Escrow and how it can protect you

Off-plan investors urged to take other steps to boost self-protection.

Anybody can open an escrow account, but not anybody can open an escrow account for property development in Dubai.

With Cityscape just around the corner, more people will be considering purchasing their first home or investment property, or expanding an existing investment portfolio by making an off-plan purchase.

An important feature of any off-plan purchase is escrow there are not many people who understand the concept of escrow and how this legally binding arrangement can provide protection to investors.

An escrow is 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 providing the escrow service (bank) until the latter receives formal advice that certain agreed obligations of the seller have been fulfilled, upon which time, the seller can receive funds in the amount specified in the agreement.

The use of escrow accounts by Dubai developers has been mandated by law to protect buyer prepayments. This limits developers from gaining access to funds until certain construction milestones are completed.

Anybody can open an escrow account, but not anybody can open an escrow account for property development in Dubai. The developer must first be registered as a bona fide developer with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) which involves the provision of an expansive array of documents.

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

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

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

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

Buyers need to make sure they are dealing with – a reputable developer regardless if the developer is registered with RERA. Ask around or seek professional guidance.

Warranties and any quality assurance policies should be discussed in detail. Have the sales and-purchase agreement reviewed by a professional to ensure you have legal recourse should any quality issues arise and make the effort to exercise your right to inspect (snag) your property and report any legitimate issues to the developer for rectification. Remember, once you have taken ownership of the property, the developer is obliged to fix any issues for 12 months following the transfer of ownership.

The Essential role of property asset managers

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial property investment

The majority of my clients are comfortable with investing in residential property because most have rented or bought a property for their own use and therefore understand what that experience entails. However, very few have actually had a similar experience with commercial property and, therefore are a little less confident in investing in this potentially lucrative segment of the market.

So, why consider investing in commercial property?

Commercial property can add diversification to a property portfolio. Segments within the Real Estate market rarely move in tandem and a mixture of residential and commercial property can make an overall portfolio more resilient to inevitable market cycles.

All things being equal, commercial properties generally produce an ROI at least double that of residential properties. This is mainly due to lower per sq. ft.capital cost but also reflects the higher levels of risk associated with owning commercial property.

Managing tenants in a commercial property is also more straightforward. You will have a business-to-business relationship with your tenant and many of the emotional issues which can complicate residential leasing arrangements won’t exist. It’s easier to keep interactions professional and focused and relationships are built over time with the opportunity to attract a ‘blue chip’ tenant and are likely to rent your property for a long period of time and less likely to default on rental payments. In many cases, commercial tenants and property owner interests are aligned. The tenant wants an efficient operation which presents a favorable impression to his customers, business associates or peers and, in this way, is more likely to assist the owner maintain or even improve the property.

Establishing a true value of the investment is often easier with commercial property. Reviewing the current owners’ income statement and existing lease details will provide a good indication of the likely future cash-flows and help to establish an accurate valuation. Residential properties are often subject to more emotional pricing or developer inefficiency and cost recovery considerations.

Lease variations abound with commercial properties. The requirements of a tenant operating a high turnover major regional distribution and logistics center for non-perishable goods will be vastly different of those of a tenant who requires refrigerated goods storage to supply local retail outlets in shopping malls. In addition to lease rates and periods, negotiations can include such items as maintenance, implementation of storage and logistical systems, provision of office fit-outs, insurance, lease to buy provisions and options … the list goes on. The variations are countless.
However, there are some possible downsides that the investor should consider.

Let’s use a warehouse as an example. As most commercial leases are of a duration exceeding 2 years, with many being of 5 years duration with options for an additional term of 5 years, it could take some time to find a new tenant for the warehouse. Additionally, your current tenant may vacate due to tough economic conditions. Residential property can be resilient when it comes to economic factors over the long term and finding new tenants is not as difficult.

As the lease for each commercial facility can be negotiated with flexibility only limited by law, owning a portfolio with numerous commercial properties can be time consuming and complicated. You will need professional help if just to handle issues such as maintenance and emergencies. Remember, your clients are in the business to make money and will be relying upon you to address any issues that arise with your property immediately. They, like you, do not want to forgo any revenues or incur any costs because of a problem with the property or premises that you provide.

