Innovation… thriving where others do not survive


There have been a number of articles recently published describing the pressure that some real estate agencies are feeling as a result of the current correction in the Dubai real estate market. There have also been instances of real estate brokerages laying off a significant number of their staff or closing their doors altogether.

For some, survival was a short-lived ride on the post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) wave, and the recent instances whereby entire businesses have struggled to continue surviving begs the question: what are the determinants of success in today’s market climate?

The answers are as simple as they are difficult to attain. They remain elusive for many companies; but those establishments that understand them, capture them, develop them and practice them stand a greater chance at enjoying unbridled success.

It may be a cliché, but a primary ingredient essential to success is passion. Without passion, you cannot be successful in this business. Any real estate operation must attract, develop, motivate and retain a passionate group ofprofessionals, and any serious client will recognize this. This is a people’s business, and without a passionate and professional team, survival will be impossible.

Experience is critical. We are in a business characterized by high capital requirements, a broad spectrum of risks and deep emotional involvement. Failure cannot be an option. That is why I know I am fortunate to be part of an executive team with over 20 years of experience in the Dubai real estate market. As we are all aware, the industry has been evolving rapidly and still remains one of the most dynamic in the world. The GFC did show us that this is not an industry for those who don’t know what they are doing, and to be able to draw deep on experience is invaluable.

Being flexible and developing the capability to adapt is a prerequisite to success, particularly in a market that is changing so rapidly. The GFC was a period of rapidly changing circumstances, which bore unprecedented challenges requiring immediate yet innovative solutions. This was a difficult period, but also one of great learning, which put those who were flexible and adaptable in a great position to capitalize on the opportunities that were to eventually emerge with the recovery. It was no easy task and it required a brutally honest assessment of individual capabilities, as well as the capabilityof the organization to continue to provide the services that clients required, but within a totally new environmental context emanating from what was essentially economic turmoil.

But it is a culture of innovation that separates the “thrivers” from survivors. There is no doubt that tried and true practices that worked in the past have required an overhaul in order to address new realities, and create and maintain a discernible edge in a highly competitive market. This is what really differentiates those that have thrived in the post-global recession period, from those that managed to survive only to falter as a result of the latest market correction. A key learning from the GFC is that innovation relevant to circumstances will always prevail regardless of the situation. Whether the market is hot or cold, innovation will always provide the competitive edge.

If you look at the industry today and compare it to the days of 2008, it has come a long way. The advances made in the legal framework, regulatory infrastructure and overall governance typify a market that is rapidly heading towards full maturation and the type of sustainable profitable growth that all stakeholders in the industry have been seeking.

As professionals who care about our business, we must continue to embrace and support any change that will improve the health of our industry. Because it is the health of our industry that really matters most. Those of us who are around to tell of our experiences during the GFC will recall that the initial objective was pretty basic: to survive in an environment that nobody in the industry had witnessed before and, in order to survive, we needed to adapt, innovate and develop as individuals and organizations. Those that didn’t fell by the wayside, for after all, that is what a recession is all about… survival of the fittest… and it is the fittest that will thrive.

توافره يعالج أهم العوائق في سوق التمويل ال

‏‏‏توافره يعالج أهم العوائق في سوق التمويل العقاري ويعزز أداءها
خبراء: تأمين تعثر الديون العقارية شبه معدوم في الإمارات‏
إطلاق برامج للتأمين على القروض العقارية ولو جزئياً يعزز من أداء السوق العقارية. الإمارات اليوم
‏‏أكد خبراء في مجال التأمين، أن منتجات التأمين ضد تعثر سداد القروض العقارية شبه معدومة في الدولة، نظراً لعدم وجود استعداد من قبل شركات التأمين لتغطية مسائل التعثر، خصوصاً تأمين الديون العقارية، إضافة إلى أن وثائق هذا النوع من التأمين عادة ما تُسعّر بقيم مرتفعة، ما يجعل من غير الممكن أن تكون في متناول المقترض.
وأضافوا لـ«الإمارات اليوم» أن هذا النوع من التأمين يحمي البنوك من تعثر المقترضين إلى أن يتم تحصيل الدفعات المتأخرة، أو التنفيذ على الضمانات الموضوعة للقرض، مشيرين إلى أن التأمين ضد التعثر في سداد القروض العقارية مربح جداً لشركات التأمين في أسواق أوروبا وأميركا.
وأكدوا أن شركات التأمين لا تشارك البنوك في تقييم الموقف المالي للعميل، وبالتالي فإن البنك يتحمل وحده مخاطرة عدم سداد العميل لأقساط القرض العقاري.
من جانبهم، قال مختصون في قطاع العقارات، إن إطلاق شركات تأمين، برامج تأمين على القروض العقارية، ولو جزئياً، يعزز من أداء السوق العقارية، مع تقاسم تحمل مخاطر عدم السداد بين البنوك وشركات التأمين، مؤكدين أن توافر هذا المنتج سيعالج واحداً من أهم العوائق المهمة في سوق التمويل العقاري�).
وأضافوا أن توفير منتجات تأمين على مخاطر عدم سداد القروض العقارية، سيشكل حافزاً أمام البنوك، لضخ سيولة للمشترين للحصول على وحدات سكنية من دون مخاوف من التعثر.
تغطية حالات التعثر
وتفصيلاً، قال مساعد مدير شركة «تكافل ري» لإعادة التأمين، تامر ساهر، إن «شركات التأمين في الإمارات لم تشارك مسبقاً في تغطية حالات عدم سداد القروض، لأنها لا تشارك في تحليل وتقييم الموقف المالي للعميل، وقدرته على السداد، الذي يتم في إدارة الائتمان في البنك المعني، لكنها تغطي حالات الوفاة والعجز»، لافتاً إلى أن «بعض الشركات لاتزال تغطي حالات فقدان الوظيفة في نطاق ضيق، نظراً لزيادة مخاطر وقوع هذه الحالات في ظل ظروف الأزمة الاقتصادية».
من جانبه، قال مدير عام شركة الوثبة الوطنية للتأمين، بسام جلميران، إن «منتجات التأمين ضد تعثر سداد القروض العقارية شبه معدومة، لعدم وجود استعداد من قبل شركة التأمين لتغطية مسائل التعثر، خصوصاً في موضوع تأمين الديون، إضافة إلى أن هذه الوثائق عادة ما تُسعّر بقيم مرتفعة، ما يجعل من غير الممكن أن تكون في متناول المقترض».
وأضاف أن «البنوك تمول العملاء على مسؤوليتها، وفي حال تعثرهم، فإنها تكتفي بالاستحواذ على الأصل العقاري لبيعه»، مشيراً إلى أن «هذه الوثائق متوافرة في أسواق خارجية، لكن انحسارها أخيراً يعكس الأزمة المالية العالمية التي كانت نابعة أصلاً من التوسع في هذا النوع من الإقراض».
وقال إن «هناك شركات تأمين كبرى تعرضت لخطر الانهيار لأن مخاطر هذا النوع من التأمينات عادة ما تكون عالية، حيث تعتمد درجة الخطورة على الوضع الاقتصادي عموماً، ومدى انتعاشه».

