Ask The Agent

Mohanad Alwadiya CEO, Harbor Real Estate

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

It depends on an accurate estimation of construction timelines which are invariably fluid, and the demand for real estate assets due to Dubai’s growing population that is largely driven by overall economic growth going forward. In addition, it needs to comprehend a lag effect from the time the conditions conducive to development are identified by developers and when properties are finally released to the market. Given that the economy of the emirate is expected to grow at an estimated 5+ percent annually for the remainder of the decade, and initiatives such as the Expo 2020 are expected to generate an additional 270,000 jobs, the demand for housing and commercial facilities is expected to grow significantly. Much of the city’s planning comprehends the number of people living in the emirate to grow to 3.4 million by 2020, a 7 percent annual increase from today’s 2.25 million.

What property characteristics should I, as a buyer, pay close attention to in order to minimise any risks associated with my investment decision?

Location is the first factor to consider as it can drive up a property’s value. Prestigious locations like Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina fared well in the post-GFC period, and affordable areas such as Jumeirah Lakes Towers, The Greens, Dubai Sports City, Discovery Gardens and International City followed suit. But there are other factors as well. The quality of the end-product and infrastructure, maintenance services, and the extent of completion must also be part of any consideration. Value for money and superior ROl must be considered if you are an investment buyer. Current and future supply levels of various asset types need to be examined. However, it is the fundamental drivers of market values which remain: location, product quality, features and benefits, and demand and supply.

We’re a startup company looking for an office space with the best value. Should we rent or buy?

At this stage, you need to keep costs down until you become fully established in the market. The old cliché “location, location, location” is all about the convenience and prestige it can bring to any business. Great value, affordable and well-constructed office spaces may be found in a particular area, but these may not work for you if the location is a hindrance to your operations. We always advocate businesses acquiring their own premises if they commit to operating long term in Dubai. There is no tax advantage in leasing in the UAE, and as long as your office space is appreciating, your balance sheet will grow stronger over time. If you decide to lease your premises, look for the best deal and lock it in for at least three to five years. Lease rates will soon increase going forward, so make sure you take advantage of current rates.

We purchased a villa in Dubai in 2010. Instead of continuing to rent it out, my husband and I decided to sell it. How do we find a good seller’s agent?

There is a large number of licenced real estate brokers in Dubai and the UAE. Finding the right agent to sell your property is something you need to pay close attention to because getting the best person is crucial to how quickly you can make a sale without compromising on your agreed-upon expectations. Factors such as years of experience in the UAE market, track record of success, in-depth understanding of market trends, area expertise, client testimonials, level of commitment, passion, dedication, professionalism and honesty are important. He/ she should also be a duly licenced RERA-certified real estate broker. Before committing to any realtor, make a list of all the questions you want answered first and see how they respond as doing so will help you gauge whether or not giving him/her your business is the best thing for you and your husband, and your property.

Question of the Week

What sort of documents are required after accepting an offer to buy my property?

The first (and most important) step is to prepare and sign an MOU which contains all the details and timing particulars of the offer. The buyer has to sign the MOU after reviewing its provisions. As with all legal documents, get a proficient broker or legal representative to draft the MOU for you. You also need to sign “Form F,” a contract between the buyer and seller. Ensure that the buyer and/or the relevant representative has their respective identification and/or authorisations so payments have been satisfactorily arranged. Step 2 will require the receipt of a “No Objection Certificate” from the developer. Step 3 is to pay the final utility bills so that the account is cleared and ready to be taken over by the new owner. If there’s a tenant, you will need to sort out any outstanding rent or payment details. Step 4 will require you to go to the Dubai Land Department offices or a trustee registration office together with the buyer and all relevant parties, and conduct the final transfer. Transfer of ownership will take place at the DLD with all monies owed by the buyer to you to be presented as part of the transfer procedure. Although the above procedure appears simple enough, I recommend you engage a professional to handle the transaction process for you. You will be surprised how little issues, many not foreseeable to the inexperienced, can delay the satisfactory settlement of your property sale.

Ask The Agent

Mohanad Alwadiya

CEO, Harbor Real Estate

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

Your landlord needs to give you a notice of increase at least 90 days prior to contract expiry. You should familiarise yourself with Law No. 43 which introduced the following restrictions (summarized) with regard to legally allowable rental increases: There should not be any rent increase if the rent for the real estate alit is no more than 10 percent below the average rent that a similar property commands within a neighborhood; The annual rent increases can range from 5 up to 20 percent according to how much the current rent s less than the market average, The market average rates are to be determined by the RERA rental index. The implementation of Law No. 43 is necessary to safeguard consumer interest, the overall industry and the economy at large from unjustifiable rental increases on existing rental contracts.