Purchasing a commercial property of a size that can generate significant cash flow will typically require more capital up front than a residential investment. Also, as the scale or size of the premises can be huge, unexpected repairs or major maintenance items can also be very expensive. This requires careful provisioning for expenses and emergencies when calculating lease rates and free cash-flows for re-investment.

There is a greater array of physical and safety risks associated with commercial properties. Warehouses, for example, are often frequented by trucks, forklifts or other heavy machinery which means damage can be substantial from accidents. Having proper insurance is a must, not only for damage to premises and systems, but also in the event of personal injury or death where you, as the owner, can be held liable. Remember, your investment is actually operating as a commercial venture and can receive high volumes of people traffic.

As usual, greater returns will attract greater risks, however, as part of an overall balanced investment portfolio, there is no doubt that commercial space can be very lucrative indeed.

Published: Gulf News Freehold
Dated: 26-March-2017

Investing in 2017? Five key points to ask

1- HOW MUCH DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT PROPERTY AS AN INVESTMENT?

You must have some knowledge about any investment that you might be considering. Property is no different. The old adage of “Don’t invest in anything you don’t know” applies. You may not be an expert, but you need to be able to communicate intelligently and knowledgeably with the experts.

Do some homework on the industry and gain an understanding of where the industry is now, where it is headed and what is driving its direction and development. Get a feeling of its composition and what it has to offer you in terms of wealth generation opportunities, how you might be able to engage those opportunities and when you envisage starting your foray into the property investing space.

It’s difficult for anybody to accurately assess opportunities and the risks associated with those opportunities if they have little knowledge of what it is they are investing in.

2- ARE YOUR INVESTMENT OBJECTIVES CLEARLY DEFINED AND WELL CONSIDERED?

As with any investment, investing in property is all about recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities that are consistent and supportive to your overall wealth accumulation objectives.

You must have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and what role your property portfolio will play within a larger diversified investment portfolio. What proportion of your total investment portfolio is allocated towards property? towards stocks or bonds? towards gold or commodities? etc.

The only person who can determine what you are trying to achieve is you so be sure you know you’re your objectives are before doing anything.

3- WHAT IS YOUR SOURCE OF FINANCE?

Needless to say, investing in property is often a capital intensive exercise and, depending on your strategy, returns can be subject to relatively long lead times. A sufficient and robust finance plan is essential.

What is your source of finance and where do the greatest risks lie in the event of an economic downturn or change in circumstances?  How liquid might you need to be? How exposed will you be to interest rate increases and or exchange rate fluctuations? What level of gearing or leverage are you comfortable with? Will you be able to preserve capital invested in your property portfolio during cyclical swings in the market or will you need to move capital among portfolios?

All these questions (and many more) need to be addressed and the more skillful you are at conceptualizing your wealth generation schematic, the greater your likelihood of generating successful strategies to grow your wealth.

4- DO YOU HAVE A FINANCIAL ADVISOR? (THAT YOU TRUST)

I always recommend that clients consult with a financial advisor prior to embarking upon the purchase of a property.

Investing in property requires careful planning and a clear understanding of what it will entail; the effects it will have on lifestyle, the risks it may pose, the stresses that may emerge while, at the same time, the benefits of generating wealth in, what can be,  a very lucrative industry . A financial advisor can help you understand and assess all these elements by helping you determine what you actually need to do (or do without) to achieve your objectives.

Ask yourself if you know definitively what you can afford, how best to use available finance, how to accurately assess alternative investment options, how best to utilize your current assets and how investing in real estate is going to enable you to grow your wealth in the future. A financial advisor will view your investment as one part of your overall financial landscape and should be able to guide you into committing the right type and the right amount of resources to acquiring that dream home that everybody aspires to.

As with any investment, investing in property is all about recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities that are consistent and supportive to your overall wealth accumulation objectives.

5- DO YOU HAVE A TEAM OF PROFESSIONALS (THAT YOU TRUST) WHO CAN ASSIST YOU IN YOUR QUEST?

