آثار قريبة وبعيدة المدى تتحقق عند التطبيق

Al Khaleej

Al Khaleej

آثار قريبة وبعيدة المدى تتحقق عند التطبيق
السوق العقاري يتفاعل إيجاباً مع خطوة “إعادة الهيكلة”

أوضحت مصادر أن السوق العقاري والعاملين فيه قد تفاعلوا بايجابية مع مقترح كل من “دبي العالمية” و”نخيل” لاعادة جدولة ديونهما، الأمر الذي سينعكس على مستقبل القطاع بشكل مباشر وغير مباشر في الوقت ذاته على المديين القصر والبعيد .

وأضافت المصادر أن الآثار الحقيقية على القطاع ستتبلور مع اعلان الجهات الدائنة قبولها للمقترح وما سيتبعه من مراحل التنفيذ، مشيرة الى أن النتائج الأولية للمقترح تنحصر في محيط دائرة عودة الثقة والتفاؤل للجهات العاملة في مختلف المجالات العقارية، أما فيما يختص بمنحنى الأسعار فترى المصادر أنه لن يتفاعل بنفس الوتيرة مع هذه التطورات، حيث إن المسألة هي عامل زمني يرتبط ارتباطا وثيقا بمعادلة العرض والطلب، وهذا ينطبق في الوقت ذاته على مشاريع “نخيل” أيضا .

وأوضح فادي موصلي، المدير الاقليمي في “جونز لانغ لاسال”، أن الاعلان عن تفاصيل الخطة الشاملة لاعادة الهيكلة التي تشمل كل من “دبي العالمية” و”نخيل” كل على حدة، من شأنها أن تعطي دفعة قوية عنوانها الثقة والتفاؤل لجميع العاملين في السوق العقاري في الامارة من جهة وحركة البيع والشراء من جهة أخرى على المدى البعيد وليس القصير .

وأضاف موصلي أن تطبيق هذا المقترح، الذي تقدمت به كلتا الشركتين، سيدفع بصورة أقوى في اطار اكتساب دبي المزيد من المصداقية والشفافية التي كانت قد تأثرت في الفترة السابقة، وليبدأ العاملون في السوق باختلاف قطاعاتهم باعادة ترتيب أوراقهم وخططهم المستقبلية بناء عليه .

وأفاد موصلي أنه من الواضح أن السوق والمستثمرين قد استقبلوا هذا الخبر بايجابية، الأمر الذي انعكس بنفس الاطار على أداء الأسواق المالية، وأسعار الفائدة الائتمانية على ديون دبي، الا أننا نرى أن هذا التأثير يكمن على المدى القصير، أما البعيد فيرتبط بالمزيد من الوضوح والشفافية بشأن هذا المقترح الذي جاء أفضل من المتوقع، وننتظر رد الجهات المقابلة من الدائنين لقبوله .

وعلى صعيد نتائج هذا المقترح على السوق العقاري، يقول موصلي أنه من المرجح أنه يحتاج لكفايته من الوقت لحين أن يلمس نوعا من التحسن، في الوقت الذي بدأ المستثمرون التعامل بفعالية بعد طول انتظار لحل المشكلة الأولى في السوق المحلي بدبي .

أما مشاريع نخيل العقارية التي تعد ذات الصلة الأولى بهذا المقترح، فنجد أنها شأنها شأن جميع المشاريع في الامارة والتي تخضع لقاعدة العرض والطلب، فلن تتحسن أسعارها أكثر من غيرها، الا أن المعنى العام يصب في الشعور الايجابي للمقترح ككل من شتى القطاعات .

من جهته أوضح عمر عايش، رئيس مجلس ادارة “نوبلز” القابضة، أن اعلان كل من دبي العالمية ونخيل عن خطتهما الشاملة لاعادة هيكلة الديون ستؤثر بشكل ايجابي وبطريقة مباشرة في بعض القطاعات وغير مباشرة على قطاعات أخرى، والتي ستصب في النهاية في تحريك العجلة الاقتصادية من دائرة التباطؤ الى التسارع .

