The Essential role of property asset managers

The role of the property asset manager is misunderstood by many, with the majority of property investors and other industry participants thinking that the role does not extend beyond the collection and remittance of rental receipts and acting as a buffer between the landlord and the tenant.

Little do they realize that a good property asset manager will generate a greater return from a property portfolio and enable long term portfolio strategic objectives to be realized.

Any investor in property would benefit from a professional property asset manager but it is essential to   know what to look for in selecting a professional to manage their property(s)?

  1. Astute investors understand that you need a professional who is experienced in the market. Not just any market, but the Dubai market. Typically, if you find somebody with at least 10 years’ experience, you will have found somebody who has survived the global recession, and that should provide a reasonable indication that they are in the business for the long term and that they had the skills to navigate and survive Dubai’s property slump. Many didn’t.
  2. Strategic Approach. A competent property asset manager will provide a whole host of services for the investor but the most important is the development of a Property Portfolio Strategy. The professional must be able to articulate and present his thoughts after conducting a thorough assessment of your personal situation and property portfolio. He must be able to provide you with a credible strategy and activity plan which is designed to harness the true potential of your property and provide you with the maximum rate of total return. It is essential to have a well thought out strategy for your property portfolio if you are to maximize your returns.
  3. Knowledge and Understanding. Not just anybody can formulate a credible and implementable strategy. It requires years of expertise and a fundamental understanding of what makes Real Estate such a worthwhile and superior investment. A true professional will have a strong knowledge base on topics including industry history, current market factors and trends, risk factors, and the likelihood of relevant future events that will affect the performance of your property investment. This knowledge should span global, regional and local landscapes and will require a good understanding of economic factors, industry knowledge extending to government policy and regulation, finance and market dynamics.
  4. Planning Expertise and Ability to Implement. Forming a strategy is one thing, but being able to bring the strategy to life is quite another. A true professional will provide an activity plan which will include details of pricing and marketing, customer relationship management and tenant management and policy for the entire portfolio. Essentially, this area of expertise is related to the “topline” or revenue generation and management of the property. Equally important is the cost management and maintenance supervision of the property. Many times, I have seen excellent “topline” performance being eroded due to poor operational and maintenance cost controls.
  5. Organizational Ability and Communication Skills. Managing your property portfolio will also require proper performance measurement, communications and review schedules, and status reporting and financial statements. Investors should always seek examples of these elements as transparency and candid performance appraisals are essential for managing your portfolio correctly by addressing shortfalls to objectives, issues requiring addressing and opportunities for performance improvement, in addition to your peace of mind.
  6. Customer Centricity. It’s important to choose a property manager who you can work with and who, you believe, has your best interests at heart. Your property manager must be customer centered and, unfortunately, in this business, this is not always the case.
  7. There is no point entering a business relationship that is lacking in mutual trust and respect. The investor must have confidence in his ability to manage a business … the investor’s business… which just so happens to be a property portfolio. As with all investments, but especially investments in property, there will be good times and challenging times. There is no such scenario as “set and forget”. It doesn’t exist. If you do not respect the manager you have appointed, the relationship will not survive the challenging times and you will need to go through the whole process of finding a replacement.
  8. A History of success. The investor should be sure to ask for referrals and call some existing clients. It’s important to seek out success stories and ask to see examples of client reports to assess their completeness, continuity and timeliness. The investor must ask the property manager carefully thought out questions to gauge the depth and breadth of knowledge that he possesses.
  9. Finally, it’s essential that the organization the investor is dealing with has the resources to support the manager of the portfolio. In these times of eliminating overheads, individual performance can be inhibited because of a lack of organizational support. The investor should ask to meet the team.

Choose Wisely The investor must ensure that the property asset portfolio is in good hands providing expected returns with as little hassle as possible. But the investor must realize that once a property manager is appointed, the ultimate return on the investment is largely in his hands.