Are you able to identify, engage and work with a professional in the industry? Do you have the skill to select the right agency? Do you know what separates professionals that will provide you with tangible added value rather than simply line their pockets with your money? It’s up to you to choose wisely and remember, cheapest is not always best.

Do you know where to find an experienced and passionate team with people who really enjoy what they are doing? An agency that exhibits a breadth and depth of industry knowledge and expertise? This is important.

Look for longevity and evidence of good relationships with key industry stakeholders such as the major developers or authorities such as the   Dubai Land Department, RERA, DEWA or Economic Department.

And finally, look for an agency that has received some form of Industry or peer recognition. These are the hardest plaudits to get!

The YEAR 2016 WAS NOT JUST ABOUT OIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then of course, there was Brexit, the effects of which will be as diverse as they will be complex… if only they can figure out how to do it! Experts are still unsure as to  how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything from the European geo-political and socio-economic landscape, the strength and resilience of the European Union in the face of further discontent within its member states, the social and economic ramifications to a newly  “independent” United Kingdom and the inevitable question as to whether the United Kingdom can remain united given the Scottish and  Northern Island  wishes to continue as part of the EU.  The pound has plummeted and is likely to remain subdued for some time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESCROW AND HOW IT CAN PROTECT YOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The confluence of global shifts and market demand

The confluence of global shifts and market demand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The_race_for_the_sky_is_not_over_in_Dubai

The race for the sky is not over in Dubai

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Published in Gulf News Freehold

It is the beauty, grandeur and special significance of landmarks and monuments that continue to withstand the ravages of time – characteristics which make them timeless in appeal, and transform them into global icons.

Not to be missed, of course, are the socio-cultural impact and economic benefits of having monuments and landmarks in a place, city or country. After all, their building or restoration already spurs economic activity and, with the end product, can lead to some form of socio-cultural revitalization.

Every nation or great city has some symbolic architectural icon which helps define either the history, vision, cultural values or characteristics of the people that inhabit it… whether it be the Statue of Liberty in New York, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, The Shard in London, The Sydney Opera House, or even St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow… they are all symbols, and all of us have grown to accept those structures to be symbolic, in some way, of the cultures that they uniquely represent.

Dubai’s dynamic, ever-changing landscape, a constant in the continuously developing emirate, is a characteristic of the city known the world over. From the opulent halls of the Burj Al Arab and the graceful fronds of the Palm Jumeirah, to the tallest skyscraper that is Burj Khalifa, the architectural and engineering feats Dubai is famous for seem to have no limits. Areas which were once all desert and sand are now teeming with people, businesses, and bustling with tourists.

Such achievements in the field of architecture and engineering prove how important property development is to real estate, and to the general economy. Emaar Properties, one of the UAE’s most respected property developers, after delivering established communities such as Arabian Ranches, Emirates Living, and Dubai Marina, has played a significant role in establishing the bedrock for supporting the lifestyle that Dubai offers today. But all that was eclipsed when it delivered its flagship development, Downtown Dubai, home to the iconic Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall and The Dubai Fountain. Not only did it provide what is now the world’s leading lifestyle destination, but it also reshaped Dubai’s skyline forever, and gave it a profile which is recognized around the world. And that skyline is about to change significantly, once again, with the recent announcement of the construction of a stunning new architectural icon, their latest exciting development.

The icon will simply be known as “The Tower” and its design was chosen by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, a design which draws inspiration from the lily and evokes the image of a minaret, which is a common feature and distinctive aspect of Islamic culture and architecture.

The location of The Tower is an important reminder of Dubai’s past as it will be constructed on the Dubai Creek, the cradle of Dubai’s history and culture. This astute choice of location will forever mark the origin of Dubai and remind all of the humble beginnings of what has now become a remarkable story of vision and growth, amply demonstrated by the 6 square kilometers of world-class master-planned development that will have The Tower as its centerpiece.

Not only is the site historically significant, but it is also located in close proximity to the Ras Al Khor National Wildlife Sanctuary, protected under the UNESCO Ramsar Convention, and home to over 67 species of water birds.