ولفت إلى «انخفاض نسبة مساهمة البنوك في القروض العقارية من 85٪ إلى 70٪، فيما يُموّل المقترض النسبة المتبقية، نظراً لارتفاع المخاطر في القروض العقارية».
وأوضح أن «هناك نوعاً شبيهاً بتأمين التعثر في سداد القروض العقارية، تسمى بـ(بوليصة تأمين على الحياة)، توفرها شركات تأمين بالتعاون مع بنوك في حالة الوفاة أو العجز الدائم، حسب عُمر الشخص ووضعه الصحي، وبموجب هذه البوليصة، يتم دفع المبلغ المستحق أو المتبقي من قبل شركة التأمين للبنك».
وثائق غير إلزامية
إلى ذلك، أكد مدير عام شركة دبي للتأمين، عبداللطيف أبوقورة، أنه «وفي ظل التوسع الكبير في الإقراض العقاري، لاحظت بنوك أن حالات التخلف عن السداد، أو التعثر من قبل مقترضين، عادة ما تكون بنسب قليلة جداً، لذلك فإنها لم تجد حاجة كبيرة لطلب التغطية التأمينية عليها، كي لا تضيف أعباء إضافية على المقترضين وعملائها».
وأوضح أن «البنوك أدركت في الوقت ذاته، حجم الخطر في حال وفاة المقترض، ولهذا طلبت وثائق تأمينية تغطي مخاطر السداد في حال الوفاة»، لافتاً إلى أن «شركات التأمين لا تمتلك خبرة فنية كافية وقدرات تؤهلها لتسويق هذه المنتجات في السوق».
وأضاف أن «معظم وثائق التأمين على الديون والقروض ليست إلزامية، ولا تطلبها البنوك، نظراً لأنها لم تتعرض لحالات عدم سداد أو تعثر كثيرة».
تأمين مربح جداً
بدوره، قال خبير التأمين، مدير عام شركة (وايت لو) لتقدير الخسائر والأضرار، يوسف جبور، إن «هذا النوع من التأمينات في السوق الإماراتية قليلة، إلا في حالات استثنائية جداً يجلب وثائقها بعض وسطاء التأمين من الخارج»، لافتاً إلى أن «نسبة هذه الأقساط من إجمالي أقساط التأمين في الدولة تقل عن 1٪».
وأوضح أن «البنوك ترى في العقار ضمانة، يمكن بيعه في حال التعثر، لذلك لا تطلب من المقترضين هذه الوثائق، إضافة إلى أن إمكانات شركات التأمين في المنطقة محدودة جداً، ولا تتوافر لديها خبرات وكفاءات قادرة على إدارة هذا النوع من التأمينات».
وبيّن أن «التأمين ضد التعثر في سداد القروض العقارية، مربح جداً لشركات التأمين في أسواق أوروبا وأميركا»، مستبعداً حاجة السوق الإماراتية لهذا النوع من التأمينات.
وأضاف أن «قيمة قسط التأمين على قرض عقاري بمليون دولار، يصل إلى نحو (1.5 أو2٪)، وفي حالات نادرة إلى 3٪ من القيمة الإجمالية للقرض في الأسواق الأوروبية والأميركية، حيث انه كلما ازدادت قيمة القرض، قلت النسبة التي تُحصلها شركات التأمين من المقترض».
تعزيز للسوق العقارية
وفي السياق ذاته، قال المدير العام في شركة هاربور العقارية، مهند الوادية، إن «إطلاق شركات التأمين، برامج للتأمين على القروض العقارية ولو جزئياً، يعزز من�أداء السوق العقارية، مع تقليل تحمل مخاطر عدم السداد بين البنوك وشركات التأمين».
وأكد أن «إتاحة منتجات التأمين على مخاطر عدم السداد للقروض العقارية، سيشكل حافزاً أمام البنوك، لضخ السيولة أمام المشترين، للحصول على وحدات سكنية من دون مخاوف من عدم السداد»، لافتاً إلى أنه «يمكن لشركات التأمين أن تضع بعض الضوابط بالتعاون مع البنوك، لضمان أفضل تطبيق يجعل من هذا النوع من التأمين محفزاً للقطاع العقاري الذي ت�*زايد فيه الفرص، مع تراجع الأسعار بشكل ملحوظ خلال السنوات الماضية».
وأوضح أن «فقدان السيولة بسبب الأزمة المالية، أدى إلى معاناة نحو ثلثي بلاد العالم من الركود الاقتصادي»، مشيراً إلى أنه «وبحسب تقديرات الأمم المتحدة، فإن أكثر من 90 مليون شخص، يقعون في خانة الفقراء نتيجة للأزمة، كما تراجعت التجارة العالمية بنسبة 10٪ للمرة الأولى منذ ثلاثة عقود».
وتابع «تبلغ قيمة ديون البنوك في العالم نحو 4.6 تريليونات دولار، فيما يتطلب العودة إلى النمو زيادة معدلات الادخار»، لافتاً إلى أن «عدم وفاء المصارف بالتزاماتها في الوقت المناسب، يمكن أن يتحول إلى صدمة كبيرة، ويؤثر في وضع البنك وسيولته محلياً وخارجياً، ولذلك يجب أن تكون المصارف مستعدة للتعامل مع الصدمات غير المتوقعة من السيولة».
وأضاف أنه «يمكن للبنوك تأمين أموالها عن طريق شركات التأمين، التي بدورها تعيد التأمين لدى شركات إعادة التأمين»، موضحاً أنه «إذا واجه البنك مستثمراً متعثراً غير قادر على سداد التزاماته لأسباب خارجة عن إرادته، مثل الإفلاس، فإنه يلجأ إلى المفاوضات أو التسوية لحل الوضع، أو إلى بيع أو رهن الاستثمار».
وقال إن «البنك يقوم بجميع المحاولات لاسترداد أمواله لمدة ستة أشهر، وهو العرف المتبع، ومن ثم تتدخل شركات التأمين، لتقوم بعمليات تحقيق خاصة بها قبل تغطية المبلغ المفقود».
مخاطر طبيعية
من جانبه قال المدير الإقليمي في شركة «جونز لانغ لاسال» للاستشارات العقارية، فادي موصلي، إن «شركات التأمين المحلية تؤمن على القروض العقارية ضد مخاطر الوفاة، أو الحريق، أو المخاطر الطبيعية الأخرى، التي تتعرض للعقار، لكنها لا تؤمن ضد مخاطر عدم السداد»، مشيراً إلى أن «بعض الجهات الحكومية تنفذ هذا المنتج التأميني، عند توزيعها للوحدات السكنية للمواطنين، لكن ذلك غير ممتد للعقارات الخاصة، ولا تقوم البنوك بهذا الإجراء».
وأضاف أن «البنك هو الجهة التي تختص بالنظر في القوة الائتمانية للعميل، وتحدد ما إذا كانت ستمنحه التمويل العقاري أم لا، وبالتالي فإن البنك يتحمل وحده مخاطرة عدم سداد العميل لأقساط القرض».
وأوضح أن «شركات التأمين تعمل في التأمين على المخاطر العشوائية، لكن عدم سداد القرض العقاري يعد مخاطرة غير عشوائية لا تغطيها شركة التأمين»، مبيناً أن «توافر هذا المنتج سيعالج واحداً من أهم العوائق المهمة في سوق التمويل العقاري، لكنه يعتبر أحد العوامل غير الأساسية لتحريك السوق العقارية في الدولة».

آثار قريبة وبعيدة المدى تتحقق عند التطبيق

آثار قريبة وبعيدة المدى تتحقق عند التطبيق
السوق العقاري يتفاعل إيجاباً مع خطوة “إعادة الهيكلة”

أوضحت مصادر أن السوق العقاري والعاملين فيه قد تفاعلوا بايجابية مع مقترح كل من “دبي العالمية” و”نخيل” لاعادة جدولة ديونهما، الأمر الذي سينعكس على مستقبل القطاع بشكل مباشر وغير مباشر في الوقت ذاته على المديين القصر والبعيد .

وأضافت المصادر أن الآثار الحقيقية على القطاع ستتبلور مع اعلان الجهات الدائنة قبولها للمقترح وما سيتبعه من مراحل التنفيذ، مشيرة الى أن النتائج الأولية للمقترح تنحصر في محيط دائرة عودة الثقة والتفاؤل للجهات العاملة في مختلف المجالات العقارية، أما فيما يختص بمنحنى الأسعار فترى المصادر أنه لن يتفاعل بنفس الوتيرة مع هذه التطورات، حيث إن المسألة هي عامل زمني يرتبط ارتباطا وثيقا بمعادلة العرض والطلب، وهذا ينطبق في الوقت ذاته على مشاريع “نخيل” أيضا .

وأوضح فادي موصلي، المدير الاقليمي في “جونز لانغ لاسال”، أن الاعلان عن تفاصيل الخطة الشاملة لاعادة الهيكلة التي تشمل كل من “دبي العالمية” و”نخيل” كل على حدة، من شأنها أن تعطي دفعة قوية عنوانها الثقة والتفاؤل لجميع العاملين في السوق العقاري في الامارة من جهة وحركة البيع والشراء من جهة أخرى على المدى البعيد وليس القصير .

وأضاف موصلي أن تطبيق هذا المقترح، الذي تقدمت به كلتا الشركتين، سيدفع بصورة أقوى في اطار اكتساب دبي المزيد من المصداقية والشفافية التي كانت قد تأثرت في الفترة السابقة، وليبدأ العاملون في السوق باختلاف قطاعاتهم باعادة ترتيب أوراقهم وخططهم المستقبلية بناء عليه .

