By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Senior Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute

Theme parks have a huge impact on a country’s economy and property sector
The latest addition to a city swelling with activity alternatives is the IMG Worlds of Adventure. It cost more than Dh3.6 billion. Tobe labelled “the world’s largest indoor theme park” is no idle boast with the complex covering over 1.5 million square feet, around 20 times the size of the pitch at London’s Emirates Stadium.
The next months will see an even bigger development which, built at a cost nearing Dh10 billion, will include LEGOLAND.
Dubai has always considered tourism a lucrative pillar to the economy, but the latest additions to its suite of attractions is taking its capability to satisfy the appetite of those seeking world-class entertainment to a whole new level.
The new theme parks will play a key role in ensuring the emirate’s target of 20 million visitors by 2020 will be achieved.
The reason why I love the latest theme parks is because I am excited at the effect these initiatives will have on the economy and more specifically, the property industry.
The true value of amusement projects lies in the long-term advantages of employing people and creating commercial activities
Theme parks make an enormous contribution to the economy. The war for providing entrepreneurial and job opportunities is waged on a global battleground, and the amusement industry is one weapon Dubai can employ.
Being a global growth industry, participation cannot be ignored. Consider the data from the TEA / AECOM 2015 Theme Index and Museum Index: In 2015, there were 420 million visits to attractions run by the Top 10 global theme park groups, up by 7.2 percent; 236 million visits to the Top 25 amusement/ theme parks worldwide, up by 5.4 percent; 146 million visits to the Top 20 amusement/theme parks in North America, up by 5.9 percent; 131 million visits to the Top 20 amusement/ theme parks in Asia-Pacific, up by 6.9 percent; 61 million visits to the Top 20 amusement/theme parks in Europe, Middle East and Africa, up by 2.8 percent; 29 million visits to the Top 20 waterparks worldwide, up by 3.7 percent.
In a world struggling to generate any form of impressive economic growth, the growth within this industry is laudable. Obviously, its job creation potential is staggering.
The true value of amusement projects lies in the long-term advantages of employing people and creating commercial activities to develop a unique capability to entertain the families and youth of the region and beyond.
The local market offers significant opportunity. The GCC has one of the youngest populations in the world. Approximately 50 per cent of its population is below 25 years. The possibility exists for the construction of the only mega family entertainment destination in over 2,500,000 square kilometres of territory. From an economic point of view, the provision of memorable entertainment experiences must have a multiplier effect on the economy as a whole.
Population growth is critical to any real estate industry, and growth due to an increase in investment and employment opportunities that a successful foray into the entertainment industry generates would be substantial. With an abundance of affordable housing in the coming years, much of it located within easy distance of the theme parks, investment in the amusement industry can have huge benefits for the property downstream.
Dubai has a competitive advantage as it is uniquely placed. With its infrastructure, stability, cultural diversity and reputation as a leisure destination, a development that is a destination of choice by not only GCC families and youth but also visitors from all over the world will play an important role in building a vibrant and resilient economy and, of course, property industry.

The confluence of global shifts and market demand

The confluence of global shifts and market demand

By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Senior Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute
Published: Expert Eye, Freehold, Gulf News

The phenomenon of globalization has been around for a while, and all economies, regardless of scale and location, are subject to forces that continue to shape and reshape them.

Real estate markets globally are feeling the effects of a general decline in global economic growth. The world is still, after some eight years, trying to shake off the effects of the global financial crisis and while some economies such as the US have fared reasonably, other major economies in Europe and Asia are still struggling with systemic issues.

In addition, the ongoing issues associated with geo-political upheavals, politically inspired sanctions and major restructurings such as Brexit, simply add to the overall pall of gloom that seems to hang over virtually every headline that we read these days.

The resulting effect on consumer and investor confidence is quite negative, and we all know that confidence is a key prerequisite for growth in the industry. World events are definitely affecting, not just Dubai, but global sentiment overall.

Yet the market is still developing… it is not stagnant.  It is always a very promising sign when an industry demonstrates the flexibility and resilience to undertake a structural shift when market requirements change or develop. This is exactly what we are witnessing in the Dubai real estate industry.

It came as no surprise to those that take a broader view of the industry that calls from a variety of industry participants including the government, banks and the more visionary industry observers for more affordable housing in Dubai gathered volume and intensity. In so doing, there was a recognition that the most important investor in Dubai’s real estate market had been forgotten all too often by developers and brokers, and that a refocusing on building affordable, robust and sustainable communities to be inhabited by the average family living frugally on an average salary was of irrefutable importance if Dubai’s economy was to develop and grow to the next level.