What documents do I need to provide so I can arrange for an agency to market and sell my villa? Give a proof of identity, usually a passport and/or Emirates ID, and a copy of the original sales and purchase agreement to be verified with the Dubai Land Department (DLD). If the property is leased, provide details of the lease agreement including the status of outstanding payments and any information pertaining to the history with the tenant. Also, provide the status of payments of service and owners association charges. The agency will sit and consult with you as to what your requirements are and prepare for you a letter of engagement which will contain the details of what you require from the agency and what fees have been mutually agreed upon. If you are located overseas and like an agency to represent you, you need to provide a power of attorney detailing the extent to which you would like the agency’s representation in the various facets of marketing and selling your property.

What property features should I prioritise when listing my apartment for sale?

If you have a listing agent or are already working with a realtor, they would know exactly what characteristics of your property should be highlighted to make it stand out from the rest and be highly marketable. But the most important features that will make or break your goal to sell your apartment include the fact that it must be competitively priced or paced just right for the market, its location or proximity to landmarks and important infrastructure such as transportation links and commercial districts, size, building facilities and community amenities, duality and current physical condition, whether or not it is being handled by a professional property management firm, or fully paid or financed. Also, make sure you mention any improvements done, and if it has special features such as a nice view, balcony, closed kitchen or extra storage.

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

Question of the Week

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

Whether you are buying ready or off-plan property, market fundamentals still apply. Make sure that an off-plan purchase is consistent with your property portfolio strategy. Location can never be disregarded. Considerations regarding how close the project is to commercial, educational and leisure hubs, medical and health facilities, public infrastructure, popular and established communities, and the manifold views one can enjoy all add up to the desirability of a property’s location. The asset type is also important. What type of asset will be in demand in the future: affordable apartments, townhouses or villas? Be smart about the “product” that you buy. Look for certain property types in locations which you believe will be keenly sought in the future. You need to do some careful financial analysis which will enable you to determine the value of the discount that you anticipate receiving by buying off-plan. Easy payment plans can ensure you limit your capital exposure before completion. Also, you need to be conversant with financial concepts such as net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR) to guide you in the decision-making process when assessing your alternatives.

Equilibrium now further away for Dubai market

Developers in Dubai will be happy with their 2017 results, with over 70% of all transactions in Dubai in 2017 being in the off-plan space, their efforts have been well rewarded.

In a year where over 69,000 real estate transactions were recorded, with a total value exceeding Dh285 billion, real estate transactions in 2017 eclipsed the 41,776 deals achieved in 2016 which represented a total value of Dh259 billion.

Winning the hearts and minds of real estate investors has never been easy. In recent years, certainly post 2008, buying off-plan would have been viewed with more circumspection as the prospect of buying finished property that would able to yield cash flow in the form of rental income virtually immediately would have been considered a less risky prospect than relying on developer platitudes regarding construction timelines.

In addition, attracting the buyers in the affordable segment has always been challenging as the purchaser tends to be more pragmatic, governed more by fiscal realities than emotion or ego. Developers needed to broaden and deepen their customer understandings and develop greater empathy for a segment that had really been neglected in the past.

So, the foray by developers into the affordable segment was accompanied by an increasingly attractive array of successfully marketed financing offers which were designed to garner an increasing proportion of available investor capital into the off-plan property space. After all, new customers have different needs requiring new strategies and tactics.

While these new tactics may have been treated with suspicion in the past, the industry has matured from the heady days of flipping, speculation, false promises and minimal accountability with the regulatory changes imposed on developers to ensure the rights of investors are protected making offerings in the off-plan space appear less risky in nature.

So, faced with a market nervous about global and regional geo-political and economic events, the imposition of a VAT, the distraction of alternative “new world” investments such as cryptocurrencies, along with burgeoning oversupply in the highly competitive and lower margin per unit affordable segment, developers, requiring greater sales volumes to achieve financial viability, needed to get financially creative to make their affordable offerings even more affordable and accessible for end users and financially more attractive for investors.

Inevitably, the amount of capital shifting from the traditional secondary market to the off-plan market created in a capital allocation imbalance, resulting in declining demand for finished properties. Interestingly, capital allocation was really the issue, as supply was quite healthy in 2017, with mortgages financing over 50% of transactions. It wasn’t that long ago that mortgages made up less than 30% of total transactions, extremely low by global standards.

So, as we enter 2018, we are faced with a familiar situation. The market is, once again, is moving further away from the equilibrium that we are all seeking.