وأفاد موصلي أنه من الواضح أن السوق والمستثمرين قد استقبلوا هذا الخبر بايجابية، الأمر الذي انعكس بنفس الاطار على أداء الأسواق المالية، وأسعار الفائدة الائتمانية على ديون دبي، الا أننا نرى أن هذا التأثير يكمن على المدى القصير، أما البعيد فيرتبط بالمزيد من الوضوح والشفافية بشأن هذا المقترح الذي جاء أفضل من المتوقع، وننتظر رد الجهات المقابلة من الدائنين لقبوله .

وعلى صعيد نتائج هذا المقترح على السوق العقاري، يقول موصلي أنه من المرجح أنه يحتاج لكفايته من الوقت لحين أن يلمس نوعا من التحسن، في الوقت الذي بدأ المستثمرون التعامل بفعالية بعد طول انتظار لحل المشكلة الأولى في السوق المحلي بدبي .

أما مشاريع نخيل العقارية التي تعد ذات الصلة الأولى بهذا المقترح، فنجد أنها شأنها شأن جميع المشاريع في الامارة والتي تخضع لقاعدة العرض والطلب، فلن تتحسن أسعارها أكثر من غيرها، الا أن المعنى العام يصب في الشعور الايجابي للمقترح ككل من شتى القطاعات .

من جهته أوضح عمر عايش، رئيس مجلس ادارة “نوبلز” القابضة، أن اعلان كل من دبي العالمية ونخيل عن خطتهما الشاملة لاعادة هيكلة الديون ستؤثر بشكل ايجابي وبطريقة مباشرة في بعض القطاعات وغير مباشرة على قطاعات أخرى، والتي ستصب في النهاية في تحريك العجلة الاقتصادية من دائرة التباطؤ الى التسارع .

وأضاف عايش أن المقترح الذي تقدمت به الشركتان كل على حدة سيخلق دفعة معنوية على صعيد هامش الثقة لكافة العاملين في السوق المحلي بدبي من خلال ضخ مياه الحيوية والنشاط على مستوى شتى القطاعات الاقتصادية .

وأشار رئيس مجلس ادارة “نوبلز”، الى أن دبي كانت ولا تزال تتبوأ مركزا متقدما كبيئة استثمارية جاذبة لرؤوس الأموال وكبرى الشركات، وها هي تفاجئنا بقرارها الصريح الذي يعد من أفضل الأخبار التي نسمعها على الرغم من الظروف الحالية التي تشهدها كافة الأسواق العالمية في ظل الأزمة المالية العالمية، بأن يأخذ كل ذي حق حقه وهذا يزيدنا ايمانا بقدرة الامارة على تجاوز أسوأ التحديات والمصاعب .

أما مهند الوادية، المدير الاداري في شركة هاربور للوساطة العقارية فقال من جانبه: “ان هذا الالتزام الجديد التي قدمته “دبي العالمية” يعد خطوة ايجابية نحو التزامات عديدة في المستقبل، فهو بالتأكيد يعزز الثقة بالبيئة الاقتصادية والاستثمارية في مدينة دبي وفي قطاع العقارات بشكل خاص . فدفع المبالغ المستحقة سيخلق أثرا ايجابيا مضاعفا على جميع أصحاب المصالح وسيساعد على تخفيف حدة التوتر القائم” .

وأضاف الوادية أن هذا الخبر الجيد يؤكد مرة أخرى أن دبي تتمتع ببنية تحتية اقتصادية متينة وقادرة على الصمود في وجه العاصفة الاقتصادية بثقة ومرونة، ووفرت من خلاله شعورا بالتفاؤل تفاعلت معه الأوساط العقارية لما له من الأثر الكبير والواضح على جاذبية الامارة على الصعيد العالمي .

عبدالمجيد اسماعيل الفهيم، رئيس مجلس ادارة دبي بيرل “لؤلؤة دبي”، قال من جهته عبر اتصال هاتفي خلال جولة ترويجية لمشروع لؤلؤة دبي في الصين وبعض دول آسيا، انه لا شك أن قيام حكومة دبي بتقديم دعم مالي لاعادة هيكلة ديون مجموعة دبي العالمية ونخيل، سيكون له أثره المباشر على ازدياد معدلات الثقة في الأداء الاقتصادي لدبي على المدى المتوسط والبعيد، ويضفي حالة من الاستقرار والاطمئنان على أداء كافة القطاعات الاقتصادية ليس على مستوى امارة دبي فحسب وانما على مستوى دولة الامارات بشكل عام .

وأضاف بعد لقاء مع شركاء أعمال في شنغهاي: “لقد كان لهذا القرار أثره الفوري على أداء أسواق المال في الدولة والتي استقبلته بفرحة عارمة ترجمها ارتفاع مؤشرات التدوال بشكل سريع، وأقفلت الأسواق على ارتفاع طالما اشتاقت اليه الأسواق، وبعث السرور والسكينة في نفوس جميع المتعاملين . كما أن هذا القرار ستكون له انعكاساته المباشرة على القطاع العقاري الذي هو بحاجة ماسة لمثل هذه المحفزات” .

وقال ان هذه الخطوة تمثل رسالة واضحة الى كافة أسواق العالم أن دبي قادرة على الايفاء بالتزاماتها برغم أي ظروف، وأن نهجها الاقتصادي التطويري ماض الى ما لا نهاية، وأن على الجميع أن يتعامل معها على هذا الأساس، وألا يراوده أي شك في أن المستقبل المشرق مازال فاتحاً ذراعيه لدولة الامارات لتحقق المزيد من الانجازات على سلم التطور الحضاري طالما أن قيادتها قادرون على توجيه الخطى الى الأمام بصدق ويقين وعزيمة .

Stable prices push sales up at Springs, Meadows

Communities have highest sales and leasing activity due to stable prices and rentals, say agents.

Prices of villas in Emirates Hills range between Dh10 million and Dh25m. (SATISH KUMAR)

The Springs and The Meadows have seen the highest sales and leasing activity within Emirates Living since the beginning of this year owing to stable prices and rentals, according to real estate agents.

Vineet Kumar, Head of Sales, Dubai, Asteco Property Management, said: “The Springs and The Meadows have seen increased sales and leasing activity since the beginning of this year as ongoing sales prices and rental rates for these properties have been stable for the past two months.”

According to Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate, between January 1 and March 18, The Springs and The Meadows recorded 66 sales transactions, marking a 50 per cent increase for the corresponding period in 2009.

He said between January 1 and March 18 last year, The Springs and The Meadows saw 44 sales transactions and during October 1 to Dec 31, 2009, 89 sales transactions were recorded.

Sales transactions up

Alwadiya disclosed that The Greens, The Lakes and The Views recorded 79 sales transactions between January 1 and March 18 this year, marking a 103 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year. “The Greens, The Lakes and The Views recorded 39 sales transactions between January 1 and March 18 last year and a total of 109 sales transactions in these communities between October 1 and December 31, 2009,” he said.

Paul Musson, Residential Sales Consultant, Better Homes, said current sale prices for a two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartment with study and maid’s room in The Springs were at Dh1.1 million and Dh2.2m, respectively. “In The Meadows, current sale prices for a three-bedroom and five-bedroom villa with a study and maid’s room are around Dh2.8m and Dh5.4m,” he said.

“In The Lakes, prices are currently at Dh3m and Dh4.5m for a three-bedroom villa with a study and maid’s room and for a five-bedroom villa with a study and maid’s room, respectively,” he added. In Emirates Hills, prices of villas range between Dh10m and Dh25m, but Musson said the villas are not selling at Dh25m. In The Greens, a one-bedroom apartment is currently selling for Dh680,000 while a three-bedroom apartment is selling for about Dh2.8m.

Musson said the bottom-end of the apartment market is still falling slightly in the studios and one-bedroom apartment segments. “The two-bedroom apartments are still holding up.”

He said demand from buyers in the market today was largely for villas and was no longer just price-driven. “Villas are what buyers want now and not just at the best price. Early this year, buyers were only looking for the best price, now however, end-users want the best unit for the best price.”