وأضاف عايش أن المقترح الذي تقدمت به الشركتان كل على حدة سيخلق دفعة معنوية على صعيد هامش الثقة لكافة العاملين في السوق المحلي بدبي من خلال ضخ مياه الحيوية والنشاط على مستوى شتى القطاعات الاقتصادية .

وأشار رئيس مجلس ادارة “نوبلز”، الى أن دبي كانت ولا تزال تتبوأ مركزا متقدما كبيئة استثمارية جاذبة لرؤوس الأموال وكبرى الشركات، وها هي تفاجئنا بقرارها الصريح الذي يعد من أفضل الأخبار التي نسمعها على الرغم من الظروف الحالية التي تشهدها كافة الأسواق العالمية في ظل الأزمة المالية العالمية، بأن يأخذ كل ذي حق حقه وهذا يزيدنا ايمانا بقدرة الامارة على تجاوز أسوأ التحديات والمصاعب .

أما مهند الوادية، المدير الاداري في شركة هاربور للوساطة العقارية فقال من جانبه: “ان هذا الالتزام الجديد التي قدمته “دبي العالمية” يعد خطوة ايجابية نحو التزامات عديدة في المستقبل، فهو بالتأكيد يعزز الثقة بالبيئة الاقتصادية والاستثمارية في مدينة دبي وفي قطاع العقارات بشكل خاص . فدفع المبالغ المستحقة سيخلق أثرا ايجابيا مضاعفا على جميع أصحاب المصالح وسيساعد على تخفيف حدة التوتر القائم” .

وأضاف الوادية أن هذا الخبر الجيد يؤكد مرة أخرى أن دبي تتمتع ببنية تحتية اقتصادية متينة وقادرة على الصمود في وجه العاصفة الاقتصادية بثقة ومرونة، ووفرت من خلاله شعورا بالتفاؤل تفاعلت معه الأوساط العقارية لما له من الأثر الكبير والواضح على جاذبية الامارة على الصعيد العالمي .

عبدالمجيد اسماعيل الفهيم، رئيس مجلس ادارة دبي بيرل “لؤلؤة دبي”، قال من جهته عبر اتصال هاتفي خلال جولة ترويجية لمشروع لؤلؤة دبي في الصين وبعض دول آسيا، انه لا شك أن قيام حكومة دبي بتقديم دعم مالي لاعادة هيكلة ديون مجموعة دبي العالمية ونخيل، سيكون له أثره المباشر على ازدياد معدلات الثقة في الأداء الاقتصادي لدبي على المدى المتوسط والبعيد، ويضفي حالة من الاستقرار والاطمئنان على أداء كافة القطاعات الاقتصادية ليس على مستوى امارة دبي فحسب وانما على مستوى دولة الامارات بشكل عام .

وأضاف بعد لقاء مع شركاء أعمال في شنغهاي: “لقد كان لهذا القرار أثره الفوري على أداء أسواق المال في الدولة والتي استقبلته بفرحة عارمة ترجمها ارتفاع مؤشرات التدوال بشكل سريع، وأقفلت الأسواق على ارتفاع طالما اشتاقت اليه الأسواق، وبعث السرور والسكينة في نفوس جميع المتعاملين . كما أن هذا القرار ستكون له انعكاساته المباشرة على القطاع العقاري الذي هو بحاجة ماسة لمثل هذه المحفزات” .

وقال ان هذه الخطوة تمثل رسالة واضحة الى كافة أسواق العالم أن دبي قادرة على الايفاء بالتزاماتها برغم أي ظروف، وأن نهجها الاقتصادي التطويري ماض الى ما لا نهاية، وأن على الجميع أن يتعامل معها على هذا الأساس، وألا يراوده أي شك في أن المستقبل المشرق مازال فاتحاً ذراعيه لدولة الامارات لتحقق المزيد من الانجازات على سلم التطور الحضاري طالما أن قيادتها قادرون على توجيه الخطى الى الأمام بصدق ويقين وعزيمة .

Stable prices push sales up at Springs, Meadows

Emirates Business 24-7

Emirates Business 24-7

Communities have highest sales and leasing activity due to stable prices and rentals, say agents.

