Question: I have been in the UAE for a long time, and accumulated a portfolio of 17 apartments and a couple of villas located all over Dubai. Everyone knows that the market is on a slowdown so is there still a way to make any profit during this period?
There are too many investors who are under the illusion that investing in property is almost a “set and forget” proposition, but nothing could be further from the truth. The property industry is incredibly dynamic and requires constant attention as factors influencing its performance as an investment are as broad as they are complex.
Investing in property is no different to investing in any other asset. Its purpose is to create wealth but, in order to do that, it needs to be nurtured, maintained and managed just like any other investment. Ask yourself a question: Would you create a share portfolio without monitoring and managing its health and performance? Of course not, and having a property portfolio is no different.
With a portfolio this large, you need professional help to manage your property investment, particularly during times when yield is harder to generate. It requires careful thinking about what the true earnings potential of the portfolio really is, and what is the most efficient and effective way to go about realizing that potential. You need a good property manager who will ensure that you maximize returns from your property portfolio and enable your long term portfolio strategy to be realized.
Essentially your property manager should be capable of managing your business which just so happens to be a property portfolio. Remember, it’s your investment, and you need to ensure it’s in good hands providing you with the returns you expect with as little hassle as possible.
Choose wisely as once you appoint a property manager, your ultimate return on investment is largely in his hands.
QUESTION: I have a well-maintained 1-bedroom apartment in Queue Point, Liwan. When I purchased it, the selling rate was at AED 550 per sq.ft. Should I continue to rent it out or sell it now?
Properties located in non-prime areas such as Dubailand have been doing very well even in the current market scenario. Even in the recent past, we have witnessed the more affordable properties in the market, including those in Dubailand, doing quite well in terms of significant value growth and ongoing sales activity as there remains a supply gap in the truly “affordable” property segment.
As mid to upmarket property in prime locations have become unaffordable for some homebuyers and investors, people have turned to more reasonably-priced projects like Remraam, Skycourts, Queue Point, etc., which promise capital appreciation even in the current market climate. These developments are still young, and more growth and infrastructure development is still in the offing.
There is no doubt that you would still make some profit if you sold today; however, we expect values to still improve, especially as the infrastructure and landscaping around the development gets completed. I suggest you retain the apartment for at least the next 5 years as you will continue to benefit from superior capital growth and enjoy at least 8 percent net annual rental returns in the meantime.
Question: Am I right in thinking that rental rates are not as affected by the market slowdown as sale prices? I was expecting a big reduction in my rent but our landlord told us it will remain the same.
Yes, you are partly right. The current industry climate has affected sale prices more although rents have also fallen in certain areas which only means the market slowdown has varying effects on different areas and property types. Regarding your rent, what will determine whether the landlord can raise your rent or not is how your rental levels compare with the new and updated index.
You should familiarize yourself with Law 43 which was issued on 22/12/2013 and replaced Decree # 2 of 2011. It introduced certain restrictions with regard to the calculation and implementation of legally allowable rental increases.
Having said that, it does not set out to control the rental value of new contracts and where a property is to be let for the first time or to a new tenant, it is up to the owner and prospective tenant to agree as to how much rent should be charged for the property.
However, for your peace of mind, you can compare your rental rate to the current market rate by using the RERA rental increase calculator online by visiting: http://www.dubailand.gov.ae/English/Pages/Rental-Increase-calculator.aspx
While it has its limitations, it is a useful tool that is also being used by landlords as a reference point for determining rental rates.
Question: I have just received an offer from a bank representative to refinance my property. Is this an opportunity I should avail of or not?
Very easily, I can say the answer is YES, but only if it makes financial sense! In short, you need to make some quick but careful calculations.
There are some very attractive mortgage products in the marketplace with a few mortgage providers offering rates as low as 3.99% or even 3.49% which signals that competition among UAE banks for higher market share of the mortgage market is getting pretty intense.
There are a number of things you need to consider such as, is there an early payment penalty for your current mortgage? It may well be that you will need to pay a hefty fee to exit the existing contract.
While 3.99% is an attractive rate, how long are you guaranteed this attractive rate? Interest rates will eventually rise and this eventuality needs to be understood by mortgagors as the attractive 3.99% interest rate enjoyed today will, in all probability, be replaced with a significantly higher rate in 2 years’ time, requiring increased mortgage payments to cover the interest rate hike. You need to factor this into your financial planning.
Will you need to pay any establishment fees for your new mortgage contract? With the mortgage market becoming so competitive, you should be able to have any fees waived.
Finally, make sure you can pay out your new mortgage contract at a future point in time without any penalty. This is an unnecessary expense that you should not be burdened with.
Question: I am coming from overseas and looking to rent a home. I heard about this thing called “district cooling.” What, exactly, does it mean?
District cooling for the provision of chilled water has emerged globally as a way to provide cooling to buildings in a more environmentally sensitive way. It is considered to provide great benefits in the long run and, in addition, helps in saving on the costs of electricity which will be reflected in lower DEWA bills of tenants.
You will find that most of the units which are serviced by chilled water district cooling are offered at slightly lower rental rates. However, you should enquire as to how your cooling charges will be calculated and enquire as to all the charges which are included in the cost. You may even ask existing tenants how much they are paying currently before you commit to a tenancy contract.
With regard to consumption charges, I am assuming you will have a BTU meter installed in your future apartment? If so, you will be billed directly by the cooling services provider based upon what you actually consume in terms of cooling. The more you use, the more you pay.
Having said that, the DEWA savings will be offset somewhat as you may incur an additional utility charge as some owners of units that are equipped with chilled water district cooling will be passed on the slightly higher utility charges that they incur which involves the remuneration of the capital costs of providing the infrastructure that delivers the chilled water to the unit. This charge will, in all likelihood, be calculated as a pro-rata of the actual consumption charges.
Nevertheless, in most cases, developers have managed to offer better value for money while helping protect the environment.
By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI)
Published in Freehold – Gulf News
Dated: 30 April, 2016