Rentals on a slide

Tamara Stubbs, Residential Leasing Consultant for Better Homes, said: “Annual rentals in The Springs range from Dh90,000 for a two-bedroom villa to Dh150,000 for a full lake-view three-bedroom villa.”

She said in The Meadows, rents ranged from Dh180,000 per annum for a standard three-bedroom villa to Dh375,000 per annum for a five-bedroom to six-bedroom villa. In The Lakes, annual rents for a three-bedroom townhouse were at Dh130,000 while for an upgraded three-bedroom villa, rents were at Dh160,000.

In Emirates Hills, annual rents are at Dh280,000 for a four-bedroom villa and at Dh400,000 for a four-bedroom to five-bedroom villa. In Dubai Marina, annual rents are at Dh60,000 for studios to Dh250,000 for a four-bedroom penthouse. In The Greens, annual rents are an approximate Dh40,000 for studios and Dh120,000 for a four-bedroom villa.

Stubbs added: “You can get higher rents for different units depending on the finishing and interiors.”

Alwadiya said the current rental prices within the development are lower than those prevailing six months back by an average of five per cent to 10 per cent. “Sale prices in The Greens and The Views are lower by 13 per cent to 15 per cent. But for villas, prices are slightly higher by around five per cent.”

He added: “Due to the decrease in rental and sale prices by around 35 per cent and 45 per cent that this area witnessed during the past 15 months, we have noticed an increase in demand for all the communities within Emirates Living with a focus on The Greens, The Views and The Springs. This trend was carried over during the first few months of 2010.”

Sahali Saleem, Residential Leasing Consultant, Al Barsha, Better Homes said among the communities, The Greens and The Springs had the lowest number of rentals when compared to the other sub-communities in Emirates Living because of the ongoing road construction.”

Occupancies within the Emirates Living district vary from one community to another. According to Harbor Real Estate, occupancy in The Greens is highest at 85 per cent, followed by The Springs with 80 per cent occupancy levels.

The Views and The Links have about 75 per cent occupancy followed by The Meadows which have 80 per cent occupancy. The Lakes currently has about 60 per cent while Emirates Hills has about 55 per cent occupancy levels.

“The rate of people moving in and out of the development is almost equal. Emirates Living did not witness a sharp drop or a drastic increase in population compared to the same period last year. This was mainly fuelled by the influx of new tenants who upgraded their homes taking advantage of the newly reduced prices,” said Alwadiya.

High occupancy levels

According to Asteco, occupancy levels within Emirates Living have been given a push and currently stand at 75 per cent overall levels as many owners held back selling their properties and instead looked to lease them. “Occupancy is quite high as a majority of inventory has been handed over for more than a year. In our estimate, the occupancy level is above 75 per cent as a lot of inventory has been held back for sale and owners have decided to lease their villas. This has given a push to occupancy levels,” said Kumar.

The villas only pay community fees for the use of common facilities such as parks, pool, landscaping, use and upkeep of roads. “This fee ranges from Dh7,500 to Dh16,000 a year. Maintenance of villas, like any other property, is on the owners’ account,” added Kumar.

Alwadiya said: “The community service fee charges for villas and townhouses are more or less the same. For The Greens, service charges continue to increase. However, the option of payment over four instalments was highly appreciated by many owners in the development.”

Asteco said the overall buyer profile of Emirates Living was a mix of families from all over the world. “The development has a strong presence of clients from Europe, Asia, the GCC, Lebanon and Iran,” said Kumar. “The community is ready and offers convenience for occupants. Villas of two-bedrooms to five-bedrooms are popular for family living.”

Alwadiya said: “For The Lakes, The Meadows and The Springs you cannot define a buyer profile. Nowadays we see different nationalities with different professional and income profiles moving into these areas.”

In Emirates Hills, high demand continues from wealthy South Asian, Russian and GCC nationals. “All of these buyers come with very high budgets and ready cash to pay for their luxury dream homes,” he said.

Master plan overview

Emirates Living comprises The Springs, The Meadows, The Lakes, Hattan, Ghadeer, Montgomery and Emirates Hills. The Emirates Living district also comprises The Views and The Greens.

The Greens are mid-rise apartment blocks comprising nine projects in all – Al Sidr, Al Jaz, Al Nakheel, Al Ghaf, Al Samar, Al Dhafrah, Al Arta, Al Thayyal and Al Ghozlan.

The Views are apartment buildings comprising eight projects in all – Arno, Travo, Turia, Una, The Fairways, The Links, Golf Towers and Mosela.
The Springs comprises townhouses built around man-made lakes. The properties in The Springs range from two-bedroom to four-bedroom townhouses and are located close to The Greens, The Lakes and The Meadows.

The Meadows are detached villas offering double-storeyed villas from three to seven rooms, each surrounded by a garden and garage.

The Lakes are detached villas and townhouses comprising Deema, Furat, Maeen, Zulal and The Ghadeer which was the last to be handed over recently. The Lakes has been built around a lake, located near the Emirates Golf Club and The Greens development. Initially, properties in The Lakes were only for rent, but in 2007, Emaar offered freehold titles to the properties, with first refusal granted to the then existing tenants.

Emirates Hills are luxury-detached villas that have been sold as plots to investor to build their properties on.

The community also includes schools such as the Dubai International Academy, Emirates International School, Dubai British School, Regents School, a community centre, restaurants and supermarkets, children’s playgrounds, and communal swimming pools

Emirates Living residents also have access to the Emirates Hills’ Montgomerie Golf Course and its Golf Academy which includes a clubhouse and other facilities.

Sales show improvement in key realty projects

Downtown Dubai has the highest number of listings by most realty agents.

Downtown Dubai, Emirates Living, Dubai Marina and Dubailand top the listing chart for sales and leasing queries, according to agents.

“Downtown Dubai has the highest number of listings by most realty agents in Dubai. The second popular area is Dubai Marina with a large focus on Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR),” said Mohanad Al Wadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate.

For Harbor Real Estate, the number of listings in these areas has increased by 20 per cent to 25 per cent in 2010. “Business Bay with a larger focus on the recently launched Executive Towers comes third, according to us,” he added.

Al Wadiya said Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina have always been ranked high and are one of the most sought-after areas in Dubai.

“The location of both these areas is good, which is the most important decision investors take while investing. Further, the current price points have also made these two districts more attractive as they have became more affordable.

“Another key reason for this increased attention and demand is the fact that both these areas include popular attractions such as The Dubai Mall, The Marina Mall, The JBR walk, The Marina walk, the free beach in JBR and Burj Khalifa.”

Better Homes’ Liz O’Connor, Director – Residential Sales and Leasing, said: “Our top-selling districts between November 2009 and February 2010 have been The Emirates Living District, Marina District, Downtown District and the Dubailand districts.”

“For us, between November 2009 and February 2010, we received the most listings for the Emirates Living District, such as The Greens, Emirates Living, Jumeirah Village, Jumeirah Lake Tower (JLT), followed by Dubai Marina, Dubailand and Downtown Dubai districts,” said O’Connor.

Vineet Kumar, Head of Leasing and Sales – Dubai, Asteco Property Management, said: “Majority of listings we received in the past two months are for recently handed over projects such as the Loft apartments in Downtown Dubai and the Executive Towers in Business Bay.

“Other areas, which have received good level of listings are Dubai Marina and JLT, villas in Emirates Living such as Springs and Palm Jumeirah.

“Also, Sheikh Zayed Road continues to draw interest from tenants looking for quality residential buildings.

“Listings are always linked to the status of handed-over projects. As more projects have been handed over, or are nearing completion, we have seen a growth in the number of listings in these select locations,” he added.


Real estate agents said the main reason for these areas recording the highest listings has been due to recent handover within these areas and the fact that these communities offer a complete lifestyle with lesser construction happening in these areas.

Al Wadiya said: “The overall market condition in Dubai is stabilising and the appetite of all the stakeholders in the property market is improving as there is a general consensus that the prices have bottomed out and if there is any further decline, it will be very marginal and will not affect areas or developments that are completed.”

O’Connor said: “For residential real estate, location plays a big role in the demand for these areas. People want to live in popular areas that provide them with a good lifestyle and one which are easily accessible.

“Our customers are increasingly looking for The Emirates Living district, followed by Dubai Marina, Dubailand and Downtown districts,” she added.

