Mortgage trend in Dubai set to continue

There has been a very pleasing trend that has developed during 2016 which is yet another demonstration of the development and maturation of Dubai’s Real Estate industry.
The marked increase in the utilization of mortgages to purchase properties in the emirate demonstrates a market that has undergone a structural shift to supply more affordable properties and the maturation of buyers in structuring their financial affairs to obtain a mortgage and buy the home of their dreams. For the first t.

Historically, mortgages have represented no more than 30%-35% of property sales in the emirate. This ration has now climbed to over 50% during 2016 and, in some months, levels of 60+% were achieved.

This is great news for several reasons.

First, while this trend highlights confidence of lenders in the marketplace it also highlights the increasing confidence of consumers, mostly owner occupiers, in the market to the extent that they are prepared to take on the risks associated with committing to a mortgage for the sake of purchasing some property.

This is very important to the development of long term sustainable growth for the industry as the bedrock of any property industry is its owner occupiers.  They represent the core of the industry as it is they who view property as an investment in life, not just a way to make a quick buck. And yet, historically, they have attracted focus in a market still undergoing the maturation process which is falling short and not proportionate to their importance.

Owner occupiers see Real Estate in a different light. For them, it’s about creating a lifestyle. It’s about creating a home which will provide an environment that is safe and secure within which the individual, couple or family can grow and develop in all aspects whether physical, emotional, social and, of course, financial. In this respect, they have a lot more at stake than those investors with financial interests only.

Typically, they form the core of society, not overly wealthy, who are concerned with providing the family with a future. For some, the purchase of the first family home is the first step towards creating a legacy which hopefully, for the more romantically minded, will turn into a dynasty. These are the dreams which make owning their own home the most important decision they are likely to make. They are in it for the long term; there is a lot at stake, which is why availability of finance through mortgages is critical.

The second reason why this is such good news is because we are witnessing, in real time, the market adapting to legislative changes that were made in early 2014. There is no doubt that the implementation of the mortgage caps earlier in 2014 had affected the demand for many first home buyers who were relying on a mortgage to acquire their dream home.  I remember writing an article at the time of the legislative change and observing the following …

“At Harbor, we see 62% of our clients who were considering buying a property prior to the mortgage caps delay their purchase until they can accumulate the down-payment differential while 38% have settled (or compromised) for a cheaper property to get an initial foothold in the market.”

As predicted, “… the new mortgage caps have certainly produced a definite lag in demand as clients adjust to the new financial realities and many of these clients are planning to participate within the next three years.”

 I am pleased to say, that these observations have essentially been proven correct. The legislative change made by authorities was implemented to help cool what was then, a rampant market. The desired effect was achieved but buyers didn’t simply disappear, they modified their purchasing behavior, another sign of an increasingly resilient and maturing market.

Finally, a growing number of mortgages are being undertaken for properties that are purchased in the more affordable areas of Dubai, which further demonstrates the systemic shift to affordable housing in the Dubai property market is becoming even further entrenched as a long-term characteristic.

A natural occurrence within any economy that is growing rapidly and is formally recognized as maturing and transitioning from being a “frontier” to “emerging” market as Dubai did back in 2013, is that its middle and lower-middle income segments will expand to support the rapid rise in commercial activities and economic initiatives being instigated by entrepreneurs and corporate or government entities. This expansion is unavoidable if the economy is to grow and providing affordable housing to enable this expansion is a critical element to the future growth of Dubai and the development of the Real Estate industry into a mature model that can efficiently cater for a broad and diverse set of people with different incomes, tastes, preferences and requirements.

And demand is set to grow very rapidly. A case in point … the World Expo is predicted by independent analysts to create over 270,000 jobs. The vast majority of these jobs will not be for people occupying senior executive positions. They will be for people in middle management or lower positions, many with families, who will be seeking affordable accommodation.

The importance of maintaining affordability for the average buyer is critical and the availability of affordable finance in the form of mortgages is vital to enable many to gain access this lucrative market going forward.

The YEAR 2016 WAS NOT JUST ABOUT OIL

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

I believe that the malaise that was felt in Dubai’s real estate industry was due to a wide variety of factors, not just the price of oil and that considering oil prices alone is simply too one dimensional. The factors that have affected the Dubai property industry in 2016 are many, varied and, in some instances, quite complex.

Many investors had high expectations for 2016 but not many really expected 2016 to announce its arrival with such mayhem and drama. In short, most investors started the year peering into a fog of uncertainty with only continual negative headlines to guide their reasoning.

