you the names of companies in Dubai who perform these services. Once again, Expatwoman.com will have advice and users’ actual experiences with named companies to guide you in your choice.