Kumar said: “Buyers will show interest in master-plans that are developed and offer convenience of living and at rates which are attractive. Further those buyers who receive handover of their property and do not wish to occupy them for self-use will often offer these for sale or leasing.”

Meanwhile, listings for properties (sales and rentals) in JLT and Discovery Gardens has dropped due to buyers looking at other value for money investments in other parts of Dubai.

Al Wadiya said: “During the second half of 2009, we were seeing more listings for JLT and Discovery Gardens. The listings have been reduced in these areas mainly because of the shift of focus to the more popular areas of Dubai such as Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina.

“Prices are more affordable in these areas, hence buyers especially end-users and investors are shifting to these areas. In addition, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina offer a more established community lifestyle with less construction going on in the area,” he added.

He said the number of transactions in these areas could have fallen during 2010. According to Better Homes, no significant drop in listings has been noted in any particular areas.

“There are always shortages of a particular type of properties within a certain area for the right price which leads to a shortage in particular communities. Certain communities in Dubai, particularly those with villas, do not have many units becoming available as they have end users living in them who are there for the long term.

“The villas in Phase I Green Community are an example,” said O’Connor.

“Further, not having listings in a particular area could mean a number of things, such as a shortage of property within these areas for the right price.

“It could also mean that property owners are leasing rather then selling in these places,” she added.

Harbor Real Estate said the company does not remove any particular area from its listings.

“However, we focus more on the areas that have more demand. Having said that, we continue to provide minimum support to off-plan projects as the demand for these projects is still very low,” said Alwadiya.

Kumar said: “We have identified certain locations and focus on those areas alone. However, we have not removed any areas.

“You may find we do not have a presence in certain areas such as Downtown Jebel Ali and Dubai Waterfront. We will revisit these locations once we believe the market will be interested from a price-point which is agreeable to the sellers.”

Real estate agents said delivery of new properties in Dubai is likely to increase the number of distress sales.

O’Connor said: “Delivery of new properties in Dubai are likely to see a number of ‘distress sales’ coming into the market. In fact this is already happening. In all situations the reasons to sell are unique; however, we generally expect to see distress sales coming from areas where projects are not expected to be completed or cancelled.”

She added that in the case of a property with mortgage attached, the extent to which a seller is willing to sell his property would depend on the mortgage finance, as the final selling price must cover the bank’s finance amount. In the case of cash sales, however, there is no limit to which a seller may sell.

Kumar said: “As more inventory gets delivered there will be sellers who will prefer to exit from the purchase but the value will be linked to quality of project, status of the master community etc.

From the buyers perspective, this is a good time to buy a piece of real estate at realistic value with the aim of holding the property for the mid to long-term.”
He added that the term, “distress sales” should never be used, as selling a property is a seller’s personal decision.

“The reasons for selling the property at the value they deem right is the seller’s choice. We might use the term ‘motivated seller’ but not distress. Quite often such sales are at lower than market price and could translate into a financial loss for the seller. However, market conditions may be only one reason for such sales.”

According to Harbor Real Estate, the term ‘distressed sale’ emerged during the early days of the crisis during the last quarter of 2008 and has soon become a common property jargon.

“Few people really know what it means and how to qualify a property as a genuine distress sale,” said Al Wadiya. “The global credit crunch has hit the property industry hard. Developers find themselves in the position of having built projects which now have no buyers or the people who bought off-plan are now trying to pull out and recoup their deposits,” he said.

He said that distressed properties are properties that are in danger of facing foreclosure proceedings or that have already been scheduled for sale as a result of default on the part of the owner.

“A property is said to be distressed when an owner gets behind on mortgage payments or a direct payment to a developer and the lender or appropriate debt collector begins to start the necessary proceedings to sell the home in order to collect the outstanding debt.

Distressed properties can cover any kind of real estate, from commercial spaces to apartments. It’s a great chance to save, often ranging anywhere from 40 per cent to 60 per cent off their actual market value or buying price, but it’s also a great chance for making a good investment, since purchasing for a discount often means creating a huge margin for future profits,” he said. O’Connor said: “It is important to understand that a ‘distress’ sale is really only where the seller is willing to sell for less than he paid for, particularly if the property is off-plan.

“Some sellers are willing to sell for the original price of the property or less, but many sellers – in particular those with ready properties rather than off-plan – are unable to emotionally ‘let go’ for less than they think it should be worth.”

She said that many sellers will describe themselves as ‘distress’ sellers, even though they may expect to receive quite a bit more than they paid for the property.

“However, in the case of investors off-loading their off-plan properties, those that are prepared to incur a loss will generally accept up to 40 per cent less than the original price in order to just get some of their investment back,” she said.

“Owners looking to sell are increasingly twitchy about moving their properties off the market and banks have large numbers of repossessed property stock effectively sitting on their balance sheets when what they really need is liquid cash sitting in the coffers. All of this adds up to something that buyers love more than almost anything else – the opportunity for a bargain,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor said the situation occurs mainly with cash buyers. “This is a worse situation for a finance buyer, because he has to pay the bank and pay the difference directly from his pocket; in many of the finance distress sales, the client will walk away.”

“It is important to say that using the term ‘distress sale’ without the permission of the owner is considered a breach of the agents code of ethics introduced under by-law No 85 of 2006 because agents are supposed to be trusties for the owners and they should not disclose the owner’s financial status under any circumstances,” she said.

The real estate agents said some properties like JLT, Greens, Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai are providing some good value for money investments for buyers.
“Some of the apartments in JLT are value for money and will prove to be a good investment when the infrastructure of the community is complete and the metro is fully operational. However, investors need to choose carefully. Those towers on Sheikh Zayed Road side of the community are proving to have the most popular locations,” said Al Wadiya.

“Greens is due to shortly handover and many investors are anxious to off-load their property at original price and in some cases for less,” said Al Wadiya.

More buyers get lawyers to read the fine print

Property owners are concerned over growing disputes and investment security.

The number of property dispute cases filed in Q1 2009 increased by 55 per cent compared to Q4 2008. (EB FILE)

Increasing real estate disputes and concerns over security of a property investment are prompting buyers to seek legal advice prior to making a transaction, according to agents.

“Clients have serious concerns over the security of their real estate investments. Further, increase in number of real estate disputes is a result of many prospective buyers seeking legal advice prior to making a transaction,” said Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate.

“This was not the case in previous years which also contributed greatly to the problems that clients were facing as proper due diligence was not conducted prior to the sale and purchase of property,” he said.

Speaking to Emirates Business in a round table, Shilpa Guruswamy, Head of Legal and Sales Coordination, Asteco Property Management; Charles Neil, CEO, Landmark Advisory & Landmark Properties and Liz O’Connor, Director – Residential Sales & Leasing, Better Homes, said they were ensuring all correct steps were followed within their companies and ensuring all documentations were in place before a transaction is completed.

Do you have a law firm that advises you on the authenticity of your real estate transactions?

Guruswamy: Yes, we have a legal department, which oversees our transaction details and is also responsible for the compliance and risk mitigation process.

Neil: We have law firms to draw up all our documentation which protects the rights of our clients. Our accounts are audited by one of the four big auditors in order to ensure there is a clear distinction between our funds and our clients’ funds.

Real estate agencies, however, should be careful using companies claiming to be trust companies as they are not regulated, and if they have doubts they should use a reputed company of lawyers instead.

O’Connor: Yes, we do have a lawyer on board who manages our legal procedures and contractual obligations on transactions. Through our in-house lawyer as well as our managers, we ensure that all correct steps are followed and documentation is in place before a transaction is completed.

Alwadiya: In 2009, we joined forces with Prestige Legal Consultants, an international law company, to provide counselling and representation to all our clients in all legal matters concerning real estate in Dubai.

This partnership was started to keep in line with our vision to evolve our services from traditional real estate brokerage of merely bringing buyers and sellers together to world-class end-to-end real estate services. The holistic real estate legal services will complement our diverse line of services and govern all the activities and transactions of our clients.

The combined real estate experience of our firms enable us to provide clear candid counsel and guidance to our clients at all times to ensure that their rights are always protected.

Is this a new trend due to the downturn in the real estate sector?

Guruswamy: Real estate transactions, whether sales, lease, or appointment of sub-agents, are all essentially structured through legal contracts. Therefore, all these underlying documents need to be verified to ensure compliance to statutes and contract laws.