2017 … THE YEAR IS ALMOST HALF OVER

It was an interesting first quarter in Dubai’s property market. While prices generally approximated those of the last quarter of 2016, they actually fell by around 8% from the corresponding quarter a full year prior.

Nevertheless, and maybe not too surprisingly, total transaction value jumped by 45% for a total spend of around AED 77 billion on the back of a 7% increase in transactions. Needless to say, there were some pretty big deals done in the 1st quarter.

The 1st quarter industry performance shouldn’t come as a surprise to many. The market has been approaching its cyclical bottom for some time now and it appears that, barring unforeseen events, the decline in property values experienced last year has just about run its course.

So, what does the rest of the year hold? Well, I wouldn’t count on a rapid and sudden turnaround in property values. We are likely to do a bit of bottom-dwelling for a couple of quarters yet.

The headwinds that beset the property market may have lost some of their velocity, but they are still strong enough to make any sudden upturn in values very unlikely.

Nevertheless, the market is offering the best value for some time and will continue to do so for at least the next couple of quarters … but I wouldn’t wait too long.

Affordability has been key to keeping the market bubbling along, and a slew of affordable properties have been launched over the past 2 years and there will be more launched in 2017. First home buyers have never had it so good in Dubai and affordability, or a lack thereof, as a reason to continue to rent is now more of an excuse to justify either procrastination or excessive conservatism.

The strengthening AED has been a headwind, no doubt, particularly where those investors purchasing with the pound, euro and yen are concerned. However, for those who have purchased recently or plan to do so imminently, the value of your property will be increasing as the US dollar continues to strengthen in 2017.

The US Federal reserve remains committed to normalizing interest rates in 2017 which is good news for investors who are holding assets denominated in or pegged to the value of the US dollar, while the angst associated with Brexit is only just beginning. Although interest rates will be increasing going forward, they will remain at very affordable levels for quite some time, making financing through mortgages still very attractive.

And the economic environment will improve from this time forward. Put simply, Dubai needs people to support an economy that is expected to grow at an estimated annual average of 5% 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 270,000 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% annual increase from today’s population of 2.25million.

Meanwhile, oil prices continue to bubble around the USD45 to USD50 per barrel mark. Despite this obvious crimp on revenues, the governments Infrastructural spending continues unabated with the total budget outlay of Dh48.7 billion for 2017 being marginally up from Dh48.55 billion allocated to 2016. Looking at the 5-year budget plan of Dh248 billion, the average annual spending of Dh49.6 billion is higher by 6.5 per cent than Dh46.6 billion spent during 2014 to 2016 inclusive. This is significant as it demonstrates an unwavering commitment to economic and societal development with the investments in development initiatives being supported by revenues to be generated a newly introduced VAT in January 2018.

And despite global nervousness and uncertainty emanating from Brexit, terrorist threats, North Korean recalcitrance and virtually everything under the Trump administration, the global traveler is continuing explore the globe. Dubai’s economy continues to be driven by fundamentals such as tourism and trade and a slew of new projects to grow these important revenue generating economic segments.  Dubai welcomed almost 15 million overnight visitors in 2016 representing a 12% increase over 2015 to continue a trend of approximately 10% per annum since 2010. 2017 is expected to see the trend continue.

While it appears that the market may have been overburdened with a glut of new launches raising the prospect of an oversupply, 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. Every emerging economy needs to develop a strong middle class as its expansion is critical to growing a sustainable economy and developing resilience in the face of external financial and economic shocks.

I stated earlier in the year that 2017 will be remembered as a year of the astute investor. Those that can recognize the headwinds and understand that every headwind eventually dies out, will do very well over the coming 7 years by investing in 2017.

 

Alternatives real estate assets

While Real Estate Investment Trusts are common in many Real Estate Markets around the world, they are a relatively new here in the Middle East with the Emirates REIT, being the first, launched in 2010. In November of 2016, Saudi Arabia created its local version of a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). The reasoning behind this move was to enable the smaller investors to provide liquidity to the market and support government efforts to resolve a housing shortage and increase the percentage of housing generated by developers to 30 per cent from its current level of 10 per cent. Now, more recently, there has been a second REIT launched in Dubai, the ENBD REIT.