The issues in 2016 were as varied as they were significant. Everything from a U.S. presidential race that has the world bemused (and perhaps frightened as to its outcome) to doubts regarding the capability of China to effectively manage and steer its economy away from being export driven to relying on local consumption and the development of its middle class to a massive refugee crisis will continue as long as there is violence in the Middle East which, of course, shows little sign of abating.

Then there was the continuing saga of U.S. Federal Reserve’s shift from the near-zero interest rates that continued to spook investors to the extent that all rational and fundamental analysis enabling investment decisions seems to have been replaced by an intense and sometimes amusing focus on the vocabulary and grammar used in Fed statements in an effort find some hidden indication of its intent. Thankfully the Fed raised interest rates on December 14, putting to rest all the unnecessary speculation and pointless chatter that was crowding the airwaves.

Meanwhile, the ongoing collapse of oil and commodity prices had threatened to trigger recessions in emerging economies like Russia and Brazil all at the time that Europe continues to struggle for growth. Thankfully, OPEC and a few other oil producing nations such as Russia finally came to some agreement to cap supply after realising that unbridled production in pursuit of long term market share was beginning to destroy some economies.

Then of course, there was Brexit, the effects of which will be as diverse as they will be complex… if only they can figure out how to do it! Experts are still unsure as to  how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything from the European geo-political and socio-economic landscape, the strength and resilience of the European Union in the face of further discontent within 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 Island  wishes to continue as part of the EU.  The pound has plummeted and is likely to remain subdued for some time.

Not surprisingly, the IMF trimmed its global growth outlook for 2016 to 3.1 percent, down from 3.6 percent, however it is forecasting 3.4 percent for 2017.

So, what could an investor do in 2017? …  mired in the depths of despair and confusion at the deluge of negative headlines, Trump tweets and seemingly shallow financial advice and at the direction of global economies and financial markets, and feeling clueless as to where the opportunities for returns on his hard-earned capital might be?

Well, investing in Dubai Real Estate has still provided significant potential to satisfy the appetite for investment returns and the fundamental reasons are compelling.

As detailed above, an economy growing on the back of strategic commercial and infrastructural initiatives unique to the region driving population growth of 7% annually makes investing very interesting, particularly when taking the medium to long term view.

Tourism and Trade are flourishing in Dubai and the focus of spending has been on new projects to grow these important revenue generating economic segments and further diversification. The launch of 2 major theme parks in 2016 will ensure Dubai attracts over 15 million visitors in 2017, continuing a growth trend of approximately 10% per annum since 2010 and is well on track to attracting over 20 million visitors in 2020.

Then, continual diversification of the economy provides reduced risk and is the language of economic planners now, not oil, and any risk is well compensated for by superior returns with rental yields in Dubai being among the highest in the world with the added advantage of favourable tax conditions for most investors.

ESCROW AND HOW IT CAN PROTECT YOU

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

There are not many people who understand the concept of escrow and how this legally binding arrangement can provide a substantial level of protection for investors.

In its simplest form, an escrow can be described as a legally recognised financial instrument held by a third party (typically a bank) on behalf of two other parties (typically a buyer and a seller) who have agreed to conduct a particular transaction in accordance with certain conditions. Funds are provided by the buyer and held by the party (bank) providing the escrow service until it receives the formal advice that certain previously agreed obligations of the seller have been fulfilled upon which time, the seller can receive funds to the amount specified in the agreement between the seller and buyer.

The use of escrow accounts by Dubai developers has been mandated by law for the specific purpose of protecting the prepayments made by buyers for properties that are being bought off-plan. This limits developers from gaining access to funds until certain construction milestones are completed helping to ensure developers are not misappropriating funds provided in advance for purposes other than which they are intended.

Anybody can open an escrow account but not anybody can open an escrow account for the purposes of property development in Dubai. The developer must first be registered as a bona fide developer with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) in Dubai which involves the provision of an expansive array of documents ranging from those which establish the bona fide nature of the developer including details of its officers and solvency,  Title Deeds proving ownership of the land to be developed, No Objection Certificates (NOC) from relevant parties such as the Master Developer to performance guarantees backed by a financial institution and all planning and financial details regarding the project.

RERA requires that the land subject to development should be fully paid and a title deed should be issued in the name of the owner.  Where the owner of the land cannot register as a developer, RERA permits the land owner to enter into a property development contract with an existing registered developer to develop the project on behalf of the land owner.  The property development contract however must be approved by the senior legal adviser of DLD to be accepted by RERA.

