Brothers band together in UAE real estate

This article was published in The National. View the original here.

Choosing to practise law made Ben Crompton the black sheep of his family.

His mother, brother and one of his three sisters work in property, and every one of his family members owns a property portfolio.

“I decided to become a lawyer probably on recommendation from friends,” says Mr Crompton, 34.

“I am quite a chronological thinker and they thought that law might suit me. Obviously it is a very logical, sensible profession.”

In 2009 he moved to the UAE to take on legal work for the first Abu Dhabi Formula One race, six months before his brother Barney moved to Dubai to work in property.

“Much of my life has been governed by good suggestions from my mother, funnily enough. It was her idea for me to get into estate agency,” says Barney, 32.

“When the property market started to dip in London it was her wise idea to move to Dubai, about two weeks before the crash happened here as well. Not such sage advice this time unfortunately.”

However, like Ben, he stayed on.

While Ben worked in hedge funds and consultancy, Barney worked for real estate companies.

But by 2012 they were both looking for something new to do.

Ben had become bored by the order and consistency of law, and Barney wanted to go out on his own, so they decided to launch a property business together, with Barney running the Dubai branch of Crompton Partners and Ben opening the Abu Dhabi office.

“I used to do work on property funds, so I got exposed to a lot of aspects of property and business and I thought I could use those skills to start my own business,” says Ben.

“[Barney] started the Dubai business maybe two months before I started this one. I think he sort of inspired me. If he could go out on his own certainly there was no reason I couldn’t do it in a less crowded environment in Abu Dhabi with a pretty solid grounding in business that law has given me.”

There may be an element of “brotherly competitiveness”, as Barney puts it, but they are the best of friends. Barney was Ben’s best man when he got married three months ago, and their wives are also close.

They also each funded their own businesses – Ben used his savings from being a lawyer for seven years and Barney from his earnings over the years in real estate.

And while they may run two halves of the same business, they work in very different markets.

In July the Abu Dhabi branch, which arranges both sales and lettings and has 15 staff, helped Cleveland Clinic house an influx of 80 doctors.

But business has been less brisk at the Dubai branch, which specialises in sales and has nine staff.

“We have experienced a correction here. We saw a surge in prices when we got the Expo 2020. My personal opinion on that was that it was a bull market unnecessarily. I think the Expo 2020 really won’t bear any fruit in the real estate market to come. And we have seen prices that increased when we got the Expo 2020 fall away,” says Barney. “We have certainly slowed down. The rental market is much more buoyant than the sales market.”

Being estate agents you would expect them to live in fashionable areas of each of their respective cities. In Barney’s case it is Dubai Marina, while Ben lives in Mushrif, Abu Dhabi.

And they not only work together – keeping in touch between the two emirates with weekly phone conferences – but they also own three properties together, all of which are in the UK.

But how does the Abu Dhabi property market compare to law?

“The money is a lot worse. That is a big thing but I actually work a lot harder now than I did as a lawyer. But it is much more rewarding when you work for yourself, much more rewarding,” says Ben.

“You can find yourself resenting working hard when you are working for someone else, but you never resent it when you work for yourself. You are creating something for your own future. If you put in the hard work now it will pay off, not necessarily in any kind of monetary value now but you are creating for the future,” he adds.

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