Prices of villas in Emirates Hills range between Dh10 million and Dh25m. (SATISH KUMAR)

The Springs and The Meadows have seen the highest sales and leasing activity within Emirates Living since the beginning of this year owing to stable prices and rentals, according to real estate agents.

Vineet Kumar, Head of Sales, Dubai, Asteco Property Management, said: “The Springs and The Meadows have seen increased sales and leasing activity since the beginning of this year as ongoing sales prices and rental rates for these properties have been stable for the past two months.”

According to Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate, between January 1 and March 18, The Springs and The Meadows recorded 66 sales transactions, marking a 50 per cent increase for the corresponding period in 2009.

He said between January 1 and March 18 last year, The Springs and The Meadows saw 44 sales transactions and during October 1 to Dec 31, 2009, 89 sales transactions were recorded.

Sales transactions up

Alwadiya disclosed that The Greens, The Lakes and The Views recorded 79 sales transactions between January 1 and March 18 this year, marking a 103 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year. “The Greens, The Lakes and The Views recorded 39 sales transactions between January 1 and March 18 last year and a total of 109 sales transactions in these communities between October 1 and December 31, 2009,” he said.

Paul Musson, Residential Sales Consultant, Better Homes, said current sale prices for a two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartment with study and maid’s room in The Springs were at Dh1.1 million and Dh2.2m, respectively. “In The Meadows, current sale prices for a three-bedroom and five-bedroom villa with a study and maid’s room are around Dh2.8m and Dh5.4m,” he said.

“In The Lakes, prices are currently at Dh3m and Dh4.5m for a three-bedroom villa with a study and maid’s room and for a five-bedroom villa with a study and maid’s room, respectively,” he added. In Emirates Hills, prices of villas range between Dh10m and Dh25m, but Musson said the villas are not selling at Dh25m. In The Greens, a one-bedroom apartment is currently selling for Dh680,000 while a three-bedroom apartment is selling for about Dh2.8m.

Musson said the bottom-end of the apartment market is still falling slightly in the studios and one-bedroom apartment segments. “The two-bedroom apartments are still holding up.”

He said demand from buyers in the market today was largely for villas and was no longer just price-driven. “Villas are what buyers want now and not just at the best price. Early this year, buyers were only looking for the best price, now however, end-users want the best unit for the best price.”

Rentals on a slide

Tamara Stubbs, Residential Leasing Consultant for Better Homes, said: “Annual rentals in The Springs range from Dh90,000 for a two-bedroom villa to Dh150,000 for a full lake-view three-bedroom villa.”

She said in The Meadows, rents ranged from Dh180,000 per annum for a standard three-bedroom villa to Dh375,000 per annum for a five-bedroom to six-bedroom villa. In The Lakes, annual rents for a three-bedroom townhouse were at Dh130,000 while for an upgraded three-bedroom villa, rents were at Dh160,000.

In Emirates Hills, annual rents are at Dh280,000 for a four-bedroom villa and at Dh400,000 for a four-bedroom to five-bedroom villa. In Dubai Marina, annual rents are at Dh60,000 for studios to Dh250,000 for a four-bedroom penthouse. In The Greens, annual rents are an approximate Dh40,000 for studios and Dh120,000 for a four-bedroom villa.

Stubbs added: “You can get higher rents for different units depending on the finishing and interiors.”

Alwadiya said the current rental prices within the development are lower than those prevailing six months back by an average of five per cent to 10 per cent. “Sale prices in The Greens and The Views are lower by 13 per cent to 15 per cent. But for villas, prices are slightly higher by around five per cent.”

He added: “Due to the decrease in rental and sale prices by around 35 per cent and 45 per cent that this area witnessed during the past 15 months, we have noticed an increase in demand for all the communities within Emirates Living with a focus on The Greens, The Views and The Springs. This trend was carried over during the first few months of 2010.”

Sahali Saleem, Residential Leasing Consultant, Al Barsha, Better Homes said among the communities, The Greens and The Springs had the lowest number of rentals when compared to the other sub-communities in Emirates Living because of the ongoing road construction.”