Only when a developer is recognised as a “registered developer” with RERA can they apply to RERA to open an escrow account.  When selling off-plan, the developer must ensure all proceeds of sale of the units are deposited into the escrow account and are used solely for the purposes of construction of the project.  Failure to comply with the Escrow Law can lead to hefty fines or criminal charges which may result prison sentences being administered. Once the developer has submitted all the required documents to RERA and the developer is granted the authority to sell units off plan RERA will issue an NOC to allow the developer to open an escrow account with an authorized bank in the UAE.

Obviously, the bank which will be providing the escrow service needs to understand all the details of the underlying agreement to ensure that it acts in accordance with the provisions of that agreement. In this way, the bank can help protect the buyers pre-paid funds by referring and strictly adhering to the conditions of the underlying agreement

But while the introduction of escrow as a legal requirement for developers has helped safeguard the funds of off-plan investors, there are other steps that investors must take to provide additional self-protection.

First, buyers need to make sure you are dealing with a reputable developer, regardless if the developer is registered with RERA. Ask around or seek professional guidance, as those in the industry have a good appreciation of who the reputable developers are.

Warranties and any quality assurance policies should be discussed in detail. Have the Sales and Purchase agreement reviewed by a professional, to ensure you have legal recourse should any quality issues arise and make the effort to exercise your right to inspect (snag) your property and report any legitimate issues to the developer for rectification. Items which can be remedied in the short term should be fixed immediately and remember, once you have taken ownership of the apartment, the developer is obliged to fix any issues that may arise for a full 12 months following transfer of ownership.

AN AMUSING STORY… IF IT WASN’T SO SERIOUS!

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

When it comes to amusement, I have always thought that Dubai has a definite competitive advantage in that it is uniquely placed. With its geographic location, infrastructure, stability, cultural diversity and existing reputation as a leisure destination of note, development as the destination of choice by, not only GCC families and youth, but visitors from all over the world who desire amusement, adventure and unique experiences, will play an increasingly important role in building a strong, vibrant and resilient economy and, of course, property industry.

So, it was with excitement, not amusement, which I read about the latest addition to a city already swelling with entertainment and activity alternatives – the IMG Worlds of Adventure. This amusement park took three years to build and cost more than 3.6 billion dirhams. To be labelled “the world’s largest indoor theme park” is no idle boast, with the complex covering over 1.5 million square feet or around 20 times the size of the pitch at Emirates Stadium in London.

And, wait for it… there is more to come…

The next six months should see an even bigger development which, built at a cost approaching 10 billion dirhams, will include such entertainment icons as LEGOLAND and Bollywood, and a giant water park.

The new theme parks will play a key role in ensuring the emirate’s target of 20 million visitors will be visiting the emirate annually from 2021 will be achieved. Very impressive stuff!

But the reason why I love these latest theme parks is not because I enjoy rollercoaster rides … I will leave that for the more adventurous. I am excited at the effect these fantastic initiatives will have on the economy and, more specifically, the property industry that is so close to my heart.

From an economic point of view, this is very serious business indeed!

Aside from the obvious direct benefits of tens of billions of dirhams being invested into the economy, few people realize the enormous economic contribution theme parks make to the overall economy post launch. It is a cliché, but the world is a small place and the war for providing entrepreneurial and employment opportunities is waged on a global battleground and a successful entertainment and amusement industry is just one economic weapon that Dubai can employ to great effect.

And being a global growth industry, participation cannot be ignored.  Consider the following which was sourced 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 water parks worldwide, up by 3.7 percent.

In a world that is struggling to generate any form of impressive economic growth, the growth within this industry is truly impressive.

Without doubt, the current world leader with regards to amusement parks is the southern US state of Florida. It’s a fact that theme parks are a major reason why people visit this American state. Here are the top theme parks in Florida and the number of annual visitors they attracted in 2014 according to the TEA/AECOM Theme and Museum Index…

… Magic Kingdom – 19.3 million
… Epcot -11.5 million
… Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 10.4 million
… Disney Hollywood Studios – 10.3 million
… Universal Studios – 8.2 million
… Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios – 8.1 million
… SeaWorld – 4.7 million
… Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – 4.1 million

Truly impressive numbers which only highlight that the economic advantages created by having such a robust entertainment industry are staggering. The state estimates tourism brings in a whopping $82 billion in visitor spending while the State Department of Economic Opportunity says that of the approximately 9.1 million workers in Florida, 1.1 million of them hold jobs directly attributed to tourism. That’s better than 1 worker in 10!

