By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI)
Published in Freehold – Gulf News
Dated: 9 April, 2016

Question: We’re a successful startup company and currently looking for office space with the best value? Should we rent or buy?

Congratulations on your successful venture! AT this stage, however, you would still be looking at keeping costs to a minimum until such time you become fully established in the market.

As you may very well know, the old cliché of “location, location, location” is critical. It’s all about proximity and the convenience and prestige that a well-chosen location can bring to your potential customers, staff and business associates. Currently, you will find great value, very affordable and well-constructed office space in Business Bay, which will cost you anywhere between AED 70 and AED 120 per square foot (higher for fully fitted space), but it will be pointless if the location is a hindrance to conducting your business. You need to choose your preferred location first, and work from there.

Think about purchasing your premises. It’s in your best interest to do a complete analysis to see if this option will work for you. We at Harbor have always advocated that, cash flow permitting, businesses acquire their own premises. If you are a business committed to operating long term in Dubai, it makes sense to own your office space, particularly if it is a well-negotiated purchase. There is no tax advantage in leasing in Dubai and, as long as your office space is appreciating, your balance sheet will look a whole lot better and grow stronger over time.

If you decide to lease your premises, try to get the best deal possible and lock it in for at least 3 to 5 years. Lease rates in Dubai will be on the increase, going forward, so make sure you take advantage of current rates.

Question: I came to the UAE with an objective to join real estate as I have several years of experience overseas under my sleeve. Can you advise me on how I can land myself a realtor’s job in a reputable company?

It is good to know that you plan on joining the local real estate sector with some experience. Nevertheless, each real estate environment is unique so I suggest you join a company that will enable you to fast track your learning.

Look for a full service company so you gain a greater understanding of what the UAE real estate business is all about, beyond the buying and selling of property.

The company you choose should value you as an individual and remunerate you appropriately. But they should also be prepared to invest in you by providing the types of learning experiences that come with formal training (mandatory to become a licensed agent in Dubai), and also in-house training. This may involve being assigned a mentor, be placed on an internal rotation scheme to enable a broader knowledge of the business to be developed or be given special projects that will facilitate your learning by encouraging you to seek answers and solutions yourself to enable you to complete the task at hand. Those companies that invest in hi-potential people, typically are those that succeed.

Finally, surround yourself with people who are passionate about the industry because passion is contagious, and it’s what sets the successful ones apart.

Question: How do I know for sure my property consultant is giving me the right advice?

In any relationship, whether it be personal or professional, trust is key.  So if you have a nagging feeling that your property consultant is not representing your interests, have a meeting with him and request a justification and rationale for his recommendations and advice. To ascertain whether his justifications and rationale make sense, you should do some research yourself so you can verify the veracity of his claims and assertions. If you remain doubtful, seek an alternative as there are plenty of property consultants out there hungry for your business.

Getting a new consultant is not always the solution and you may want to rethink your criteria in choosing one so you develop rapport and trust in the long run.

Look for experience and passion – people who really enjoy what they are doing. The best way to find such professionals is to ask around. Seek out friends or peers who have recently conducted a real estate transaction and ask. Seek out the positive stories as well as the negative ones.

Find a consultant or agency that exhibits a breadth and depth of industry knowledge and expertise. When conducting initial meetings, make sure you assess how much the agency or its brokers actually know.

Look for longevity. Those that survived the recent recession must be good!

Look for a strong network of corporate, government and industry contacts. The consultant or agency that has good relationships with key industry stakeholders such as the major developers or authorities such as the Dubai Land Department, RERA, DEWA or Economic Department will be able to operate more efficiently and effectively.

And finally, look for an agency that has received some form of industry or peer recognition as they lend credence to the name and reputation of the realtor in question.

Question: We purchased a villa in Dubai back in 2009. However, instead of continuing to rent it out, my husband and I have decided that we want to go ahead and sell our property soon. How do we find a good seller’s agent?

There is a large number of licensed real estate brokers in Dubai, and the whole of UAE of course. But finding the right agent to sell your property is something you need to pay close attention to because getting the best person to represent you and your property out there is crucial to how quickly you can make a sale without compromising on your agreed-upon expectations.

Factors such as years of experience in the UAE property market, track record of success, an in-depth understanding of market trends, area expertise (especially in the neighborhood where your unit is located), client testimonials, level of commitment, passion, dedication, professionalism and honesty are important, not to mention the fact that he/she should also be a duly licensed RERA-certified real estate broker. Before committing to any realtor, make a list of all the questions you want answered first and see how they respond as doing so will help you gauge whether or not giving him/her your business is the best thing for you and your husband, and your property.

Question of the Week: I have been looking at Dubai (or the UAE) as a possible part-time destination during my retirement. Hence, I would like to purchase a property here, rent it out initially and later use the property myself during my retirement. Do you have any advice?

Including property acquisition as a part of your retirement plan is a good move, but you must choose wisely. The key to choosing your property is determining the right balance between the amount to be invested, the returns you require in the interim period before you retire, and what type of property you want to enjoy during your retirement. The good news here is your tastes are likely to be shared by your tenants in the interim so renting it out should not be a problem.

Quality properties are available starting from AED 700 per square foot; however if you want to purchase in the prime areas of Dubai, either in Downtown Dubai, or somewhere close to the beach, or with a golf course view, you can easily double or triple that amount.

You can expect a minimum net rental return of around 5 percent to 7 percent which, given the cheap financing available at the moment, makes for a solid investment in preparation for outright ownership and retirement. Be careful with fluctuations in exchange rates.

Factors such as location, the developer’s record and reputation, quality, service fees, building management and the existence of a functioning owner’s association will require a reputable local real estate professional to help you minimize any risks with your investment, whether during the procurement stage or managing your investment until you are ready to assume occupancy once you will have retired.

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