The focus of developers to satisfy the requirements of an emerging affordable segment has been overdone, putting pressure on prices, yields and growth in across the industry.

To suggest a reversal or redirection of capital to the more expansive segments is likely in the short term is mere wishful thinking. The only way to address the issues facing todays market is to ensure that the long awaited and much speculated upon Expo inspired surge in demand transpires or to find other ways to expand the capital pool.

One initiative to do just that is in its final stages of planning. Looking to attract an even greater number of overseas investors, a series of roadshows will be held targeting key overseas markets such as India, China, Russia and the USA with the sole purpose of making investors in these countries to understand the benefits of investing in Dubai.

The schedule for the events is close to completion with events in Amman and Kuwait scheduled for late March to be followed by Cairo in April, Beijing in May, and Moscow in July before visiting London in September, Chicago and Dallas in October and wrapping up the tour in Mumbai does in December.

The importance of initiatives such as these cannot be overstated and The Dubai Land Department, realising the importance of increasing industry demand is pushing hard with this initiative.

Despite UAE investors leading the 2017 nationality rankings of investors in Dubai real estate, Indian investors continue hold second place and remain extremely important to the industry. Saudis came in third place followed by the British, who have dropped down the rankings in recent years due to uncertainty around Brexit and a decline in value of the British Pound. The Chinese are emerging rapidly as active investors in Dubai and still hold the greatest potential for foreign investment.

Foreign investors, almost 23,000 in number made approximately 30,000 transactions worth Dh56 billion in 2017. The local market’s reliance on foreign investment continues and, outside the Gulf region, there are huge opportunities to increase the awareness of what benefits the Dubai market continues to offer, not least of which, is the potential yields of 7-11 percent which are unheard of in much of the developed world.

So, the race continues … to win the hearts and minds of the global investment community.

ASK-THE-AGENT-4Nov17

Ask the agent

Gulf News Saturday, November 4, 2017
FREEHOLD
By: Mohanad Alwadiya CEO, Harbor Real Estate

I was advised to hire a property agent to get a better deal. They show what they have and say what others offer are not good. Are they being truthful?

The real estate market, like any sales-oriented industry, is a tough place to operate in since everyone is out to make a sale for themselves. So having observed the behaviour you mentioned, it would benefit you a lot to ensure you are dealing with a reputable agency with qualified professional agents. Since embarking on a real estate investment venture is a major decision you will have to make, it would be worth your while to do a little research, or ask people with some real estate know-how as to which companies have established themselves well in the industry. You may also want to have a look at the Dubai Land Department’s Brokers App, which shows you a ranked list of approved brokers in Dubai and could assist you greatly in picking out the agency that will work with you and for you.

Where can people go and discuss, or lodge a complaint against a property developer?

It is a fact that issues related to property transactions and deals (tenant vs. landlord, buyer vs. developer, buyer vs. broker) cannot be avoided; thus, authorities have come up with platforms where complainants can air their grievances. The Government of Dubai has made a web portal called “eComplain” available on the Dubai Government website.

Through the said portal, customers may lodge a complaint and if the matter involves a specific government department, the complaint is routed to the appropriate government entity for further action and resolution.

But in order to deal with real estate matters directly, any issues or complaints involving property industry stakeholders, in this case, a developer, need to be referred to the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) if the parties involved have failed to come to an amicable arrangement regarding the issue in question.

Who is responsible for the upkeep of leased premises? Is there no scope for natural wear and tear in lease contracts?

The landlord is responsible for the general maintenance of a leased property unless the parties have agreed otherwise in the contract. The owner is also responsible for taking care of any defects or faults that affect the tenant’s use of the property.

However, sometimes the landlord may also transfer responsibility for maintenance to the tenant as it may happen in the case of some commercial leases (Article 16, Law No. 26 of 2007).

Natural wear and tear is taken into consideration by law (Article 21, Law No. 26 of 2007) though upon the expiry of the lease, it is assumed that the tenant will return the property to the landlord in the condition that the property was in at the beginning of the tenancy.

We are very unhappy with the facilities management services in our building. What recourse do we have when the landlord is unable to offer a solution?

In Article 16 of Law No. 26 of 2007, it states that “Landlord shall, during validity of the tenancy contract, be liable for undertaking maintenance of the property and shall rectify any defects or faults that affect tenant’s intended benefit from the property, unless the two parties agree otherwise.”

The law very clearly states that property upkeep and repair is a responsibility of the landlord. The Rental Dispute Settlement Centre, which is the judiciary arm of the Dubai Land Department (DLD), would be your last recourse in case you have already exerted effort to properly communicate the matter to the landlord and/or the property manager to no avail. It hears complaints and provides solutions in a transparent and efficient manner.

