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No more cheques: Emirati's ‘Urban’ app overcomes Dubai’s rental woes

EXCLUSIVE: “We’ve looked at the entire tenant journey – from the moment you consider a home in Dubai, to the day you move in"

No more cheques: Emirati entrepreneur's ‘Urban’ app overcomes Dubai’s rental woes
No more cheques: Emirati entrepreneur's ‘Urban’ app overcomes Dubai’s rental woes

Emirati tech entrepreneur Rashid Al Ghurair, who is also the Dubai-born chief executive officer of the region’s first-ever fuel on-demand mobile application Cafu, has launched Urban – a mobile and web application that brings the entire rental journey online, improves the credibility of property listings, and permits for monthly payments online – without the need for cheques.

Designed to address the common frustrations of Dubai tenants, the application does away with false listings, inaccurate or misleading representations of properties, inconvenient viewing times, exhausting negotiations, and inflexible payment options.

In conversation with Construction Week, the general manager of Urban, Tala Nsouli, said: “We took a hard look at the real estate industry and we saw the opportunity to improve a process that hasn’t changed in about a 100 years. The thought process behind it was to bring the real estate industry into the 21st century and make it a joyful experience for people to rent out homes in Dubai.”

“We’ve looked at the entire tenant journey – from the moment you begin considering a new home, to the day you move in. We’ve made that journey completely seamless for the tenant,” Nsouli adds.

The founder of the app, Al Ghurair added: “Urban is built on tenant-centric values. It is a strong and overdue disruptor to the rental market, empowering renters and landlords throughout the rental journey.”

Emirati tech entrepreneur Rashid Al Ghurair

Credible search with virtual tours

Most potential tenants in Dubai who are looking to rent a home begin the process by conducting a search online for places that meet their criteria based on the size and type of the home, amenities provided, design of the house, and its cost.

Nsouli says: “This part of the experience has been addressed the most by technology platforms, but is still broken. Existing property platforms have false listings; sometimes you see the same listing multiple times; the photography on the property listings is poor quality or misleading.

“There are even listings for properties that are no longer available for rent – and when you call the broker, they take you to view another house instead of the one you had your eye on.”

The team behind the Urban app addresses these concerns by examining every single listing. Every residential unit on the platform is permitted only one listing.

Nsouli adds: “We have professional photographers capturing the look of the residential unit exactly the way it is at the moment. We also provide 3D walkthroughs that show you the unit as it is today.

“Moreover, we capture the same detail accurately about every single unit. We’ll tell you exactly how many rooms each unit has, the area of the unit, the number of amenities provided, the amount of parking space, the view from the home, and so on.”

The Urban app also offers virtual tours of every home that is listed on the mobile and web platform. The amenities, electricity, water, and the overall condition of the home is carefully inspected by the Urban team, and full transparency is offered on the application.

Urban offers the possibility of paying rents using credit and direct debit cards

Convenient viewing with digital locks

The second step for potential tenants is to visit an apartment in order to get a touch and feel of the place, and to experience the view and the amenities first-hand.

Urban has made this experience convenient by placing digital locks on the doors of every residential unit.

Nsouli says: “We allow people to book appointments for the viewing of the unit on their own time. This provides the person viewing the unit, the flexibility to view it at any time without having to depend on the convenience of the broker.”

She adds: “The digital locks do not damage the door in any way, and yet provide the owners transparency as to who would like to view their residential unit, and when that viewing is to take place.”

Tala Nsouli, general manager of Urban

No more cheques: pay rent with debit cards

After potential tenants views a residential unit, they can either pay the asking price or make an offer online, based on the unit.

The mobile and web application also completely does away with the need for any paperwork.

“The Urban mobile application facilitates a process wherein everything can be done completely digitally. The contract can be signed online; all payments, including deposits and rent, can be made online; the Ejari – or government contract for the unit – can be acquired online, which then automatically triggers the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) procedures online,” Nsouli says.

From a landlord’s perspective, Urban’s technology allows owners to put their property on autopilot, ensuring that they find and keep the right tenants, and ultimately maximise their returns.

Through digital payment gateways, Urban offers the possibility of paying rents using credit and direct debit cards to pay the annual rent in one, two, or four installments.

In addition, the application has also partnered with a bank to offer a loan option, permitting for tenants to pay their annual rent in 12 monthly installments. 

Commenting on the conducive environment and regulations that permit for proptech solutions in the market, Al Ghurair concludes: “The UAE is a playground for innovation where we are constantly encouraged by our wise leadership to push boundaries and deliver groundbreaking solutions. It is an incubator for technology start-ups, so we couldn’t be prouder that Urban was developed right here in Dubai.”

As part of its initial phase, Urban will feature homes located in Dubai Marina, JBR, and Jumeirah Lake Towers, with more neighbourhoods expected to come online across Dubai soon.

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