Occupancies within the Emirates Living district vary from one community to another. According to Harbor Real Estate, occupancy in The Greens is highest at 85 per cent, followed by The Springs with 80 per cent occupancy levels.

The Views and The Links have about 75 per cent occupancy followed by The Meadows which have 80 per cent occupancy. The Lakes currently has about 60 per cent while Emirates Hills has about 55 per cent occupancy levels.

“The rate of people moving in and out of the development is almost equal. Emirates Living did not witness a sharp drop or a drastic increase in population compared to the same period last year. This was mainly fuelled by the influx of new tenants who upgraded their homes taking advantage of the newly reduced prices,” said Alwadiya.

High occupancy levels

According to Asteco, occupancy levels within Emirates Living have been given a push and currently stand at 75 per cent overall levels as many owners held back selling their properties and instead looked to lease them. “Occupancy is quite high as a majority of inventory has been handed over for more than a year. In our estimate, the occupancy level is above 75 per cent as a lot of inventory has been held back for sale and owners have decided to lease their villas. This has given a push to occupancy levels,” said Kumar.

The villas only pay community fees for the use of common facilities such as parks, pool, landscaping, use and upkeep of roads. “This fee ranges from Dh7,500 to Dh16,000 a year. Maintenance of villas, like any other property, is on the owners’ account,” added Kumar.

Alwadiya said: “The community service fee charges for villas and townhouses are more or less the same. For The Greens, service charges continue to increase. However, the option of payment over four instalments was highly appreciated by many owners in the development.”

Asteco said the overall buyer profile of Emirates Living was a mix of families from all over the world. “The development has a strong presence of clients from Europe, Asia, the GCC, Lebanon and Iran,” said Kumar. “The community is ready and offers convenience for occupants. Villas of two-bedrooms to five-bedrooms are popular for family living.”

Alwadiya said: “For The Lakes, The Meadows and The Springs you cannot define a buyer profile. Nowadays we see different nationalities with different professional and income profiles moving into these areas.”

In Emirates Hills, high demand continues from wealthy South Asian, Russian and GCC nationals. “All of these buyers come with very high budgets and ready cash to pay for their luxury dream homes,” he said.

Master plan overview

Emirates Living comprises The Springs, The Meadows, The Lakes, Hattan, Ghadeer, Montgomery and Emirates Hills. The Emirates Living district also comprises The Views and The Greens.

The Greens are mid-rise apartment blocks comprising nine projects in all – Al Sidr, Al Jaz, Al Nakheel, Al Ghaf, Al Samar, Al Dhafrah, Al Arta, Al Thayyal and Al Ghozlan.

The Views are apartment buildings comprising eight projects in all – Arno, Travo, Turia, Una, The Fairways, The Links, Golf Towers and Mosela.
The Springs comprises townhouses built around man-made lakes. The properties in The Springs range from two-bedroom to four-bedroom townhouses and are located close to The Greens, The Lakes and The Meadows.

The Meadows are detached villas offering double-storeyed villas from three to seven rooms, each surrounded by a garden and garage.

The Lakes are detached villas and townhouses comprising Deema, Furat, Maeen, Zulal and The Ghadeer which was the last to be handed over recently. The Lakes has been built around a lake, located near the Emirates Golf Club and The Greens development. Initially, properties in The Lakes were only for rent, but in 2007, Emaar offered freehold titles to the properties, with first refusal granted to the then existing tenants.

Emirates Hills are luxury-detached villas that have been sold as plots to investor to build their properties on.

The community also includes schools such as the Dubai International Academy, Emirates International School, Dubai British School, Regents School, a community centre, restaurants and supermarkets, children’s playgrounds, and communal swimming pools

Emirates Living residents also have access to the Emirates Hills’ Montgomerie Golf Course and its Golf Academy which includes a clubhouse and other facilities.

Sales show improvement in key realty projects

Article from Emirates Business 24-7

Article from Emirates Business 24-7

Downtown Dubai has the highest number of listings by most realty agents.

Downtown Dubai, Emirates Living, Dubai Marina and Dubailand top the listing chart for sales and leasing queries, according to agents.