Obviously, the job creation potential of this industry, both direct and indirect is staggering… which is why amusement parks are such serious business. The true long-term value of these projects lies in the long-term economic advantages of employing people and creating commercial activities in order to develop a unique capability to entertain the families and youth of the region and beyond.

And job growth fosters population growth which is critical to any property / real estate Industry. It is the undisputed catalyst to industry growth and the population growth generated by the substantial increase in investment and employment opportunities that a successful foray into the entertainment industry would generate would be and have huge and long-lasting benefits for the property / real estate industry downstream.

Ask the Agent

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulfnews
Dated: November, 2016

Can you please share some details on how rental increases are determined
in Dubai?

Initially, your landlord needs to give you the notice of increase at least 90 days prior to the expiration of your current contract. You should familiarise yourself with Law No. 43 which
introduced the following restrictions (summarised) with regard to 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 neighbourhood
• The annual rent increases can range from 5 up to 20 per cent 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

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

Is there a state of oversupply in Dubai real estate? How does one know for sure?

It depends on an accurate estimation of construction timelines which are invariably fluid, and the demand for real estate assets due to Dubai’s growing population that is largely driven by overall economic growth going forward. In addition, it needs to comprehend a lag effect from the time that conditions conducive to development are identified by developers and when properties are finally released onto the market.

Given that the economy of the emirate of Dubai is expected to grow at an estimated 5+ per cent annually for the remainder of the decade, and initiatives such as the Expo 2020 are expected to generate an additional 270,000 jobs, the demand for housing and commercial
facilities is expected to grow significantly. Much of the city’s planning comprehends the number of people living in the emirate to grow to 3.4 million by 2020, a 7 per cent annual increase from today’s population of 2.25 million.

How is the Dubai real estate market? Is now the best time to buy, or should I wait for prices to fall further?

The real estate market is an industry full of surprises. The Dubai market has been correcting for several months and is picking up again, as the next five years
are expected to see a strong economic growth in Dubai. My recommendation is for you to start your property search immediately in the places you like as proper due diligence can take time. If you have the cash, we suggest you pay for it outright; however, don’t be afraid to take out a mortgage with varied easy payment plans that will save you considerable amounts of money.The location, surrounding infrastructure, construction quality and developer reputation as well as building amenities or properties close to an iconic development, such as Downtown Dubai or those with close access to the Dubai Metro or Tram usually provide good returns. Finally, be purposeful, persistent, patient and pragmatic, and you are well on the way to making a very sound business decision.

I have just joined the market as a property investor. Can you please help me in determining an optimal rental rate to attract my first tenant?

The simplest way to determine a good rental rate for your property is the sales comparison approach (SCA) which relies on identifying a factor that is homogenous to similar properties. For example, an apartment similar to your planned investment which attracts a monthly rental rate of Dh7 per square foot can indicate the likely cash flow you expect; however, as property managers, we do not advocate this approach.A more comprehensive method is the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) which comprehends levels of risk and opportunity cost as it applies to your investment. It identifies your potential return on investment derived from capital appreciation in addition to net rental income and compares it to other investments that you may be considering. This enables smarter investment decisions and, therefore, is the one that we use as standard procedure.

Question of the Week

I have heard some realtors use certain terms like “GFA,” “BUA” and “NFA.” As an investor, I am left in the dark. What do these terms mean?

Like any industry jargon, there are quite a few confusing acronyms used in real estate but those that you have highlighted relate to the actual dimensions of the property you are buying or leasing. For this reason alone, it is imperative that you understand them and their significance.

The gross floor area (GFA) is the total floor area of a building including any underground saleable or leasable area (such as basement shops), but excluding parking and underground technical areas. Any building used as some form of supporting service plant is excluded from the GFA.

Meanwhile, the built-up area (BUA) is the total area being developed or constructed. It is the gross floor area plus parking plus any service area associated with the subject building or project.

The net floor area (NFA), on the other hand, is the GFA minus the facade of the building (measured from the centre line of glass), plant areas, service risers, building structural core, fire stairs, lifts and lift lobbies, common corridors and common toilets. The individual measurements are used for separate reasons, ranging from purchasing a
building and calculating potential revenues to be derived from selling or leasing a building to estimating cleaning costs.