While there are advantages for any industry to have financial structures such as REIT’s to support burgeoning property and construction industries, what are the advantages for the investors who will be providing the capital?

There was a time when the property game was for the wealthy investor and those with only small amounts to invest had to look elsewhere to invest their hard-earned capital. This is no longer the case due to the rise of new investment platforms which enable even the smallest of investors to enjoy the returns of investing in property.

One such platform which is relatively new to the local market is the REIT. REIT is an acronym for Real Estate Investment Trust which, as a trust company that accumulates a pool of money through an initial public offering (IPO), buys, develops, manages and sells real estate assets. The IPO is identical to any other security offering with many of the same rules regarding disclosure and reporting requirements and regulations.

Investors, whether large or small, instead of purchasing stock in a single company, have the opportunity to buy a unit which is actually a portion of a managed pool of real estate. This pool of real estate then generates income through renting, leasing, selling and financing of property and distributes it directly to the REIT holder on a regular basis.

Units held in a REIT can be bought like a stock on a stock exchange. The REIT invests in real estate directly, either by buying, selling or leasing properties or by investing in property mortgages.

There are 3 types of REIT’s.  Equity REITs invest in and own properties and therefore are focused on increasing the value of those properties while also accumulating revenues from their properties’ rents.  Mortgage REITs deal in investment and ownership of property mortgages. These REITs loan money for mortgages to owners of real estate, or purchase existing mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. Their revenues are generated primarily by the interest that they earn on the mortgage loans while Hybrid REITs combine the investment strategies of equity REITs and mortgage REITs by investing in both properties and mortgages.

Individuals can invest in REITs either by purchasing their shares directly on an open exchange or by investing in a mutual fund that specializes in REITs that are listed on the stock exchange. Among other things, REITs invest in shopping malls, office buildings, apartments, warehouses and hotels. Some REITs will invest specifically in one area of real estate – shopping malls, for example – or in one specific region, state or country. Investing in REITs is a liquid, dividend-paying means of participating in the real estate market.

REITS allow both small and large investors the ability to invest in real estate without investing large amounts of capital or devoting a lot of time in directly managing a property portfolio. A REIT also allows a greater amount of portfolio diversification because of the large amounts of pooled funds available to the REIT Management team enables the accumulation and operation of different types of property assets in different locales.

Investing in a REIT is no different to investing in any company. Some companies represent lucrative opportunities, while some companies may represent too much risk or poor value.  Investors still need to look at the REITS performance in terms of Nett Asset Value growth and dividend payment history, current portfolio composition and performance, the management team, future plans for the REIT as well as have an understanding of the likely performance of the property market and overall economy in which the REIT participates. Investors, having completed a thorough and in depth assessment of the probability that the REIT will provide desired returns, can participate at the level that is consistent with what they can afford to invest.

Another investment platform which allows smaller investors to participate in the property market is Crowdfunding. A relatively new concept Crowdfunding entails the pooling of funds by a group of individuals to finance initiatives such as real estate investment projects. This is usually done via the internet.

The advantages are obvious. Investors get access to the real estate market with small amounts of money and can pick and can efficiently choose which Real Estate projects they wish to invest in, thereby spreading risk and enabling the possibility of building a portfolio made up of a variety of assets, in a variety of locations being developed by a variety of developers.

For developers, Crowdfunding provides another source of funding for their projects. Using the internet is an efficient way of attracting interest to their projects and the reach that the internet provides magnifies the potential for raising funds more quickly.

However, as with any investment, Crowdfunding is not without its risks. Obviously, investors will be exposed to any gyrations in the market along with all the other investors. In addition, the risk of default from developers can be higher when compared to peer-to-peer and direct real estate investment funding. In addition, unlike investing in a REIT, the absence of a secondary market restricts the ease with which an investor can liquidate his or her position. These risks need to be considered carefully when determining the type of return required and, as with any investment, extensive due diligence by all investors, regardless of whether they be big  and small, is of paramount importance.