“Downtown Dubai has the highest number of listings by most realty agents in Dubai. The second popular area is Dubai Marina with a large focus on Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR),” said Mohanad Al Wadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate.

For Harbor Real Estate, the number of listings in these areas has increased by 20 per cent to 25 per cent in 2010. “Business Bay with a larger focus on the recently launched Executive Towers comes third, according to us,” he added.

Al Wadiya said Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina have always been ranked high and are one of the most sought-after areas in Dubai.

“The location of both these areas is good, which is the most important decision investors take while investing. Further, the current price points have also made these two districts more attractive as they have became more affordable.

“Another key reason for this increased attention and demand is the fact that both these areas include popular attractions such as The Dubai Mall, The Marina Mall, The JBR walk, The Marina walk, the free beach in JBR and Burj Khalifa.”

Better Homes’ Liz O’Connor, Director – Residential Sales and Leasing, said: “Our top-selling districts between November 2009 and February 2010 have been The Emirates Living District, Marina District, Downtown District and the Dubailand districts.”

“For us, between November 2009 and February 2010, we received the most listings for the Emirates Living District, such as The Greens, Emirates Living, Jumeirah Village, Jumeirah Lake Tower (JLT), followed by Dubai Marina, Dubailand and Downtown Dubai districts,” said O’Connor.

Vineet Kumar, Head of Leasing and Sales – Dubai, Asteco Property Management, said: “Majority of listings we received in the past two months are for recently handed over projects such as the Loft apartments in Downtown Dubai and the Executive Towers in Business Bay.

“Other areas, which have received good level of listings are Dubai Marina and JLT, villas in Emirates Living such as Springs and Palm Jumeirah.

“Also, Sheikh Zayed Road continues to draw interest from tenants looking for quality residential buildings.

“Listings are always linked to the status of handed-over projects. As more projects have been handed over, or are nearing completion, we have seen a growth in the number of listings in these select locations,” he added.

Handover

Real estate agents said the main reason for these areas recording the highest listings has been due to recent handover within these areas and the fact that these communities offer a complete lifestyle with lesser construction happening in these areas.

Al Wadiya said: “The overall market condition in Dubai is stabilising and the appetite of all the stakeholders in the property market is improving as there is a general consensus that the prices have bottomed out and if there is any further decline, it will be very marginal and will not affect areas or developments that are completed.”

O’Connor said: “For residential real estate, location plays a big role in the demand for these areas. People want to live in popular areas that provide them with a good lifestyle and one which are easily accessible.

“Our customers are increasingly looking for The Emirates Living district, followed by Dubai Marina, Dubailand and Downtown districts,” she added.

Kumar said: “Buyers will show interest in master-plans that are developed and offer convenience of living and at rates which are attractive. Further those buyers who receive handover of their property and do not wish to occupy them for self-use will often offer these for sale or leasing.”

Meanwhile, listings for properties (sales and rentals) in JLT and Discovery Gardens has dropped due to buyers looking at other value for money investments in other parts of Dubai.

Al Wadiya said: “During the second half of 2009, we were seeing more listings for JLT and Discovery Gardens. The listings have been reduced in these areas mainly because of the shift of focus to the more popular areas of Dubai such as Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina.

“Prices are more affordable in these areas, hence buyers especially end-users and investors are shifting to these areas. In addition, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina offer a more established community lifestyle with less construction going on in the area,” he added.

He said the number of transactions in these areas could have fallen during 2010. According to Better Homes, no significant drop in listings has been noted in any particular areas.

“There are always shortages of a particular type of properties within a certain area for the right price which leads to a shortage in particular communities. Certain communities in Dubai, particularly those with villas, do not have many units becoming available as they have end users living in them who are there for the long term.

“The villas in Phase I Green Community are an example,” said O’Connor.

“Further, not having listings in a particular area could mean a number of things, such as a shortage of property within these areas for the right price.

“It could also mean that property owners are leasing rather then selling in these places,” she added.

Harbor Real Estate said the company does not remove any particular area from its listings.