It is not a new trend but as the market matures there is greater emphasis on regulation and transparency. Therefore, there is increased need to have people with necessary legal background and expertise to scrutinise or draft documents. It is in no way related to the downturn because we had a legal department in place and operational long before the onset of the downturn.

Neil: We feel there should be laws allowing the setting up of trust accounts, but in our case customers trust us as we have strong finances and strong shareholders.

O’Connor: No, for us this is not as a result of the downturn in the real estate sector. We created this position a number of years ago due to volume of transactions and to oversee our international operations.

Alwadiya: Real estate-related enquiries have increased since the 2008 financial downturn. Many of the clients have serious concerns about the security of their real estate investments.

It was estimated that the number of cases filed in the first quarter of 2009 increased by 55 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. This drastic increase in the number of real estate disputes is a result of many reasons ranging from investors not fulfilling their obligations, sale and purchase agreements containing provisions that contradict the law about developers not delivering projects on time, and many more.

Prospective buyers are also seeking legal advice prior to making a transaction. This was not the case in previous years and also contributed greatly to the problems that clients were facing as proper due diligence was not conducted prior to the sale and purchase of property.

Most of the current legal enquiries that our legal division receives are usually concerned with the real estate regulations and legislations.

The profound perception of the industry and the daily interface with real estate clientele have resulted in the espousal of a fresh innovative legal counselling scheme. According to a recent study conducted by Harbor research division, majority of people perceive legal counseling as an exhorbitant service which leaves them with no alternative other than staying unaided and frustrated.

For that reason, the legal solution introduced by Harbor & Prestige is viewed as a results-driven method. Customers who seek legal counselling will incur minimal fees and no extra charges will be required in case of not winning the case.

Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) recently proposed a free legal advice service for buyers and sellers, an initiative that we applaud. We believe that this innovative policy will assist in boosting the confidence levels in the real estate industry.

Can you specify which particular transactions are scrutinised by your analysts and lawyers?

Guruswamy: The legal department is involved in overseeing all transactions not limited to primary sales, secondary sales, leases, registration at the Land Department verification of power of attorneys etc. Should a party to the transaction be a corporate body, incorporation documents of companies need also to be verified.

Neil: We do use lawyers for more complicated transactions and are working with one firm to do conveyance transactions.

O’Connor: We have standardised processes and procedures that govern every transaction. Our in-house legal advisor oversees all the legalities of these processes to ensure that all parties, wherever possible are secure.

Alwadiya: The legal services introduction is vital as the real estate market matures through the current economic crisis to become a more structured and regulated market. We obtain legal counselling for all our transactional activities in order to ensure providing our clients with a secured transactional experience. Needless to say, the more complex and high-end the transaction is, the more legal involvement we require.

Do you collect a deposit from a client in order to lock-in your clients?

Guruswamy: We generally do not encourage collection of deposits. However, should there be a delay in completion of transaction, a deposit may be collected by the agent to secure buyer’s interest and lock the seller to a commitment. In this case the agent takes up the role of an escrow agent.

In case of default, deposit maybe forfeited and returned to the aggrieved party. On successful closure of the deal, the deposit is adjusted towards the balance sale price of the transaction.

Neil: We only take deposits as part of a transaction and to secure the rights of the parties involved in a transaction, we don’t take it in to lock in a client. If the deal falls through, then the deposit is returned in the manner agreed upon by the parties at the time of signing the agreement. Sellers can no longer demand deposits and hold on to them.

O’Connor: We have now begun to encourage our customers to hold their deposit with a Rera-approved escrow facility, but in the absence of an escrow we take a deposit from the buyer as security for the seller.

Alwadiya: Accepting deposits from potential buyers or tenants is a common practice in the property market which is usually used as a closing technique or a gesture to test the seriousness of the potential client. More sellers and landlords are starting to ask for deposits as well in order to secure their interest in the transaction, especially when the closing date of the transaction is delayed for justified reasons such as releasing a property mortgage or finalising the transaction contracts or obtaining a date to conduct the transfer at the developer’s office or the Land Department.

We try to avoid retaining any deposits at our end as this is an added liability on us and it can place us in a conflict of interest situation as we usually represent only one part in the transaction. Having said that, we usually recommend that deposits are usually handed by a financial or legal third party entity with neutral position in relation to the parties involved in the transaction.

Do you maintain a separate account to receive agents’ commissions?

Guruswamy: Commission fees are payable to the agent by the parties involved and shall not form a part of the purchase consideration.

Normally, the purchase consideration is exchanged between the buyer and seller and the commission is paid to the agent. Therefore, there is no possibility of both of them being booked into the same account. However, should the agent be involved in collecting the booking deposit, it is booked separately into a designated account, which is distinct from all other operational accounts. Such payments are held on behalf of the buyer and seller and do not form part of the operational funds of the agent.

Neil: No comment.

O’Connor: We have an accounts department and we run a series of profit centres, most of which have commissions as the primary revenue source.

Alwadiya: Our company’s bank account is supervised by an independent certified accounting and auditing firm. Our internal accounting and finance resources follow the processes and guidelines set by this consultant/firm in order to ensure complete compliance with the best financial and accounting standards.

Occupancy levels close to 75% on The Palm

Apartment prices remain flat due to new stock entering the market.

Apartment prices remain flat due to new stock . Rental rates of villas have stabilised and are similar to 2007 levels . (SUPPLIED)
Occupancy levels are running at between 60 and 75 per cent across The Palm Jumeirah’s villas and apartments, according to realtors.
“Occupancy for villas is about 60 per cent while for the Shoreline Apartments, it is currently about 75 per cent,” said Laura Adams, Manager of Residential Sales and Leasing at the head office of Better Homes. “Only about 30 per cent of the people who were living on the Palm moved out because of the economic crisis.”
Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director of Harbor Real Estate, said: “According to our estimates, 70 to 75 per cent of the new handovers that happened last year are occupied. We estimate that about 70 to 75 per cent of all the villas and apartments are occupied as well.”

Villa prices on the man-made island have risen by 17 per cent since the middle of 2009, said realtors.

Adams said: “Villa prices appreciated by about Dh300 per sq ft, a 17 per cent increase from the low point in the middle of 2009. Overall sales have still not reached the levels seen in the third and fourth quarters of 2008. Apartment prices remain flat at best – the new stock in the Golden Mile, Tiara Residences, Oceana and Marina Residences is continuing to keep prices down and will do so for some time.”

She said prices for one-beds averaged about Dh1,100 to Dh1,500 per sq ft, and two-beds were about Dh1,000 to Dh1,700 per sq ft. Three-beds averaged about Dh950 to Dh1,500 per sq ft, while four-bed villas were about Dh1,600 per sq ft. Five to six-bedroom villas cost Dh1,900 per sq ft.

“The figures are broad as they include off-plan units in the Golden Mile and Marina Residences. Generally, completed properties such as Shoreline and the recently handed over Golden Mile units with superior views command higher prices.” she added.

Turning to rentals, Adams said a one-bedroom apartment currently costs between Dh100,000 and Dh150,000 per annum.

“Two-bedroom apartments range from Dh130,000 to Dh180,000 per year while three-bedroom apartments range between Dh160,000 and Dh200,000.

Four-bedroom apartments are available from Dh300,000 to Dh450,000 per annum and five-bedroom apartments range from Dh420,000 to Dh600,000.

Six-bedroom apartments are in the region of Dh600,000 to Dh700,000 per annum. For villas, rentals are about Dh280,000 per annum at Canal Cove, Dh350,000 for a garden home and Dh480,000 for a signature villa. In general, villa rates have stabilised and are similar to 2007 rates.”

Alwadiya said the current rental prices for apartments are about Dh90,000 per year for a one-bed, Dh130,000 for a two-bed, Dh160,000 for a three-bed and Dh250,000 for a four-bed.

“The Palm Jumeirah is one of the few projects in Dubai that managed to weather the economic crisis well, though villa prices witnessed a drastic decrease in the first and second quarters of 2009.

“For example, a garden home that was being sold for about Dh11m in 2008 suddenly fell to Dh7m. But in the third quarter of last year, the prices of villas started to pick up again and now the same garden home would not be offered for less than Dh9m.”

