Brexit & Dubai realty

The effects of “Brexit” are as diverse as they are far-reaching, with experts considering how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything – from the European geopolitical and socio-economic landscape, the strength and resilience of the European Union in the face of further discontent among its member states, the social and economic ramifications to a newly  “independent” United Kingdom, and the inevitable question as to whether the United Kingdom can remain united given the Scottish and  Northern Islands’ wish to continue as part of the European Union.

In addition, the whole strategic alliance framework of the West has been weakened somewhat as a robust and strongly united European Union was always considered to be a cornerstone to an effective defense to an aggressive Russia and China on both economic and security fronts.

All this is heady stuff, complicated by the fact that the separation process will be negotiated by a new English Prime Minister, and will probably take up to 2 years! Understandably, the whole world is worried because all the financial and trade mechanisms, agreements, communication channels, policies, protocols and security arrangements that have taken over four decades to build will soon be set to zero for renegotiation.

No wonder the world is nervous and understandably uncertain as to what the future might hold.

And it’s that uncertainty which will have an effect on the Dubai property scene. As we all know, investors and potential homeowners alike do not handle uncertainty well.

And it is this very same uncertainty that now lies around the effect of the Brexit on world growth, and the possibility of European and UK recessions in the coming year that will make most investors move to less risky assets and safe haven currencies such as the Japanese yen and the US dollar.

Of course, uncertainty regarding world growth has also negatively affected oil prices so many investors will be more reticent to invest in those economies that rely on its revenue. While we all know that Dubai is much less reliant on oil than the neighboring UAE emirates and Middle Eastern countries, it will still be affected by investor nervousness by way of association, which is unfortunate yet a reality. Just take a look at the Dubai Financial Market – it lost 3.3 percent, the biggest decline since January, as Emaar Properties PJSC fell by 4.7 percent, mirroring the Brexit effect on many other markets around the world. Hardly rational, in my view.

And investors will be looking closely at the effect of Brexit on the Dubai tourism industry as well. In the first quarter of 2016, Western Europe was the second largest source of tourists to Dubai by region, accounting for 23 per cent, led by the UK’s 8 per cent and Germany’s 3 per cent.

With the Euro weakened to $1.10, and with most analysts bearish on its immediate future, it is hard to imagine that level of contribution will continue until the post-Brexit uncertainty dissipates. Now, such a strong pillar in Dubai’s burgeoning economy, tourism rates can be affected as nearly every global currency has depreciated versus the AED, making travel to the UAE more expensive for the majority of global travelers while journeying to the UK and Europe for most people has just got a lot cheaper. Hopefully, many will still use Dubai as a travel hub and take advantage of what this exciting city has to offer during stopovers.

At the time of writing, the British pound had fallen more than 10 per cent to below $1.34 and is still falling as uncertainty continues to cloud everybody’s view as to the future of the UK economy. This is significant as British investors alone injected £1.9bn into Dubai’s property sector in 2015, purchasing around AED 10 billion worth of UAE property assets and ranking them second with an overall 7 per cent of total investments made in the sector in 2015, increasing from the prior year. Needless to say, with such a currency devaluation and an uncertain outlook, Dubai property has suddenly become a lot more expensive for those wishing to purchase with British pounds.

And yet, the London property market has just become a lot more affordable. Already, there are reports of overseas buyers from all over the world taking advantage of the weaker pound to buy property in the stunned city. While a feeding frenzy hasn’t developed as yet, a prolonged weakness in the pound could divert significant levels of investment capital away from markets such as Dubai, especially as British expats, living in the emirate and earning UAE dirhams, take advantage of exchange rate gains to invest back home.

So, while there are interesting times ahead, there is no need to act impulsively or with any undue haste. The true extent and nature of the ramifications of the Brexit decision are yet to be fully identified, analyzed and quantified. It is still early days, and it will take some time for the fog of uncertainty to clear and for opportunities to emerge. Decision time will come soon enough.


Question: In spite of the ongoing market slowdown, rents in our building are said to have increased according to new tenants. Our rent contract renewal is due in the last quarter of this year, do you think we will also be hit with a rent increase?

Unabated rent increases have been a common occurrence in the UAE; however, with the intervention of the authorities, tenants now have some added protection.

According to the law, your landlord needs to give you at least 90 days’ notice prior to the expiration of your current contract if he intends to increase your rent.