“However, we focus more on the areas that have more demand. Having said that, we continue to provide minimum support to off-plan projects as the demand for these projects is still very low,” said Alwadiya.

Kumar said: “We have identified certain locations and focus on those areas alone. However, we have not removed any areas.

“You may find we do not have a presence in certain areas such as Downtown Jebel Ali and Dubai Waterfront. We will revisit these locations once we believe the market will be interested from a price-point which is agreeable to the sellers.”

Real estate agents said delivery of new properties in Dubai is likely to increase the number of distress sales.

O’Connor said: “Delivery of new properties in Dubai are likely to see a number of ‘distress sales’ coming into the market. In fact this is already happening. In all situations the reasons to sell are unique; however, we generally expect to see distress sales coming from areas where projects are not expected to be completed or cancelled.”

She added that in the case of a property with mortgage attached, the extent to which a seller is willing to sell his property would depend on the mortgage finance, as the final selling price must cover the bank’s finance amount. In the case of cash sales, however, there is no limit to which a seller may sell.

Kumar said: “As more inventory gets delivered there will be sellers who will prefer to exit from the purchase but the value will be linked to quality of project, status of the master community etc.

From the buyers perspective, this is a good time to buy a piece of real estate at realistic value with the aim of holding the property for the mid to long-term.”
He added that the term, “distress sales” should never be used, as selling a property is a seller’s personal decision.

“The reasons for selling the property at the value they deem right is the seller’s choice. We might use the term ‘motivated seller’ but not distress. Quite often such sales are at lower than market price and could translate into a financial loss for the seller. However, market conditions may be only one reason for such sales.”

According to Harbor Real Estate, the term ‘distressed sale’ emerged during the early days of the crisis during the last quarter of 2008 and has soon become a common property jargon.

“Few people really know what it means and how to qualify a property as a genuine distress sale,” said Al Wadiya. “The global credit crunch has hit the property industry hard. Developers find themselves in the position of having built projects which now have no buyers or the people who bought off-plan are now trying to pull out and recoup their deposits,” he said.

He said that distressed properties are properties that are in danger of facing foreclosure proceedings or that have already been scheduled for sale as a result of default on the part of the owner.

“A property is said to be distressed when an owner gets behind on mortgage payments or a direct payment to a developer and the lender or appropriate debt collector begins to start the necessary proceedings to sell the home in order to collect the outstanding debt.

Distressed properties can cover any kind of real estate, from commercial spaces to apartments. It’s a great chance to save, often ranging anywhere from 40 per cent to 60 per cent off their actual market value or buying price, but it’s also a great chance for making a good investment, since purchasing for a discount often means creating a huge margin for future profits,” he said. O’Connor said: “It is important to understand that a ‘distress’ sale is really only where the seller is willing to sell for less than he paid for, particularly if the property is off-plan.

“Some sellers are willing to sell for the original price of the property or less, but many sellers – in particular those with ready properties rather than off-plan – are unable to emotionally ‘let go’ for less than they think it should be worth.”

She said that many sellers will describe themselves as ‘distress’ sellers, even though they may expect to receive quite a bit more than they paid for the property.

“However, in the case of investors off-loading their off-plan properties, those that are prepared to incur a loss will generally accept up to 40 per cent less than the original price in order to just get some of their investment back,” she said.

“Owners looking to sell are increasingly twitchy about moving their properties off the market and banks have large numbers of repossessed property stock effectively sitting on their balance sheets when what they really need is liquid cash sitting in the coffers. All of this adds up to something that buyers love more than almost anything else – the opportunity for a bargain,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor said the situation occurs mainly with cash buyers. “This is a worse situation for a finance buyer, because he has to pay the bank and pay the difference directly from his pocket; in many of the finance distress sales, the client will walk away.”

“It is important to say that using the term ‘distress sale’ without the permission of the owner is considered a breach of the agents code of ethics introduced under by-law No 85 of 2006 because agents are supposed to be trusties for the owners and they should not disclose the owner’s financial status under any circumstances,” she said.

