Dounia Fadi is one of the top Real Estate Leaders in the UAE. Respected by her colleagues for her problem-solving and leadership skills, Fadi possesses the singular ability to empower agents and create a collaborative and cooperative team. After 16 years in the Dubai real estate marketplace and as the Chief Operating Officer of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties, she leads a diverse team of hand-picked real estate professionals representing buyers and sellers locally and internationally. Fadi differentiates herself from the competition by thinking outside of the box, building a dedicated and loyal team and most importantly, putting the needs of her clients first. Featured by Forbes as a Business Leader and recently awarded Property Finder Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020, Fadi is known for her ability to empower people and to promote women not just within her organization, but rather across the wider real estate community and beyond. She is also very passionate about sharing her knowledge and experience on both local and global platforms.
Growing up in humble surroundings in Casablanca, Morocco and hailing from a highly educated and hard-working family, Fadi realized the importance of education, perseverance, and determination at a young age. Being inspired by the woman she dreamt of becoming, Fadi knew that she would find new horizons for herself and rise to the top.
In school, she was highly ambitious and focused on her studies with a keen determination to succeed in life. She recalled fondly, “I was very competitive when I was younger. I always wanted to do better. From standing first in class to becoming the President of the school, I was always seeking leadership positions even in my childhood.”
Fadi often visited Dubai during her vacations and was always captivated by the location. Upon completing her high school education, she decided to relocate to Dubai; her decision was supported by the boom in the real estate sector that was increasing the country’s economic value at the time. Fadi pursued her education alongside her career by attending her regular classes and working as a Property Consultant in 2005.
Fadi pleasantly recollected the first property she sold; she says, “During my first month, I sold a property in the Springs. We had a walk-in client, whilst everyone in my office had gone out for lunch. Having a basic understanding of the Dubai real estate market, I recalled hearing my colleagues discussing a property that we had listed in the Springs for sale. I went on to service the client and conduct a visit of the villa at Emirates Living along with the client. Shortly after that, I was notified that the client liked the property and thus, I had made my first sale.”
Her first win motivated her to do better; she started growing and learning more every day. In just a short period, Fadi made great strides in her career and sold a considerable number of properties. She says, “I have had many people approach me for potential jobs, however I was very focused. My primary goal was to learn and gather as much experience as I could and so, I kept learning, advancing, closing more deals and getting better at what I do.”
Fadi was soon approached by a colleague in the industry to start a real estate company in Dubai. With the significant rise of people shifting to Dubai, buying properties and growing their wealth through investments; the opportunity seemed like an exciting proposition to Fadi, and in 2006, she co-founded and head the real estate company for over a decade making it one of the top homegrown business in the real estate industry, crowned by multiple awards.
Around the time the financial crisis took place, Fadi took time off to have her children. She prides herself on being a good mother and businesswoman and always strives to give equal attention to both aspects of her life. Fadi, who is currently expecting her third child, added, “I would give everyone a hundred percent and I’ll be the last one to look after myself. It brings me great pleasure to see my career growing, in addition to seeing that my family; my husband and my kids are happy and doing well.”
Fadi went on to start her own real estate company in August 2016, MD Properties. After contributing to the positive business growth and utilizing her experience of the market, she had successfully positioned the company to become a well respected GCC based brokerage house with local and global reach. Fadi said, “2016 was a very challenging year for the industry. Everyone thought I was silly, but I chose that route, and it paid off three years later.”
Those three years were demanding, especially since the Dubai market is cyclic and constantly evolving. Changes occur every other day, which makes it a very competitive market. Fadi worked round the clock to provide value to all her customers and succeeded. She continued three years later, “We were approached by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties and we merged our companies,” that’s when she knew all her efforts had paid off.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties contacted Fadi in June 2019, when they first opened in Dubai. She said, “I was very happy to learn that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices had decided to start operations in Dubai. Shortly after the announcement, to my surprise, I realized that I had been contacted by the CEO of their Dubai office to explore merging both companies.” The company went on to perform exceedingly well in UAE and the network kept expanding globally.
By 2020, coronavirus took over the world, with lockdowns in almost every country. Fadi soon rose to action to protect the interests of her clients and employees; she said, “The first thing we did at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf properties was to ensure the safety of our employees and our clients. Being a woman, devoted mother and wife, it was my first instinct to protect the interests of all our stakeholders. We also helped our employees maintain a positive mindset, as many people in Dubai choose to relocate and often leave their families back home. It was imperative for us to take care of the mental health of our employees in addition to our clients.”
In March 2020, Dounia led the ‘Demystifying Dubai’ seminar in Atlanta showcasing the investment opportunities in Dubai, “There are things that people believe about the Middle East that are not true, and I wanted to break those stereotypes,” she explained. At the end of the seminar, Fadi was recognized and honoured with a resolution by The Georgia House of Representatives Matt Dubnik and Matt Dollar, Republicans from Gainesville and Marietta, respectively for facilitating the bilateral trade efforts between Dubai and Georgia.
Further talking about the real estate sector in Dubai, she added, “the real estate sector wasn’t very badly hit due to the brilliant efforts of the Dubai Government who immediately swung into action and introduced various economic stimuli and visa reforms that welcomed everyone from around the world to work remotely from Dubai and led to the eventual opening of the market.”
She praised the efforts of the US team from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, who was constantly in touch with them from the beginning, making sure that they were okay and had the essential virtual tools they needed.
Talking about business, Fadi said, “As soon as the lockdown was lifted, we have seen an increase in demand for bigger spaces as customer behaviors have been drastically impacted by the pandemic. Customers earlier looking for apartments in the city, have now shifted to focus towards having bigger spaces as home is now also your office, your gym and your personal study as well.” This shift has proven to be a good start for the real estate sector, with Dubai becoming an ideal location for ex-pats to relocate and live in the safest environment there is during these testing times.
In conclusion, Fadi says, “I am very grateful for all my achievements during the past 16 years, especially because of my humble beginnings. I now look forward to adding more value to society and helping others. For me, it goes beyond that, as a mother, I also must be a good role model for my kids. They are watching me grow my career and become someone in society and add value. And that’s really the message I want to pass to them. So that they too can grow up to add value and benefit the society as a whole.”