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The desert city of Dubai is viewed by many as ‘the land of plenty’, with its plethora of luxury places to stay, sandy beaches, jaw-dropping sky-scrapers and year-round sunshine.
Since 2002, when Dubai’s royal family ruled that foreigners could buy property in the city, 100,000 Brits have invested money with Dubai-based developers, hoping to get their dream home.
But the world recession saw property prices slump and now £50 billion worth of construction is on hold.
Homes From Hell: Dubai Dreams meets the victims of the economic crash, including the family who had to do a moonlight-flit to avoid jail and the couple auctioning their apartment for as little as a penny. Plus, there are dramatic scenes when one man jets to Dubai to confront a builder who took customers’ money and then didn’t build a thing.
John and his wife, whose names have been changed to protect their identities, tell Homes From Hell how they moved to Dubai with their toddler when John took a well-paid job with an advertising agency. They paid for their apartment and car in advance with post-dated cheques, but within six months the company ran into trouble and John was laid off. Under Dubai law he suddenly faced jail if his cheques bounced.
As John frantically looked for another job he sought advice from a lawyer who told him the only way to protect himself and his family was to flee the country.
British property journalist Richard Dean, who has lived in Dubai for 12 years, tells Homes From Hell: “You have to get out before the bank realises you’re in trouble or else they put a block on you and when you get to the airport you’ll be stopped.”
John and his wife reveal how, under the cover of darkness, they hurriedly packed all their belongings, burnt any paperwork which would link back to them, and headed to the airport.
John says: “It sounds dramatic, but it was. To flee a country during the night with your child, I can’t think of anything more stressful and dramatic than that.”
He explains how terrified the family were at the airport as their passports were checked, but that they finally made it onto the plane and back to the UK.
One couple tells the series how they lived happily in Dubai for 18 years before deciding to sell their £750,000 apartment and move back to the UK. But when property prices crashed they couldn’t sell their home and are now facing auctioning it to the lowest unique bidder to get rid of it. They are charging £75 per ticket to take part in the auction and are hoping to sell 10,000 tickets to raise the £750,000 they need. But nine months later they tell Homes From Hell that they have only sold 2000 tickets so far.
Christine and Dieter Glaser from the Shetland Isles explain how they lost £55,000 after investing in an apartment development at Dubai’s snow dome. The winter sports dome was part of the city’s proposed super theme-park which was supposed to be the largest in the world. The development was due to be finished in 2008 but has barely even begun. Homes From Hell wrote to the developers and the Glasers were offered a refund, but so far they haven’t seen a penny.
Kevin and Heather Seymour reveal how they lost £65,000 after agreeing to buy a brand-new £120,000 apartment off-plan. The couple were so excited about the prospect of their dream home that they kept a video diary and Homes From Hell features their footage of the proposed site, them signing the papers, and the foundations of the building being laid.
The couple even met with the owner of the development company and said he made them feel ‘special’ when he told them they would be looked after. But just five days after that meeting they discovered he had fled the country, abandoning the proposed apartment block.
Heather tells the programme: “I quite dread getting into our later years because I wonder how we will manage on the amount of money that is in Kevin’s pension if we don’t get this money back.”
And there are dramatic scenes when Homes From Hell follows Dave Goodman to Dubai to confront business man Ian Beaumont who fled to the city after taking £3m from investors like Dave. Ian Beaumont first appeared in the Homes From Hell series three years ago when Dave revealed that he paid £48,000 towards an apartment in Cyprus which never got built.
At the time, Ian Beaumont met with the investors and pledged his commitment to the project, saying: “I am not a crook. I don’t want to run away with your money.” But, just six months later, he fled the country and Dave Goodman has spent the last three years tracking him down.
Homes From Hell cameras are there to capture the moment Dave surprises Ian at a business meeting and confronts him about the money he lost.