Ensure though that you bring with you the required documents when filing a case.

Question of the Week

Now that protecting the environment and sustainability have become essential considerations across various sectors, are there rules to encourage builders to promote human and environmental health?

The already existing Article 7 of the Dubai Municipality’s Decree No. 66 of 2003 involves the selection of glazing for facades with the objective to minimise solar thermal heat gains. However, the article does not provide for penalties in terms of non-compliance.

A Mandatory Progression programme was introduced in 2008 with an objective to ensure new buildings meet “green” standards.

A more current development, however, is the introduction of the “Al Safat” green building rating system. The rating system applies to all types of buildings including residential, commercial, industrial and others.

The four classifications are platinum, gold, silver and bronze (in descending order), and the system requires new buildings taking permits from September 1, 2016 to meet requirements for bronze certification at a minimum.

Old buildings will have to be retrofitted to meet the minimum requirements.

Meanwhile, buildings that have previously acquired green building certification will need to apply again to be Al Safat certified.

Send in your property issue-related questions to be answered by industry experts, mentioning Ask the Agent’ in the subject line, to: properties@gulfnews.corn

ASK THE AGENT

Which would be a better investment, buying a townhouse or an apartment?

In the UAE where there is a great deal of variation in the properties on offer, making a choice becomes all the more difficult for those who are new to property investment. The market rarely moves uniformly. There is always a difference in the investment returns to be expected from different asset types, in different areas, at different stages of completion, over different periods of time, being completed by different developers. Invest in affordable apartments or construct a portfolio of affordable apartments and townhouses, and even villas, as the case may be. But do take note of the keyword here which is “affordable.” There are many projects scattered all over the country that are filling the affordable housing void. These offer high quality, reasonably priced and extremely spacious homes with the potential to provide excellent returns as affordable housing will continue to be in demand.

 

I want to give my tenant a one-year notice to vacate the flat. Is there a format and any other formalities?

You need a valid reason for requesting the tenant to vacate the premises. Has the tenant breached the tenancy agreement? Has the tenant broken the law by utilising the premises for an unlawful purpose? Do you want to sell the property or occupy it yourself? if the tenant has breached the agreement or broken the law in some way, you must serve a 30-day notary public notice. It must clearly state why the tenant is being given the notice. If the tenant does not respond to the request, you can go to the Rental Dispute Settlement Center and request an eviction order. If you want to sell the property or use it yourself, you need to give a 12-month notice stating your intention through the notary public. The notice should be delivered by courier. Keep a record of the delivery report as evidence of receipt by the tenant if he refutes receiving your notice.

 

I am interested in working for a real estate broker as I have experience in the US. Can you please advise.

Since the UAE market is unique while sharing some general characteristics with global real estate hubs, I suggest you join a company that will enable you to fast-track your learning and mastery of the UAE property market. Go for a full service company to gain a greater understanding of what the local real estate business is all about, who the key players are and the procedures you need to be familiar with. The company you choose should be prepared to invest in you by providing you with the types of learning experiences that come with formal training (mandatory to become a licenced agent in Dubai) and in-house training. This may involve being assigned to a mentor, being placed on an internal rotation scheme to enable a broader knowledge of the business, or being given special projects that will facilitate learning. Firms that invest in high-potential people typically succeed. Surround yourself with people who are passionate about the industry.

 

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

Initially, your landlord needs to give you the notice of increase at least 90 days prior to the expiration of your current contract. You should familiarise yourself with Law No. 43 which introduced the following restrictions (summarised) with regard to legally allowable rental increases:

  • There should not be any rent increase if the rent for the real estate unit is no more than 10 per cent below the average rent that a similar property commands within a neighbourhood
  • The annual rent increases can range from 5 up to 20 per cent according to how much the current rent is less than the market average
  • The market average rates are to be determined by the RERA rental index

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

 

Question of the Week

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

It all depends on what interest rate you are paying on your mortgage, and what return you could expect if you invested elsewhere. If you can achieve a return greater than your mortgage interest rate, then you should invest the cash elsewhere and take advantage of the low mortgage rate you will be getting. There are some very attractive mortgage products in the market, with a few mortgage providers offering rates for as low as 3.99 per cent or even 3.49 per cent. If you have a mortgage with such a low interest rate, it would not be too difficult to find an investment that will yield in excess of your mortgage rate. For example, you may consider investing in an apartment which will provide you with a net annual cash flow of 5 per cent, and over a period of five years, an annual capital appreciation of anywhere between 5 per cent and 7 per cent. This would be a more lucrative allocation of your cash. If, however, you are not confident about achieving a return on your cash that exceeds your mortgage rate, then I suggest you pay down your mortgage outright as you will definitely be able to save on interest costs.