According to Better Homes, the Palm has a mix of end-users and investors, with declining rental yields tilting the balance in favour of the former. Adams said: “High maintenance fees are affecting net rental yields and since there are other options available elsewhere in Dubai this could impact interest in The Palm Jumeirah. Nationalities are mixed, but residents are mainly East European or Asian.”

Alwadiya said: “The buyer profile used to be dominated by GCC nationals, Russians and South Asians but now you find many different nationalities.”
He said that maintenance charges on the Palm apartments were in the range of Dh14 to Dh17 per sq ft.

“Charges for villas on the Palm are among the highest at about Dh4 to Dh5 per sq ft,” he said. “In effect, the owner of a two-bedroom apartment of about 1,800 sq ft will need to pay about Dh28,800 annually, assuming the charges do not increase yearly.”

First monorail in the Middle East

The Palm Monorail, which was inaugurated in April 2009, was the first monorail project to be constructed in the Middle East, says Nakheel.
It was developed by a consortium of leading international companies. The track runs between Gateway Station at the trunk of the Palm and Atlantis Aquaventure Station on the crescent.

It will eventually be linked to the Dubai Metro following the introd-uction of the Roads and Transport Authority’s Al Sufouh tramline, with direct links to Dubai International Airport and other key transport hubs.

Home to 12,000 residents

About 2,150 families are living in the Shoreline Apartments, said Nakheel, the Palm’s master developer. It added: “Around 800 families are living in the villas on the fronds. The villas, Shoreline Apartments and Marina Residences, are the only homes developed by Nakheel on The Palm Jumeirah. The rest of the residential offerings are being developed by third-party developers,” said a company spokesperson.

The Marina Residences complex at the tip of the Palm’s trunk consists of six towers with 940 apartments and penthouses. A further 40 townhouses stand on a marina-fronted promenade.

Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director of Harbor Real Estate, said four residential projects were handed over last year – Tiara Residences, Oceana, Marina Residences and the Golden Mile.

He said 644 Tiara apartments and penthouses were delivered last year and six freehold luxury residential buildings with 858 apartments and 12 penthouses were handed over at Marina Residences. The marina development also includes 30 townhouses.

The Golden Mile Residences project comprising 10 waterfront buildings, and 780 freehold apartments – ranging from one-bedroom units to penthouses and townhouses – were delivered last year. Apartments and penthouses at Oceana’s seven buildings are now being handed over.

The Nakheel official said: “The Palm Jumeirah is now home to more than 12,000 residents and this figure is set to rise as more and more take up occupancy at the island’s various residential developments. There are approximately 1,500 villas on the fronds.”

Nakheel says the Palm has attracted buyers from Chile to China and New York to Nepal, with the first residents moving into the 4,000 villas and apartments completed at the end of 2006.

High service charges hit rental yields

Service charges for some properties in Dubai range between 18 per cent and 48 per cent of annual rents, according to a recent report by Investment Boutique (iB). Further, falling rents coupled with high service charges are contributing to lower rental yields for an investor in Dubai.

Real estate analysts also said that developers in Dubai were not necessarily following the service charges set out by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera). “We don’t see all the developers abiding by the service charges set out by Rera. For example, the rate for luxury-serviced apartments should be around Dh50 per square foot yet some luxury projects in Downtown Dubai are charging Dh63 per square foot,” said Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate.

Meanwhile, iB in its latest fourth-quarter report – Market Pulse – said developers of some properties in Dubai continue to charge high service fees despite the Rera regulating service charges in the emirate.

“A 1,000 square feet one-bedroom unit in Discovery Gardens at Dh24 per square foot amounted to service charges of around Dh24,000. Current average rents are Dh52,300, which means that service charges constitute an exorbitant 46 per cent of rents. What this does to an investor’s rental yield is but obvious,” said Heather Wipperman Amiji, CEO, Investment Boutique.

According to Alwadiya, high service charges coupled with falling rents can reduce the rental yields for an investor. “High service charges can burn up the capital appreciation and annual rental yields for end-users and investment buyers.”

Elaine Jones, CEO, Asteco Property Management said: “Currently Although we have seen rents stabilise over the past three months, it is also possible that as developments settle and the true level of maintenance and upkeep is determined that service charges will soften. Different owner occupiers also have varying levels of expectation with regards to security, common area cleaning, landscaping etc. and whilst initially the most cost effective route is chosen in the medium to long term a recognition of the added value that a well cared for and maintained property can bring or add to the sale or rent value is significant.”

She said that property in New Dubai is subject to master community charges in addition to local community service charges and property maintenance.

The impact of service charges has been felt throughout Dubai with developers facing concerns from property owners on the high service charges and perceived low quality of service.

In the case of apartments, service charges constituted between 15 per cent and 32 per cent of rents in the first quarter of 2008. Downtown Dubai and The Green Community charge the highest service fees in the apartment and villa category respectively, with Jumeirah Lake Tower (JLT), Arabian Ranches and Emirates Living being the cheapest.

According to the report, service charges also vary substantially from community to community with JLT currently the most attractive to investors as service charges are between 21 and 23 per cent of rents. Developments such as Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa have relatively higher service charges.

With charges remaining more or less stable and rents declining substantially, service charges now constitute between 18 per cent and 48 per cent of annual rents.

Discovery Gardens, a mid-end development with modest facilities called into question the rationale behind high service charges. Owners organised themselves in an effort to force the master developer to reduce the charge. However, they met with limited success as the final rate was reduced by Dh5 per square foot.

Previously in 2008, there were increases across the board with Emaar’s Arabian Ranches doubling, Union Properties’ Green Community also witnessing a 50 per cent rise. The reasons cited included initially subsidised charges, rising labour costs, increasing costs of utilities, such as electricity and water, and inflationary pressures on raw materials.

In December 2008, Salwan, a subsidiary of Dubai Properties and the property management company for Jumeirah Beach Residence, upped service charges at the beachfront community by 129 per cent from Dh9.5 per square foot to Dh21.75 per square foot. In February 2009, Salwan reduced the service charges to Dh15.32 per square foot. Soon after this, owners of units in Nakheel’s Discovery Gardens also realised that their own service charges were well above market rates at Dh29 per square foot, almost double of Jumeirah Beach Residence, with fewer facilities.

Lack of clarity

According Investment Boutique, there continues to be a lack of clarity and solutions with respect to service charges in Dubai. The Strata Law has yet to be ratified, owners’ associations are slow to set up, developers and property management companies continue to charge unjustified rates even with Rera trying to control the increases. Owners and tenants continue to be dissatisfied with the level of service received.

The iB report said some MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) and facilities management professionals speculate without reference to any specific project that the high service fees quoted may be the actual cost of the service provided, but they are unnecessarily high due to poor selection of equipment and materials at project inception as well as a poor maintenance programme.

FM consultants

Including facilities management (FM) consultants at the design stage helps save substantial costs over the life of a building. As the market begins to open to investors, more are interested in the rental yield than capital appreciation. These buyers should also invest in FM advisory services to ensure that running costs to date have not been kept artificially low.

Analysts outlined the various reasons for service charges for villas to be higher than those of the apartments. According to Harbor, service charges for villas are low mainly due to the fact that service charges for villas are calculated based on the plot area of the villa. “In addition, villa communities have less MEP and other common elements in villas compared to apartments,” said Alwadiya.

Jones said: “District cooling, housing tax and Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) costs are usually borne by the occupier. Traditional Dubai property that we have managed as full block management will have cost between 20 per cent to 30 per cent of rent income, dependent on air-conditioning, age of building etc. New Dubai property is a little higher due the additional Master Community Charge.”

“Rera reviews and approves the service charge assessed by the home owners association. Rera is also involved in the apportionment of area charges where there is a mixed-use development. The costs that make up the service charges are transparent and the home owners association will usually collect three quotes for each service line so as to ensure that the most competitive rate is secured – bearing in mind always that cheapest is not always best.”

Utility costs will be estimated in the first year based on advice from consultants. The second year’s service charge may well be more accurate than the first as the level of service required and the actual consumable costs are defined. “Service charges are for the common areas of which villas have far less of. Most villa plot and property maintenance costs are individual costs and not shared. The roads, street lighting, landscaping, garbage collection are the only shared amounts,” said Jones.

In case of villas, the service charges are charged on the basis of the plot size. The case of villa service charges differ completely from the fees, accounting for between three and nine per cent of rents, except for The Green Community, which is relatively more expensive. The huge difference in the service charges between apartments and villas is due to a typical building budget.