So the news that total value of real estate transactions in Dubai at AED 113 billion in the first half of 2016 represented a decline of around 12 percent from the first six months of 2015 may have disappointed some, but did not tell the whole story. The fact that this total figure was generated by 28,251 transactions, almost 25 percent higher than the same period last year, is very good news indeed. It clearly demonstrates a market that in growing in health, because it can provide more affordable solutions to a broader spectrum of owner occupiers and investors.

Just about everybody who plays a role in our industry has a role in providing affordable housing but, more significantly, the government, the financiers and the developers. And given the results of the first half of 2016, they are to be congratulated for initiating the structural shifts that we are witnessing.

As proven in the recently concluded Cityscape Global 2016 event held at the Dubai World Trade Centre early this month, the level of interest in Dubai real estate projects and in the UAE as a whole, as well as in world-class developments being marketed overseas, remains high.

However, a lot of work still needs to be done for the demand for more affordable housing to be fully satisfied. If the emirate is able to realistically supplement the clamor for affordable housing, perhaps even those renting in nearby emirates would be persuaded to make Dubai their permanent home.


Ask the agent

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulf News
Dated: October 2016

What property features should I prioritize in listing my apartment for sale?

If you have a listing agent, or are already working with a realtor, they would know exactly what characteristics of your property should be highlighted in order to make your property stand out from the rest and be highly marketable. But, just FYI, the most important features that will make or break your goal to sell your apartment include the fact that it must be competitively priced or priced just right for the market, its location or proximity to landmarks and important infrastructure such as transportation links and commercial districts, size, building facilities and community amenities, quality and current physical condition, whether or not it is being handled by professional property management, fully paid or financed, etc. Also, make sure you mention any improvements done, e.g. upgrading of original material such as plain ceramic flooring to granite, or changing original fittings purchased locally to Italian-made fittings, and if it has any other special feature such as a nice view, a balcony, closed kitchen, extra storage, being located close to the community center / park, etc.

I want to make some structural changes in my villa. What is the typical procedure I need to follow?

You will need to establish that the amendments that you plan on doing does not threaten the structural integrity or safe habitation status of your villa by you or by future owners should you decide to sell it one day.

Therefore, you should prepare the architectural and MEP drawings for the proposed concept. These would need to be viewed in conjunction with the architectural and MEP “as-built drawings” by a number of different authorities and regulatory bodies to ensure that the proposed designs will be structurally sound and meet all the required building codes and regulations.

You will need to obtain NOCs from your OA, the zoning authorities, the Civil Defense authorities and, in some instances, your project developer. Depending on the extent of your renovations, you may also require NOCs from DEWA regarding electricity supply and water supply.

If renovations are extensive, you may be required to have the work inspected by the Civil Defense department and also the Building Department of Dubai Municipality.

In the majority of cases, your architect or contractor can arrange for all approvals on your behalf and I suggest you engage professionals who can achieve this for you.

What documents do I need to provide so I can arrange for an agency to market and sell my villa?

The first piece of documentation is the provision of proof of identity, usually provided by way of passport identification and/or Emirates ID so we know who we are dealing with.

You should also provide a copy of the original Sales and Purchase Agreement so we can verify with the Dubai Land Department (DLD) that we are dealing with the bona fide current owner of the property, and that there are no third party legal entitlements to the property.

If the property is leased, you should also provide us with all details of the lease agreement including the status of outstanding payments and any information or documentation pertaining to the history with the tenant. You should also provide us with the status of payments of items such as service charges or owners association charges.

We will sit and consult with you as to what your requirements are and prepare for you a letter of engagement which would contain the details of what you require from us as a professional agency and what fees we have mutually agreed upon.

If you are located overseas and you would like us to represent you, we would need you to provide a Power of Attorney which will detail the extent to which you would like our representation in the various facets of marketing and selling your property.

What are the limits landlords must work within when it comes to increasing the rent to a rate they want in Dubai?

Rental increases are usually a main source of contention between tenants and landlords, especially when there is a failure in the communication process. By law, tenants should be informed of any changes in the rent three months prior to contract renewal. But even then, the rate of increase may also be questioned by the tenant. By now, everyone has probably heard of the RERA Rental Increase Calculator which is a handy tool accessible online (via the Dubai Land Department website) for tenants who wish to check if the rent increase being imposed by their landlord is justified, and for landlords who want to make sure that the rent increase they are asking for is within their rights. Rent caps apply to all property types in the different areas of Dubai whether they be commercial, industrial, staff accommodation, or residential units. Using the rent calculator as a reference helps prevent disputes between landlords and tenants, and has given the Dubai rental market a modicum of order in terms of preventing unabated rent increases.