The real estate agents said some properties like JLT, Greens, Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai are providing some good value for money investments for buyers.
“Some of the apartments in JLT are value for money and will prove to be a good investment when the infrastructure of the community is complete and the metro is fully operational. However, investors need to choose carefully. Those towers on Sheikh Zayed Road side of the community are proving to have the most popular locations,” said Al Wadiya.

“Greens is due to shortly handover and many investors are anxious to off-load their property at original price and in some cases for less,” said Al Wadiya.

More buyers get lawyers to read the fine print

Article from Emirates Business 24-7

Article from Emirates Business 24-7

Property owners are concerned over growing disputes and investment security.

The number of property dispute cases filed in Q1 2009 increased by 55 per cent compared to Q4 2008. (EB FILE)

Increasing real estate disputes and concerns over security of a property investment are prompting buyers to seek legal advice prior to making a transaction, according to agents.

“Clients have serious concerns over the security of their real estate investments. Further, increase in number of real estate disputes is a result of many prospective buyers seeking legal advice prior to making a transaction,” said Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate.

“This was not the case in previous years which also contributed greatly to the problems that clients were facing as proper due diligence was not conducted prior to the sale and purchase of property,” he said.

Speaking to Emirates Business in a round table, Shilpa Guruswamy, Head of Legal and Sales Coordination, Asteco Property Management; Charles Neil, CEO, Landmark Advisory & Landmark Properties and Liz O’Connor, Director – Residential Sales & Leasing, Better Homes, said they were ensuring all correct steps were followed within their companies and ensuring all documentations were in place before a transaction is completed.

Do you have a law firm that advises you on the authenticity of your real estate transactions?

Guruswamy: Yes, we have a legal department, which oversees our transaction details and is also responsible for the compliance and risk mitigation process.

Neil: We have law firms to draw up all our documentation which protects the rights of our clients. Our accounts are audited by one of the four big auditors in order to ensure there is a clear distinction between our funds and our clients’ funds.

Real estate agencies, however, should be careful using companies claiming to be trust companies as they are not regulated, and if they have doubts they should use a reputed company of lawyers instead.

O’Connor: Yes, we do have a lawyer on board who manages our legal procedures and contractual obligations on transactions. Through our in-house lawyer as well as our managers, we ensure that all correct steps are followed and documentation is in place before a transaction is completed.

Alwadiya: In 2009, we joined forces with Prestige Legal Consultants, an international law company, to provide counselling and representation to all our clients in all legal matters concerning real estate in Dubai.

This partnership was started to keep in line with our vision to evolve our services from traditional real estate brokerage of merely bringing buyers and sellers together to world-class end-to-end real estate services. The holistic real estate legal services will complement our diverse line of services and govern all the activities and transactions of our clients.

The combined real estate experience of our firms enable us to provide clear candid counsel and guidance to our clients at all times to ensure that their rights are always protected.

Is this a new trend due to the downturn in the real estate sector?

Guruswamy: Real estate transactions, whether sales, lease, or appointment of sub-agents, are all essentially structured through legal contracts. Therefore, all these underlying documents need to be verified to ensure compliance to statutes and contract laws.

It is not a new trend but as the market matures there is greater emphasis on regulation and transparency. Therefore, there is increased need to have people with necessary legal background and expertise to scrutinise or draft documents. It is in no way related to the downturn because we had a legal department in place and operational long before the onset of the downturn.

Neil: We feel there should be laws allowing the setting up of trust accounts, but in our case customers trust us as we have strong finances and strong shareholders.

O’Connor: No, for us this is not as a result of the downturn in the real estate sector. We created this position a number of years ago due to volume of transactions and to oversee our international operations.

Alwadiya: Real estate-related enquiries have increased since the 2008 financial downturn. Many of the clients have serious concerns about the security of their real estate investments.

It was estimated that the number of cases filed in the first quarter of 2009 increased by 55 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. This drastic increase in the number of real estate disputes is a result of many reasons ranging from investors not fulfilling their obligations, sale and purchase agreements containing provisions that contradict the law about developers not delivering projects on time, and many more.

Prospective buyers are also seeking legal advice prior to making a transaction. This was not the case in previous years and also contributed greatly to the problems that clients were facing as proper due diligence was not conducted prior to the sale and purchase of property.