It will also greatly help you if you familiarize yourself with Law No. 43 issued on 22 December 2013 which replaced Decree No. 2 of 2011. Law No. 43 introduced the following restrictions (summarized) to take immediate effect with regard to the calculation and implementation of legally allowable rental increases:

  • There should not be any rent increase, if the rent for the real estate unit is no more than 10% below the average rent that a similar property commands within a neighborhood
  • The annual rent increases, as specified by the decree, can range from 5% up 20% according to how much the current rent is less than the market average
  • The market average rates are to be determined by the RERA Rental Index (RERA Rent Calculator)

The implementation of Law No. 43 is necessary to safeguard consumer’s interests, the overall industry and the economy at large from rampant and unjustifiable rental increases on existing rental contracts. 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.

Question: I am a landlord still relatively new in the business and I want to give my tenant one year’s notice to vacate an apartment I own. I already sent him a notice through a courier company but he (tenant) said it is not valid. What is the correct procedure? 

First of all, for the notice to hold up legally, you must have a valid reason for requesting the tenant to vacate the premises. Has the tenant committed any breach in respect of the tenancy agreement? Has there been any illegal activity in the premises? Do you need the unit for yourself? Do you intend to sell the apartment?

If your tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement or has broken the law in some way you must serve a 30-day notary public notice to the tenant. The notice must clearly state why the tenant is being given 30 days’ notice to fix the matter and the details of the matter itself.  If the tenant does not respond in accordance to the request, then you can go to the Rental Dispute Settlement Center and ask for the issuance of an eviction order.

If you want to sell the property or use it yourself, you will need to provide a 12-month’ notice to the tenant through the notary public stating your intentions. You may then refuse to renew any lease for a period that extends more than 12 months past the date of notification.

The notice must be delivered by courier, and it is essential you keep a record of the delivery report as evidence of receipt (by the tenant) in case the tenant refutes receiving your notice in future proceedings.

Question: I have a mortgage on the flat I live in. Recently, I received an unexpected inheritance so I now have a substantial amount of cash. Should I pay off my mortgage or invest my money elsewhere?

Congratulations on your financial windfall! Your decision will depend on what interest rate you are paying on your mortgage, and on the expected returns in the investment you are considering.

If you can achieve a return greater than your mortgage interest rate then you should invest the cash elsewhere and take advantage of your low mortgage rate.

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%. If you have a mortgage with such a low interest rate it would not be too difficult to find an investment that will yield in excess of your mortgage rate.

For example, you may consider investing in an investment property such as an apartment  which will yield you a nett annual cash-flow of 5% and, over a period of 5 years, an annual capital appreciation of anywhere between 5% and 7%. This would be a more lucrative allocation of your cash.

If, however, you are not confident in achieving a return on your cash that exceeds your mortgage rate then I suggest you pay down your mortgage outright as you will save the interest costs.

Question: I have a mortgage on an apartment that I live in and I happen to have some cash currently. Should I settle my loan or invest the cash elsewhere?

It all depends on what interest rate you are paying on your mortgage. And what return you could expect if you invested elsewhere.

If you can achieve a return greater than your mortgage interest rate then you should invest the cash elsewhere and take advantage of your low mortgage rates.

There are some very attractive mortgage products in the marketplace with a few mortgage providers offering rates as low as 2.99%. If you have a mortgage with such a low interest rate it would not be too difficult to find an investment that will yield in excess of your mortgage rate.

For example, you may consider investing in an investment property such as an apartment  which will yield you a net annual cash flow of 5% and, over a period of 5 years, an annual capital appreciation of anywhere between 5% and 7%. This would be a more lucrative allocation of your cash.

If, however, you are not confident in achieving a return on your cash that exceeds your mortgage rate then I suggest you pay down your mortgage outright as you will save on the total cost of interest payments.

QUESTION:  I live in a freehold apartment and have some concerns regarding the service charges I am paying for. We do have an existing owners association, should I direct my queries to them? Is it their responsibility to answer such concerns?

Based on the info you provided, it is assumed that you have a fully operational and registered interim owners association board that currently represents you and all apartment owners in your building.

The first thing you should do is to attend OA meetings, get involved and address your queries directly including details on service charges. The OA itself is composed of unit owners and is mandated to represent all the owners of the jointly-owned property development in question, i.e. your apartment building, and is registered as an official entity with RERA.