ASK THE AGENT

I have accumulated a portfolio of apartments and villas in Dubai. Is there still a way to make any profit during this slowdown period?

There are too many investors who are under the illusion that investing in property is almost a “set and forget” proposition, but nothing could be further from the truth. The property industry is incredibly dynamic and requires constant attention as factors influencing its performance as an investment are as broad as they are complex. Investing in property is no different from investing in any other assets. Its purpose is to create wealth but it needs to be nurtured and managed just like any other investments. With a portfolio this large, you need professional help to manage your investment, particularly during times when yield is harder to generate. You need a good property manager who will ensure that you maximise returns from your property portfolio and enable your long-term strategy to be realised.

 

We’re a new company looking for an office space with the best value. Should we rent or buy?

At this stage, you need to keep costs down until you become fully established in the market. The old cliché “location, location, location” is all about the convenience and prestige it can bring to any business. For instance, great value, affordable and well-constructed office spaces are found in areas like Business Bay, but may not work for your business if the location is a hindrance to your operations. We always advocate businesses acquiring their own premises if they commit to operating long term in Dubai. There is no tax advantage in leasing in the UAE and as long as your office space is appreciating, your balance sheet will grow stronger over time. If you decide to lease your premises, look for the best deal and lock it in for at least three to five years. Lease rates in Dubai will soon increase, going forward, so make sure you take advantage of current rates.

 

How do I know if my property consultant is giving me the correct advice?

In any relationship, trust is key. Do some research to verify the veracity of his claims and assertions. If in doubt, seek alternatives as there are plenty of property consultants out there hungry for your business. Look for experience and passion. Ask friends who recently conducted a real estate transaction and listen to their feedback. Find a consultant that exhibits a breadth and depth of industry knowledge, and expertise. Look for an agency that has been in the industry for a long time and has built good relationships with major developers or authorities such as DLD, RERA, DEWA or DED for they will be able to operate more efficiently. And finally, look for an agency that has received some form of industry or peer recognition as they lend credence to the reputation of the realtor in question.

 

I come from overseas and I am looking to rent a home. I heard about “district cooling.” What exactly does it mean?

District cooling for the provision of chilled water has emerged globally as a way to provide cooling to buildings in a more environmentally sensitive way. It is considered to provide great benefits in the long run and helps save on the costs of electricity. Most units serviced by chilled water district cooling are offered at slightly lower rental rates. However, ask how your cooling charges will be calculated and which are included in the cost. As to consumption charges, I assume you will have a BTU metre installed in your apartment. If so, you will be billed directly by the cooling services provider. The DEWA savings will be offset somewhat as you may incur an additional utility charge as some unit owners equipped with district cooling will be passed on the slightly higher utility charges involving the remuneration of the capital cost of providing the infrastructure.

 

Question of the Week

I am looking at the UAE as a possible destination for retirement. I would like to buy a property here, rent it out initially and later use it myself. Any advice?

The key to choosing your property is determining the right balance between the amount to be invested, the returns you require in the interim period before you retire, and what type of property you want to enjoy during your retirement. The good news here is your tastes are likely to be shared by your tenants in the interim so renting it out should not be a problem. There are many quality properties available; however, if you want to purchase in the prime areas of Dubai, either in Downtown Dubai or somewhere close to the beach or with a golf course view, the amount is double or triple. You can expect a minimum net rental return of around 5 to 7 percent which, given the cheap financing available at the moment, makes for a solid investment in preparation for outright ownership and retirement. Be careful with fluctuations in exchange rates. Factors such as location, the developer’s record and reputation, quality, service fees, building management and a functioning owners association will require a reputable local real estate professional to help minimise risks in your investment, whether during the procurement stage or until you are ready to assume occupancy.

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

Ask the Agent

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulfnews
Dated: November, 2016

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

Initially, your landlord needs to give you the notice of increase at least 90 days prior to the expiration of your current contract. You should familiarise yourself with Law No. 43 which
introduced the following restrictions (summarised) with regard to legally allowable rental increases:
• There should not be any rent increase if the rent for the real estate unit is no more than 10% below the average rent that a similar property commands within a neighbourhood
• The annual rent increases can range from 5 up to 20 per cent according to how much the current rent is less than the market average
• The market average rates are to be determined by the RERA rental index

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

WHY I LOVE AMUSEMENT PARKS…

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

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

ask-the-agent-oct-16

Ask the agent

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulf News
Dated: October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

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

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

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

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

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