Most of the current legal enquiries that our legal division receives are usually concerned with the real estate regulations and legislations.

The profound perception of the industry and the daily interface with real estate clientele have resulted in the espousal of a fresh innovative legal counselling scheme. According to a recent study conducted by Harbor research division, majority of people perceive legal counseling as an exhorbitant service which leaves them with no alternative other than staying unaided and frustrated.

For that reason, the legal solution introduced by Harbor & Prestige is viewed as a results-driven method. Customers who seek legal counselling will incur minimal fees and no extra charges will be required in case of not winning the case.

Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) recently proposed a free legal advice service for buyers and sellers, an initiative that we applaud. We believe that this innovative policy will assist in boosting the confidence levels in the real estate industry.

Can you specify which particular transactions are scrutinised by your analysts and lawyers?

Guruswamy: The legal department is involved in overseeing all transactions not limited to primary sales, secondary sales, leases, registration at the Land Department verification of power of attorneys etc. Should a party to the transaction be a corporate body, incorporation documents of companies need also to be verified.

Neil: We do use lawyers for more complicated transactions and are working with one firm to do conveyance transactions.

O’Connor: We have standardised processes and procedures that govern every transaction. Our in-house legal advisor oversees all the legalities of these processes to ensure that all parties, wherever possible are secure.

Alwadiya: The legal services introduction is vital as the real estate market matures through the current economic crisis to become a more structured and regulated market. We obtain legal counselling for all our transactional activities in order to ensure providing our clients with a secured transactional experience. Needless to say, the more complex and high-end the transaction is, the more legal involvement we require.

Do you collect a deposit from a client in order to lock-in your clients?

Guruswamy: We generally do not encourage collection of deposits. However, should there be a delay in completion of transaction, a deposit may be collected by the agent to secure buyer’s interest and lock the seller to a commitment. In this case the agent takes up the role of an escrow agent.

In case of default, deposit maybe forfeited and returned to the aggrieved party. On successful closure of the deal, the deposit is adjusted towards the balance sale price of the transaction.

Neil: We only take deposits as part of a transaction and to secure the rights of the parties involved in a transaction, we don’t take it in to lock in a client. If the deal falls through, then the deposit is returned in the manner agreed upon by the parties at the time of signing the agreement. Sellers can no longer demand deposits and hold on to them.

O’Connor: We have now begun to encourage our customers to hold their deposit with a Rera-approved escrow facility, but in the absence of an escrow we take a deposit from the buyer as security for the seller.

Alwadiya: Accepting deposits from potential buyers or tenants is a common practice in the property market which is usually used as a closing technique or a gesture to test the seriousness of the potential client. More sellers and landlords are starting to ask for deposits as well in order to secure their interest in the transaction, especially when the closing date of the transaction is delayed for justified reasons such as releasing a property mortgage or finalising the transaction contracts or obtaining a date to conduct the transfer at the developer’s office or the Land Department.

We try to avoid retaining any deposits at our end as this is an added liability on us and it can place us in a conflict of interest situation as we usually represent only one part in the transaction. Having said that, we usually recommend that deposits are usually handed by a financial or legal third party entity with neutral position in relation to the parties involved in the transaction.

Do you maintain a separate account to receive agents’ commissions?

Guruswamy: Commission fees are payable to the agent by the parties involved and shall not form a part of the purchase consideration.

Normally, the purchase consideration is exchanged between the buyer and seller and the commission is paid to the agent. Therefore, there is no possibility of both of them being booked into the same account. However, should the agent be involved in collecting the booking deposit, it is booked separately into a designated account, which is distinct from all other operational accounts. Such payments are held on behalf of the buyer and seller and do not form part of the operational funds of the agent.

Neil: No comment.

O’Connor: We have an accounts department and we run a series of profit centres, most of which have commissions as the primary revenue source.

Alwadiya: Our company’s bank account is supervised by an independent certified accounting and auditing firm. Our internal accounting and finance resources follow the processes and guidelines set by this consultant/firm in order to ensure complete compliance with the best financial and accounting standards.