Villa service charges are substantially lower when compared to apartments as there are fewer common areas to maintain. Security, landscaping and the upkeep of pools and lakes are covered by the service charges, but municipality fees are paid separately and maintenance of the individual villa is the owner’s responsibility.

Chilled water for common areas accounts for a third of maintenance costs, other utilities account for one-sixth and the master community charge accounts for one-tenth for the average property.

A typical breakdown of other costs includes soft services such as pest control, façade cleaning and swimming pool cleaning and treatment, while subcontractor services and repairs cover the emergency lighting system, aviation warning lights, water tank cleaning, automated doors, building management unit (cradle) and its certification, building management system (BMS), fire alarm system, fire protection system, generator, CCTV, access control system, apartment intercom, public address system, lighting control system and gym equipment.

Majority of expenses are specific to apartment blocks and not to villas, which explains the difference. Variations in service charges needs to be taken into consideration by investors choosing between apartments and villas as this could impact both rental yields and capital appreciation. The report also called for more clarity from the developers and property management companies with respect to the manner in which funds are used. It is hoped that once the Strata Law is introduced, owners’ associations will have a say in the matter and the resulting transparency will only benefit the Dubai property sector.

The last quarter of 2009 was when the optimists had predicted that recovery would happen.

“According to our analysis of the market, we still have some time to go before we see recovery in the UAE property sector, especially in Dubai,” said Amiji.

Transactional activity

The majority of transactional activity in 2009 occurred in the completed property sector. The off-plan market has seen very little transactional activity at all during this time period and as such has not effectively been re-priced.

If off-plan projects are completed and enter the market en masse there will need to be an asset re-pricing in terms of rental values and capital values, which will also have an impact on the local market. However, by the end of 2010, we expect some stabilisation as there will likely be more certainty in global markets and local exposure to bad loans. Over the course of the year, project stakeholders are likely to take stock of their situation and either cancel projects with little economic value in the new market of 2010 and absorb the write-offs or allow the supply to come on stream and let the market adjust accordingly.

Residential affordability is key

While rents and sale prices have suffered considerably in Dubai, declining by more than 50 per cent, Abu Dhabi has proven more resilient with rents estimated to have fallen by 23 per cent between the first and last quarters of 2009. Even though Abu Dhabi faces an undersupply, rents have fallen due to factors such as redundancies and job insecurity, the substitution effect of Dubai’s more affordable housing market, and limited selection of high quality or easily accessible units due to the abundance of construction and infrastructure activity.

While sale prices have also been moving downward, properties close to completion on Al Raha Beach and on Al Reem Island have managed to trade at premiums to opening prices although these have fallen between 30 per cent and 46 per cent respectively from their 2008 peaks.

Downward pressure on rents

The greatest contributing factor to the downward pressure on rents in the Abu Dhabi market has been the mismatch between Abu Dhabi income levels and rental values.

There is a lack of affordable property for the majority of people in the emirate. Prices and rents will continue to fall until they reach the level at which the average middle income or upper income end-user can comfortably rent property, assuming an international benchmark of 25 per cent of income on housing expense, or comfortably purchase property assuming a benchmark of 30-40 per cent of income spent on mortgage payments.

As such, excluding the last two categories, which account for 29 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s population, rents in Abu Dhabi are not affordable to the majority 71 per cent of the population, and thus there is a downward pressure on rents in Abu Dhabi given Dubai’s substitution effect.

According to the analysis, affordable unit prices average around the Dh1,000 mark. While prices were reduced substantially in 2009, a further decline is required to bring prices in line with income levels, especially given the fact that average prices in the neighbouring Dubai are currently lower than the Dh1,000 mark.

Developers will need to keep this in mind while pricing new productsbest non gamstop casinos uk

Rera’s colour-coded norms will not impact agent commissions

Agent commissions will not be impacted under the colour-coded system introduced by Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) whereby brokers are authorised to sell a particular type of property in a specified area, according to realtors.

Natasha Pereira, Area Manager-Dubai, Sherwoods Property Consultants, said: “Areas such as Discovery Gardens, International City and Dubai Silicon Oasis generate lesser revenue than others. For agents who have been assigned these areas, we also give them (parts of) other areas to handle the sales and rentals as well.”

She added: “Our agents are already classified into specific areas and asset classes.” While some real estate consultancies said they were already segregating the functions of a real estate agent based on specific areas and asset classes, others felt now was not an opportune time to introduce the colour-coded system.

Avais Najam, Managing Director, Venture Horizon Real Estate, said: “There is already an oversupply of real estate brokers in the market since business activity is yet to pick up in Dubai. Further, most brokerage firms continue to employ real estate agents on a commission-only basis, rather than enrolling them in their companies.” He added many brokerage firms and agents were unaware of rules that require a colour-coded system and have sought more clarity on the system’s implementation from Rera.

Najam said: “We are already segregating our real estate agents on the basis of the territories they work in. Most of our agents follow a specific territory.”

Mohanad Alwadiya, Managing Director, Harbor Real Estate, said: “At the moment we are not ready for renewals of our agents. However, we have been following our own policies similar to that set out by Rera. All our agents follow the system. For example, for handling Dubai Media City, Internet City and Tecom areas, we have one designated person since these are all free zone areas. We also have a specific division that specialises in office space.”

In September, Rera announced the four-tier broker classification system whereby brokers were granted one of four types of licences authorising them to sell property of a particular type or in a specified area.

Under the new colour-coded classification, tier one brokers, those issued a blue licence by the Department of Economic Development (DED) and registered with Rera, will be allowed to carry out all types of brokerage activities and operate throughout the emirate, including free zones if authorised to do so by the authority. These have the widest sphere of operation.

Tier two or yellow licences will be issued by the appropriate free-zone authorities to carry out the full range of brokerage activities but will be registered to operate only within “designated” freehold areas owned by that authority. The tier three registered brokers, having green licences, will be authorised by the DED and registered by Rera, to sell only properties of specific companies or developers. The last tier of licenced brokers will be issued a red licence to promote, sell or rent time-share units.

This move by Rera is a step towards regulating professional services in the sector and enhancing rights of buyers, sellers and tenants. The agents also called for the “Agent Trust Account” to be put in place at the earliest to help further regulate the brokerage industry.

Broker firms in Dubai current employ legal firms to oversee some transactions into the account and help them manage accounts in cases where deposits may have been taken by the agent from the customer.

Najam said: “For us, all the commission earnings go into an account and in cases where we receive a deposit, we take on a solicitor to safeguard the client’s deposit money and see to it that it is secured and the transaction made is accurate.

“We sometimes take a deposit of about five per cent to 10 per cent to lock in a client. The deposit money can either be in cash or cheque. In such a scenario, we usually have a solicitor on board to ensure the transaction is valid.”

According to Alwadiya, Harbor Real Estate has hired a professional legal firm to audit its transactions.

Oil field should boost sector

The discovery of a new offshore oil field is likely to boost Dubai’s economy, although its impact is hard to gauge until its volume is determined, say real estate executives.

With production to begin in 2011, they think the resulting hike in revenue could boost infrastructure development.

“It is hard to tell what impact this will have until we get more information on this,” says Charles Neil, CFO of Landmark Properties. “Then we can judge the impact it will have on finances and infrastructure. More money flowing into the economy will be a positive development. There would be an increase in people to work in production and housing, and revenue flowing in for infrastructure but without barrels per day it’s hard to say.”

Mohanad Alwadiya, managing director of Harbor Real Estate, says the discovery should boost investor confidence, but adds this largely depends on the oil field’s output.”This positive effect will surely rub off on the property market,” he adds.

“Irrespective of the capacity, it can only add to Dubai’s income stream,” says Aditya Awtani of Fine and Country. “The mantra ‘buy on the rumour and sell on the news’ has worked well for many equity traders. However, in the real estate market, especially one that has dropped significantly, investors naturally shall remain on the sidelines until there’s concrete data.”

As the oil field’s production picks up, it will have a positive effect on the property market as well, says Aditya.

“Experts are predicting approximately 10,000 barrels could potentially be pumped via the Al Jalila oil field. If this is to be believed, that would imply, at today’s oil prices, an additional $270 million for Dubai.” This would help reduce the emirate’s budget deficit, he adds.