And, as with all great icons, The Tower has a reason for being, and is envisioned to be of symbolic significance to, not only Dubai and the UAE, but to global visitors hailing from all across the world. Once The Tower is finished and unveiled in time for Expo 2020, taking inspiration from the Eiffel Tower which was built for the 1889 Paris Expo, it is envisioned to become another global landmark surpassing the boundaries time and culture.

As an iconic structure, The Tower will provide a clear and bold symbol of a people’s culture, aspirations and ambitions. It will be representative of a vision of progress that has global relevance and benefit demonstrated through innovation, growth and development.

Dubai`s appeal to Indian investors

Dubai`s appeal to Indian investors

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Expert Eye – Gulf News

A lot of Indian investors are expected to flock to the International Property Show which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from April 11-13. Being the top Dubai property investor segment based on nationality, investing more than AED 20 billion in 2015, the Indian expat community has had a longstanding relationship with the emirate (and the rest of the UAE) in terms of business and real estate.

But why is Dubai property so popular with the Indian people? The reasons offered are not really surprising, and essentially summarize why investing in Dubai property has had significant appeal for, not just Indian investors, but for investors from every corner of the world.

Ease and efficiency

Compared to most countries in the world, investing in the real estate sector of Dubai is relatively easy. Enlist a reputable brokerage, select your desired property, negotiate a price, write the necessary checks and the property will be yours. Bureaucracy, which makes investing in other countries in the world such a pain, is virtually non-existent and, as long as you follow procedural requirements, your property transaction will be processed efficiently and without undue delays.

Superior value

When compared to the major Indian cities, or major cities round the world, Dubai offers increasingly better value. A modern infrastructure that is continually being developed, a renewed focus on affordable housing, and world-leading rental yields, the value that is inherent in Dubai property is hard to beat in India, or any other country in the world for that matter.

Tax-free rental yields  

Put simply, there are not many real estate markets in the world where an investor can enjoy an average 7% yield without paying any local taxes. So, net of service charges, maintenance costs and property management fees, the rent that you charge your tenants goes straight into your wallet without the taxman taking his share. And with the cost of finance remaining reasonably low, the interest charge on any borrowings you may have will be easily covered by the rent that is being yielded by your property leaving more free cash flow to pay down your principal.

Absence of capital gains tax

In addition, capital gains are not taxed upon disposal of the asset which makes investing in Dubai property a very lucrative addition to any investment portfolio as, when taken with a long-term view, investing in Dubai property will provide handsome returns on investment. So, from a total returns point of view, there are few better real estate investments than Dubai property.

World-class infrastructure and security

Many times, investments that provide such lucrative returns are normally associated with excessive risks or poor infrastructure. This is not the case in Dubai. Dubai’s focus has been on developing a world-leading infrastructure for the benefit of commerce, trade, tourism and habitation. The remarkable progress that has been made in opening Dubai up for business, implementing the physical, digital and logistical infrastructures, legal framework and economic policies in the post-recession period has been pretty impressive.

Strong global brand

Dubai as a real estate and commercial hub has captured the imagination of the world, and there is no better barometer of this that the burgeoning tourism industry. Investments in economic revenue generating sectors such as the entertainment and hospitality sectors have ensured that Dubai is increasingly being included in the bucket lists of travelers from all over the world.

Economic entrepreneurialism

Dubai excels in the area of “economic entrepreneurialism.” Already well-known for conducting globally attended exhibitions, there is no greater example than the upcoming Global Expo which Dubai will be hosting in 2020 – an event that the emirate is preparing for with great care.

Multicultural and cosmopolitan society

Once considered just a pit stop for expats that fulfilled employment contracts of limited duration, more and more people have decided to settle down and call Dubai “home.” This change in outlook has had a dramatic effect on the stability of the property market and the development of a society that, while incredibly diverse, is also less transient and more committed to the development of the emirate as a long-term lifestyle solution.

As one looks around the city, one sees many faces hailing from the four corners of the world, and words, both familiar and unfamiliar, echo in the streets and byways. And while there has always been a vibrant and strong Indian community, other communities representing other nationalities are developing rapidly, making it easier for new expats to make the decision to make Dubai their new home.