With so many attractive off-plan offers today, I am very tempted to buy off-plan property. But how do I know if I am buying property with real potential?

Whether you are buying ready property or one that is off-the-plan, market fundamentals still apply, and always make sure that an off-plan purchase is consistent with your property portfolio strategy.

Location is always critical and can never be disregarded. This simply means considerations regarding how close the project is to commercial, educational and leisure hubs, to medical and health facilities, public infrastructure, popular and established communities, and the manifold views one could enjoy all add up to the desirability of a property’s location, add to that the possibility of being neighbor to some celebrity types – the perceived benefits that a location may bring to a prospective buyer can account for up to 90% of a property’s value.

The asset type is also important. What type of asset will be in demand in the future: affordable apartments? Townhouses? Villas? Be smart about the “product” that you buy. Look for certain property types in locations which you believe will be keenly sought in the future.

You need to do some careful financial analysis which will enable you to determine the value of the discount that you anticipate receiving by buying off-plan. Easy payment plans which can ensure your limit your capital exposure before completion and you need to be conversant with financial concepts such as net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR) to guide you in your decision-making when assessing your alternatives.


Reality Check

Forbes Middle East
September 2016 Edition

Mohanad Alwadiya is a man of many talents. As the host of MEMAAR on Dubai TV, he introduces VIPs to their dream homes, and as the CEO of Harbor Real Estate he manages a portfolio worth around $4 billion. Here he talks about why he loves his industry and what the future holds.

What is it about real estate that inspires such passion in you?

I see it as fundamental and critical to the existence and success of everyone and everything—individuals, families, businesses and whole economies. Real estate decisions are some of the biggest we will ever make. They affect our families, our employees, our cus­tomers, our shareholders, our citizens, our success, the way that people view us and even the way we view and express ourselves.

These decisions are quite often the determinants of whether dreams and aspirations are realized. Being in this business means we are able to play an important part in enabling people or organizations to achieve those dreams and aspirations, whatever they may be.

What motivated you to start the show?

MEMAAR was the brainchild of Dubai Channels Network. There was not a single property reality TV show in the Middle East, where structural real estate developments are an everyday occurrence. It has grown a lot since it first aired in May 2015. Our audience com­prises millions of viewers from all across the GCC and beyond. When it comes to our guests, we always try to select real clients from different backgrounds and objectives to offer a different en­riching perspective.

What’s the most expensive property you’ve found? And which has been the most inspiring story?

The most expensive property ever chosen was a luxury villa at Emirates Hills, which sold at AED 48.8 million. I’ve found all the episodes inspiring but if I had to short list one or two it would be when media entrepreneur Ali Mroueh went on a quest for a home to surprise his beloved mother. Or the truly inspiring story of Mr. Mahmoud Al Burai, Managing Director at Dubai Land Department, who entrusted me to help him identify the best income-producing investment asset to secure the future of his daughters.

What are your top pieces of advice for GCC and international investors for 2016/17?

Know why you want to invest in property

You must have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and what role your property portfolio will play within a larger diversified portfolio. The more skillful you are at conceptual­izing, the greater your likelihood of generating successful strategies to grow your wealth.

Set your objectives carefully

Financial objectives. These should be reviewed annually and include elements such as total return, capital appreciation, revenue streams, net results and eventual divestment values, all wrapped up in an optimal time frame.

Think long term for your greatest success

Those who have had the greatest success can think long term, make rational, well researched and carefully thought out decisions with the end objectives in mind, and understand that the real estate in­dustry globally will go through cycles of growth and contraction.

Know your stuff

Investing in property is about recognizing and capitalizing on op­portunities that support your objectives. To do this, you must have some knowledge about the industry. This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert, but you need to be able to communicate intelligently with the experts.

Plan to eliminate risks

Plan your finances, cash flows, capital requirements, debt levels, etc, very carefully. Always plan for the worst and hope for the best.

How is the sector changing?

Real estate markets are feeling the effects of a general decline in glob­al economic growth. The world is still, after some eight years, trying to shake off the effects of the global financial crisis and while some economies have fared reasonably, others are still struggling. The re­sulting effect on consumer and investor confidence is quite negative. Yet the market is still developing. It is not stagnant. It is always a very promising sign when an industry demonstrates the flexibility and resilience to undertake a structural shift when market requirements change or develop.

News that the total value of real estate transactions in Dubai, at AED113 billion in the first half of 2016, represented a decline of around 12% from the first six months of 2015 may have disappointed some, but it did not tell the whole story. This figure was generated by 28,251 transactions, almost 25% higher than the same period last year, which is very good news. It demonstrates a market that is grow­ing in health, because it can provide more affordable solutions to a broader spectrum of investors.