DATA: THE BEDROCK OF PROGRESS

While great strides have been made in the development and implementation of a legal and regulatory frame in Dubai’s Real Estate industry, there remains one area where the industry seems to be lagging the rest of the world. That area is Data Availability and Transparency.

There are several reasons why Data Availability and Transparency are important to the efficient and effective operation of any industry and why, logically, they can foster development and growth.

1. Build Trust within the Industry – Making more information publicly available will empower all the different stakeholders and participants in the industry to the extent where a bedrock of trust is developed simply because the data underlying assumptions, assertions, opinions and points of view is available, accessible, analysable and can be utilised to build trust between parties.

2. Generate Ideas – The availability and subsequent analysis and modelling of data underpins the generation of new ideas. Create an online forum for your local government where residents are encouraged to participate by providing alternative ideas. Brush up on new ways in which communities interact with their governments online.

3. Risk Assessment – We operate within an industry whereby decisions can involve huge capital outlays and where there may be multi-year lags in returns on billions of dirhams of capital employed. In addition, every day, there are hundreds of decisions made, which are not of the same value. Average people, making life changing decisions on whether to buy, invest in or rent properties, are typically making the biggest decision of their life and, without data from reliable third party sources, the perceived risk and resulting nervousness around a transaction can be debilitating.

4. Increase Community Engagement – Once data is available and properly communicated, the number of people becoming engaged or interested in the industry will multiply significantly. News, data and analyses will drive dialogue among a broader spectrum of the community so that the discussions are not only limited to those who are operating within the industry, but with the broader community as well

5. Develop a Better Understanding of Industry Participants Needs – Effective gathering, organising, analysing and dissemination of data will enable the development of a far greater and deeper understanding of what the various participants and stakeholder’s needs are. Once these needs are identified, ideas and initiatives can be generated to ensure that the industry is providing its constituents the benefits that they desire, on an equitable basis. Empower Citizens When local governments are transparent, levels of trust increase. When the trust level is high, citizens begin to feel empowered to take responsibility. Read here about the open city concept.

6. Measure Performance – There is no doubt that proper performance measurement is dependent upon the availability of good data. The market today is far too cluttered with articles, opinions and predictions that are not based on a sound bedrock of relevant, up to date and analysable data. To be able to accurately measure industry performance and to be able to drill down to a granular level of detail to analyse why the industry is performing as it is, what the industry is being affected by, where the industry is strongest or weakest and who is most positively or negatively affected is critical is assessing the industry overall health.

7. Attract People to the Industry – there is no doubt that, as data availability improves, more people will be attracted to the industry as the need for better and more frequent analysis is required. As this intellectual base develops, the industry will build a repository of knowledge that will only serve to enable the industry to operate more effectively and efficiently over time.

8. Boost the Overall Economy – There is no doubt that a robust, efficient and developing Real Estate and Construction Industry is a boon to any economy. Better data facilitates better planning for government expenditures in infrastructure and technology, better resource management, more effective innovation and, ultimately. Greater contribution of the industry to overall economic development and growth.

9. Foster greater cooperation between Public and Private Sectors – The more effective the communication, cooperation, priority setting and shared planning between the Public and Private Sectors, the better the solutions for the community and economy overall. Excellence can be attained through synchronisation of objectives and objectives can only be formulated after proper data analysis and goal setting. The key to success is a shared understanding of the vision and the role each industry participant has in ensuring its achievement.

10. Educate the World – We all preach about global best practice but how can it be properly applied without the understanding that blooms from proper data analysis. And why not have the vision where similar industries in other countries around the world are looking towards Dubai as the centre of the world’s best practice? It’s possible … but it all starts with having up to date, relevant, accessible and analysable data. It’s difficult to excel without it.