History has proven that strong nations were built upon such diversity. Armed with this knowledge and the resources the emirate has been so richly endowed, Dubai continues to forge onward with a vision of better things to come.

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Gulf News Freehold – Ask The Agent

I own an apartment in Dubai. I got a new tenant and increased its rent but I cannot raise it further according to the rental index. The market seems to have peaked. Should I sell it?

Yes, there is price correction, but we are far removed from experiencing a long-term trend. Looking over the next five years, we expect the market to achieve an average price growth of around 7%. Bear in mind that we are talking averages here and popular areas have a habit of outperforming the average. It really comes down to alternatives. If you have identified an alternative investment to give you a better income stream and capital return than what you expect to receive in five years from your apartment, then the right decision may be to sell. However, if you have not, hold on to the property. You will continue to receive at least a 5-7% net rental return and achieve around 7% per annum capital growth in the future.

Why is it that the rents of not so new apartments in some areas remain high? The rates in these areas did not fall as much when recession struck and when rents increased, their rents also increased fast. How come?

The value of a particular location is usually derived from the levels of pleasure, lifestyle convenience, security, harmony, future economic value or even status that can be derived from the property. Whether it is a spectacular view (sea, lake and others) or proximity to public transport, business districts, entertainment, dining, schools or hospitals, the perceived benefits that a location may bring to a prospective tenant can account for up to 90%, Areas close to the beach and entertainment venues as well as properties located close to/within. Downtown Dubai or the business district will command a location premium. Most potential tenants consider a view as a key factor for their house to be enjoyed.

I think that l am paying excessive service charges. Getting access to information that might prove my suspicions is difficult. Is my OA obliged to provide me with information?

Attending owners association (OA) meetings and requesting details on the service charges would be the logical place to start and they are obliged to address your query. Remember, the purpose of the OA is to manage, operate and maintain the common areas, virtually all of the “owner shared” elements of the building. They do this by appointing contractors with the expertise to carry out the required tasks and set a service charge that all owners must pay to cover the cost of the contractor services. The OA is a “not for profit” business entity in its own right with the powers to operate a bank account, sue (or be sued), purchase, own and dispose of assets and enter legally binding agreements. You can request and view the financial statements of the association to ensure the charges you are paying are justified and correct.

Reports are saying that the market has slowed and prices are correcting. Is it a good time to buy?

Picking the exact timing is difficult. Start your property search immediately as this kind of investment requires the same approach regardless of the state of the market. Know what you can afford. If you have the cash, pay for it outright, but you can always take a mortgage. Think carefully about location, surrounding infrastructure, construction quality, developer reputation and building amenities. If you have close access to the Metro, even better. Also consider the effectivity of the OA, service charges and the quality of maintenance services as these affect the long-term value of your investment. Be purposeful, persistent, patient and pragmatic in your approach and you are well on the way to making a very sound investment decision. However, if you decide to rent, there are also great deals. With robust tenant protection legislation and a rental index to limit your exposure to increases, your rights will be recognised.

The property market seems to swing in favour of buyers and investors. Where do you believe the best investment opportunities are likely to appear?

Definitely in, the affordable segment of the market. We are encouraging clients to invest in this segment as it has great opportunities.

Excellent examples, of high performing yet affordable developments are the Skycourts and Queue Point communities in Dubailand. These have seen excellent capital growth.

Demand for this type of affordable housing will continue to grow and we expect other developments that are located close to the two communities to benefit as well, especially as Dubai’s population swells in the run-up to the Expo and the demand for affordable housing increases.

A smart move would be to invest in an apartment and retain ownership for at least five years as I am confident that you will benefit from superior capital growth and enjoy very healthy net annual rental return in the meantime.

In addition, consider looking at the apartments in Sarah Ajmal and Windsor Residence. They are all expected to perform very well as the demand for affordable properties continues to grow.

Of course, there are the established areas such as Remraam, International City, Discovery Gardens and International Media Production Zone, while the Town Square project is one to watch out for.