An OA’s primary purpose is to manage, operate and maintain common areas such as hallways, lifts, stairwells, recreational areas, building systems – virtually all of the owner-shared elements of the building on behalf of all the other owners within the building. They do this by appointing contractors with the expertise to carry out the required tasks and set a service charge that all owners must pay to cover the cost of the contractor services.

The OA is a not-for-profit business entity which elects a board whose role is to action “motions” carried by the OA in addition to managing contractors, managing budgets and capital provisions, enforcing rules for the common good and organizing items such as insurance. As a member, you can always request and view the financial statements of the association to ensure that the service charges you are paying for are justified and correct.


Stalling will get you nowhere; invest today


The  opportunities currently available  will certainly  never come again
By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Senior Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute

Stalling  will get  you nowhere invest today“opportunity knocks only once” is an oft-quoted proverb in life, and it rings even truer when it comes to real estate. Others may argue that other opportunities will present themselves in the future; true, but will they be the exact-same opportunities?

It would, of course, be great if these future opportunities actually materialize; excellent, if they turn out to be better opportunities. But then, what if they don’t – which is usually the case as far as opportunity in real estate is concerned. After all, land is not unlimited and a building or unit, once sold, won’t likely change hands several times in the course when it is perceived to be at its peak value.

Expertise derived from hindsight has no place at the table of successful people, and regret is a fruitless and pointless emotion. Successful people thrive on opportunities, not lost opportunities. If they cannot make one opportunity work to their satisfaction, they move on and find another opportunity. Regret simply diverts energy and focus from the effective pursuit of the next great opportunity.

For those still currently on the fence about real estate investment, resolve to buy TODAY. After all, oil prices aren’t expected to go anywhere soon, the decline of the Russian ruble and the Euro versus the US dollar has effectively made offshore investing appear too expensive for many, there are reports of a growing oversupply and the inevitable interest rate increases on the US dollar, and its AED cousin, will only further hamper overseas investment and overall market liquidity.

While these considerations are valid and worthy harbingers of the dreaded procrastination, we need to put our positive hat on for a while, and consider the following…

Put simply, Dubai needs people to support an economy that is expected to grow at an estimated 5 percent percent-plus annually for the remainder of the decade and to deliver initiatives such as the 2020 World Expo. The Expo alone is expected to generate an additional 277,000 jobs and drive demand for housing and commercial facilities that, by and large, don’t currently exist. Much of the city’s planning comprehends the number of people living in the emirate to grow to 3.4million people by 2020, a 7 percent annual increase from today’s population of 2.25million.

While the price of oil is a big issue for the region’s economies, with oil representing only about 4 percent of Dubai’s GDP, the effect of the decline in oil prices is not as drastic as some may think. Dubai’s economy is being driven by fundamentals such as tourism and trade and a slew of new projects to grow these important revenue-generating economic segments. Dubai welcomed 4.1 million overnight visitors in the first three months of 2016, which represented a 5.1 percent increase over the same period last year continuing a growth trend of approximately 10 percent per annum since 2010.

But those visitor numbers will seem paltry once the 2020 Expo kicks off. And the 277,000 extra jobs that will be generated to ensure the estimated 20 million visitors of the Expo see Dubai in its most favorable light cannot be underrated in terms of generating significant demand for real estate assets.

And though the ongoing speculation surrounding the US Federal Reserve’s intention to raise interest rates is making many people nervous, we can be sure that interest rates in the US will eventually rise and the AED will continue to get stronger. To invest in a market that is undergoing a 10 percent to 20 percent correction in a currency that certain to appreciate only makes sense, especially when financing is still cheap and will remain so for quite some time.

While on the topic of certainty, there is no doubt that a stabilized real estate market will provide a much better launch pad for what will be a period of significant economic and commercial activity over the next 5 to 7 years. The structural shift towards more affordable housing will not only serve to accommodate the expected rapid population growth associated with the 2020 Expo, but also serve as an important factor in the development of the Dubai economy overall.

Still unconvinced or undecided?

Remember the opportunities that have come with 2015 and 2016 – the period of opportunity for the astute investor – will most certainly never come again. Ask around for expert advice, conduct your own research, make the calculations and decide now, today, so you won’t find yourself scratching your head in disappointment five years hence.