Ask the agent

Should I assign my property to a leasing broker or a property manager?

You enter into a leasing agreement when you wish your real estate agency to locate suitable tenants for your apartments and facilitate the signing of the tenancy agreement, leaving you to assume the responsibility of managing the tenants and all aspects of the property thereafter. A property management agreement includes more. It provides an assessment, strategy and activity plan designed to harness the financial potential of your property. Considerations include history; current market, economic and risk factors; regulations; finance; and market dynamics. An activity plan covers pricing and marketing, customer relationship and tenant management, and policy and cost management. These will be performed under a property management agreement. A good property manager will make your investment work harder for you and the returns you receive will outweigh any fees.

I wish to sell my villa, but the garden needs a little bit of work. Is it worth investing in improving the garden? Am I likely to get my money back?

For your garden to become a selling point, you need to establish a low-maintenance and functional landscape that is highly appealing to the potential buyer. Resist the temptation to clutter the landscape with every species of flora known to man. Plants grow and you need to keep that growth in check as your garden can look unkempt and create a negative impression. Ensure that all landscaping elements must be coordinated carefully. If you don’t know or understand the differing qualities of certain soils, it’s time to call your landscape gardener and have him produce an impressive garden for you. Even if you don’t plan on selling your home for another five or 10 years, now is a good time to lay the foundation for a great landscape design that will win over your future homebuyers.

I am planning to invest in Dubai. As this would be my first investment, can you give any useful tips.
First of all, know why you want to invest in property. You must have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Then you must set your financial objectives carefully. Success in property investment can only be attained when (and if) those objectives have been realised. Always think long term for your greatest success. Those who have had the greatest success possess the ability to think long term, make rational, well-researched and carefully thought-out decisions with the end objectives in mind and understand that every real estate industry globally will go through cycles of growth and contraction. Make sure you know your stuff by being able to communicate knowledgeably with the experts. Always strive to eliminate risks. Plan your finances, cash flows, capital requirements and debt levels carefully.

With many new projects and off-plan opportunities, I am nervous about the quality of end products. Can we expect an improvement in quality?

During the global financial crisis, many developers realised that properties of poor quality were dealt the harshest of value declines. As a result, many developers did not survive. Having said that, the old caveat of “buyer beware” still applies. Deal with a reputable developer. Ask around or seek professional guidance. Ask what proactive measures are taken to ensure the end product has been built to an acceptable standard. Warranties and any quality assurance policies should be discussed in detail, and have the sales and purchase agreement reviewed by a professional. Engage an expert to inspect (snag) your property and report any legitimate issues to the developer for rectification. Remember, once you have taken ownership of the apartment, the developer is still obliged to fix any issues that may arise during the full 12 months following the transfer of ownership.

Question of the Week

I am buying an off-plan property. Can you explain the principle of escrow.

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 now been mandated by law for the purpose of protecting the prepayments made by buyers. This limits developers from gaining access to funds until certain construction milestones are completed, helping 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 one for the purposes of property development in Dubai. The developer must first be registered as a bona fide developer with RERA which involves providing documents including details of its officers and solvency, title deeds proving ownership of the land to be developed, NOC from relevant parties to performance guarantees.

Gulf News Saturday, June 10,2017
FREEHOLD

propertytimes

Factors that will impact the Real Estate Sector in 2017

Published: Propertytimes, May Edition

With the advent of globalization and the exponential rise of cross border capital flows, the number of factors that affect local economies and the industries that operate within those economies has increased dramatically in both number and complexity. Here are some that we will be considering as we advise our clients in 2017.

Oil. Despite the amount of diversification that has occurred in the Dubai economy and the small proportion of Dubai’s GDP that oil represents, the price of oil still affects liquidity levels, oil dependent economy’s performance and overall investor confidence. There is no doubt that that maintaining oil at or above the $50 / barrel for the duration of 2017 will assist in creating market stability.

Currency rates. With anywhere between 40% and 50% of investment in Dubai property coming from investors who usually deal in currencies that are not pegged to the US dollar, any strengthening of the US dollar makes it more difficult to invest in Dubai for those investors. A recent example is the devaluation of the Russian ruble which resulted in Russian investment declining significantly in Dubai’s property market. The USD is likely to strengthen in 2017 as we see the US Federal Reserve continue to raise interest rates and the effect of Trumpenomics and “America First” protectionist policies begin to take effect.

Political instability. Almost omnipresent for well over a decade, the level of political instability in the world today seems unprecedented. From Middle East conflicts, Chinese actions in the South China sea, North Korean nuclear ambitions, Brexit and even significant dissatisfaction with the US election result and subsequent presidential performance, the world is a very unsettled place which leads to investor nervousness. There are no signs that political instability is going to ease any time soon.

Demand and supply. As always, economic fundamental will always play a role in any industry performance. 2017 will see a continuation of balancing of the demand / supply situation in the market as the recent pivot towards affordable properties makes up a greater proportion of deliveries and the demand generated by the rapidly approaching 2020 Global Expo accelerates.

Legal framework. The legal framework that has been developed for the property industry in Dubai has is both comprehensive and effective in protecting the rights of tenants and investors and holding developers to account. Developments will continue in 2017 further increasing the already high levels of confidence among investors with regards to their legal protection and risk minimization.

Mortgage market/ regulations. Historically, mortgages have represented no more than 30%-35% of property sales in the emirate. This ratio has now climbed to well over 45% during 2016 and, in some months, levels of 60+% were achieved. This is great news for several reasons.

First, this trend highlights both confidence of lenders and consumers, mostly owner occupiers, in the market. 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

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.

Confidence levels/ buyer’s sentiment. Confidence levels of investors globally have been shaken by the global events of the past few years. The levels of uncertainty surrounding economic policies, geo-political turmoil and social discontent in many countries around the world has created an environment of indecision amongst investors. Nevertheless, the property industry has weathered this quite well and showed a maturity and flexibility that wasn’t evident earlier in the decade. Sure, prices have declined since 2014, but this has been more because of a much-needed market correction. While global events have had an effect, the market’s resilience has been impressive.

Performance of other investment instruments (stock markets, gold, equities, bonds). There is a global competition for a greater share of the capital pie. Capital will always follow the best risk adjusted returns and movements can be swift and of great magnitude. They can be so dramatic that some governments will restrict capital flows. For example, China recently announced new restrictions on capital flows out of the country. Observations from property industry pundits all around the globe suggest the new restrictions are already putting the brakes on what has been the biggest global real estate accumulation by any nationality in modern times. While Chinese demand will continue to benefit many markets those who had not previously established off-shore assets will find it significantly more difficult to invest beyond Chinese borders until the restrictions are raised.

Infrastructure development / government spending. The ongoing commitment to economic development and the associated infrastructural spending has been well-chronicled. The continuing preparations for the 2020 World Expo will help the local economy achieve around 3.5% GDP growth for the year which is very healthy by global standards.

Taxes and transaction costs (registration and transfer fees, commissions, NOC fees) The costs of transacting in real estate in Dubai compare well globally and no new costs or fees are expected to be introduced in 2017. Somewhat conversely, we expect the slew of offers in the market place designed to increase affordability to continue. Great news for first home buyers and investors.

Annual service charges and overall cost of ownership (utility fees, maintenance, insurance, PM costs) Similarly, the costs of owning and operating property is expected to remain stable and should not affect buyer’s decisions other than normal calculations regarding yields, cashflow and asset protection.

FACTORS THAT IMPACT THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR

By: Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulf News Freehold

With the advent of globalization and the exponential rise of cross border capital flows, the number of factors that affect local economies and the industries that operate within those economies has increased dramatically in both number and complexity. Here are some that we will be considering as we advise our clients in 2017.

Oil. Despite the amount of diversification that has occurred in the Dubai economy and the small proportion of Dubai’s GDP that oil represents, the price of oil still affects liquidity levels, oil dependent economy’s performance and overall investor confidence. There is no doubt that that maintaining oil at or above the $50 / barrel for the duration of 2017 will assist in creating market stability.

Currency rates. With anywhere between 40% and 50% of investment in Dubai property coming from investors who usually deal in currencies that are not pegged to the US dollar, any strengthening of the US dollar makes it more difficult to invest in Dubai for those investors. A recent example is the devaluation of the Russian ruble which resulted in Russian investment declining significantly in Dubai’s property market. The USD is likely to strengthen in 2017 as we see the US Federal Reserve continue to raise interest rates and the effect of Trumpenomics and “America First” protectionist policies begin to take effect.

Political instability. Almost omnipresent for well over a decade, the level of political instability in the world today seems unprecedented. From Middle East conflicts, Chinese actions in the South China sea, North Korean nuclear ambitions, Brexit and even significant dissatisfaction with the US election result and subsequent presidential performance, the world is a very unsettled place which leads to investor nervousness. There are no signs that political instability is going to ease any time soon.

Demand and supply. As always, economic fundamental will always play a role in any industry performance. 2017 will see a continuation of balancing of the demand / supply situation in the market as the recent pivot towards affordable properties makes up a greater proportion of deliveries and the demand generated by the rapidly approaching 2020 Global Expo accelerates.

Legal framework. The legal framework that has been developed for the property industry in Dubai has is both comprehensive and effective in protecting the rights of tenants and investors and holding developers to account. Developments will continue in 2017 further increasing the already high levels of confidence among investors with regards to their legal protection and risk minimization.

Mortgage market/ regulations. Historically, mortgages have represented no more than 30%-35% of property sales in the emirate. This ratio has now climbed to well over 45% during 2016 and, in some months, levels of 60+% were achieved.  This is great news for several reasons.

First, this trend highlights both confidence of lenders and consumers, mostly owner occupiers, in the market. 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

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.

Confidence levels/ buyer’s sentiment. Confidence levels of investors globally have been shaken by the global events of the past few years. The levels of uncertainty surrounding economic policies, geo-political turmoil and social discontent in many countries around the world has created an environment of indecision amongst investors. Nevertheless, the property industry has weathered this quite well and showed a maturity and flexibility that wasn’t evident earlier in the decade. Sure, prices have declined since 2014, but this has been more because of a much-needed market correction. While global events have had an effect, the market’s resilience has been impressive.

Performance of other investment instruments (stock markets, gold, equities, bonds). There is a global competition for a greater share of the capital pie. Capital will always follow the best risk adjusted returns and movements can be swift and of great magnitude. They can be so dramatic that some governments will restrict capital flows. For example, China recently announced new restrictions on capital flows out of the country. Observations from property industry pundits all around the globe suggest the new restrictions are already putting the brakes on what has been the biggest global real estate accumulation by any nationality in modern times. While Chinese demand will continue to benefit many markets those who had not previously established off-shore assets will find it significantly more difficult to invest beyond Chinese borders until the restrictions are raised.

Infrastructure development / government spending. The ongoing commitment to economic development and the associated infrastructural spending has been well-chronicled. The continuing preparations for the 2020 World Expo will help the local economy achieve around 3.5% GDP growth for the year which is very healthy by global standards.

Taxes and transaction costs (registration and transfer fees, commissions, NOC fees) The costs of transacting in real estate in Dubai compare well globally and no new costs or fees are expected to be introduced in 2017. Somewhat conversely, we expect the slew of offers in the market place designed to increase affordability to continue. Great news for first home buyers and investors.

Annual service charges and overall cost of ownership (utility fees, maintenance, insurance, PM costs) Similarly, the costs of owning and operating property is expected to remain stable and should not affect buyer’s decisions other than normal calculations regarding yields, cashflow and asset protection.