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

Mortgage trend continues this year

There has been a very pleasing trend that we first noticed in 2016 which is yet another demonstration of the development and maturation of Dubai’s Real Estate industry.

The marked increase in the utilization of mortgages to purchase properties in the emirate demonstrates a market that has undergone a structural shift to supply more affordable properties and the maturation of buyers in structuring their financial affairs to obtain a mortgage and buy the home of their dreams.

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

This is great news for several reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Essential role of property asset managers

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

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

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

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

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

2017 … THE YEAR IS ALMOST HALF OVER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the economic environment will improve from this time forward. Put simply, Dubai needs people to support an economy that is expected to grow at an estimated annual average of 5% for the remainder of the decade and to deliver initiatives such as the 2020 World Expo. The Expo alone is expected to generate an additional 270,000 jobs and drive demand for housing and commercial facilities that, by and large, don’t currently exist. Much of the city’s planning comprehends the number of people living in the emirate to grow to 3.4million people by 2020, a 7% annual increase from today’s population of 2.25million.

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

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

While it appears that the market may have been overburdened with a glut of new launches raising the prospect of an oversupply, the structural shift towards more affordable housing will not only serve to accommodate the expected rapid population growth associated with the 2020 expo, but also serve as an important factor in the development of the Dubai economy overall. Every emerging economy needs to develop a strong middle class as its expansion is critical to growing a sustainable economy and developing resilience in the face of external financial and economic shocks.

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

 

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

THINGS THAT SUCCESSFUL INVESTORS DON’T DO!

I have been lucky in my professional life to have met and worked with some very successful investors. While I have found each to be different in personality, style and even investment philosophy, there are some attitudes, traits and perspectives that are shared among the most successful investors I have had the privilege to have met.

Thinking back to many interesting discussions I have had with these people … some of whom are my most loyal and respected clients … there a several things that I have not seen from this group of achievers. This is what separates them from the rest.

Never sink into negativity!!

I have rarely heard my successful investors project a negative stance about anything in their professional life. This is not to say that they support every philosophy, concept or idea and they will also not accept an occurrence which is contrary to what they think should have happened.

But instead of expressing such a negative emotion as hate, they continue to think positively and seek positives from a situation or take a positive approach to remedying that which they do not agree with. As a result, the dialogue is always positive, creating an environment positivity, proactivity and energy directed towards progress.

Taking this approach also helps to create a pleasant, purposeful and fruitful environment in which to work and helps to maintain or even build esteem and confidence among those that can contribute to achieving exceptional results. It promotes objectivity, focus and decisiveness.

Never assume the world is fair!!

The world is not a fair place, never has been and never will be, and successful investors understand, embrace and accept that. This allows them to be immune from the negativity that can arise when an individual feels hard done by or cheated. It also allows them to plan, create contingencies and maintain a positive attitude when a seemingly unfair occurrence occurs resulting in a greater chance to respond to a situation rapidly and appropriately rather than dwelling on the fact that an occurrence was “unfair”.

 Never accept that there is only one solution to any one problem!!

An open mind is essential to development, progress and eventual success. Successful investors will embrace new ideas and innovation. To not realise that progress is created from ingredients consisting of past experience and innovation is too rely too heavily on tried and true practices that gradually lose relevance over time. This form of decay has destroyed entrepreneurs, global corporations and even whole economies and societies. With globalization, the world has become a much smaller place. To not embrace, improve and implement world’s best practice and only holding close what you are comfortable is the biggest threat to creating continued success.

Never believe that you are solely responsible for your own success!!

Nobody has ever made it on their own. It was once thought that the iconic, independent, totally self-sufficient, unchallengeable, silent-type, hard-nosed entrepreneur who left metaphorical bodies in his wake as he doggedly climbed the mountain of success was the role model that should be emulated by all who craved achievement. Many have tried and they all failed.

No-one can achieve success on their own. As a matter of fact, the most successful people I have met have surrounded themselves with successful people and ensured that those people shared in their success. They seek opinions, listen carefully, discuss intelligently, consider alternatives and have their decisions reviewed. They reward those who contribute to their achievements and help them succeed as well for this is also a valuable way to learn and build momentum at the same time.

Never abandon the realm of possibility!!

Successful people know that nothing is impossible and hold the belief that every problem has a solution, some of which just haven’t been thought of yet. Anything is possible as long as there is willingness to explore, question and challenge and imagination is intensely applied and ingenuity is rewarded. Achievers do not complain about obstacles. They embrace them so as to gain an understanding as to how they can be overcome for they truly believe that nothing is insurmountable.

Negative words like “can’t,” “won’t,” and “impossible” are never heard from the mouths of unsuccessful individuals. They know complaining will not help them, but actually doing something about the issue at hand will.

Never look back!!

Could have… would have … should have. We have all heard these expressions of retrospective folly. Experts in hindsight have no place at the table of successful people and regret is a fruitless and pointless emotion. Successful people thrive on opportunities not lost opportunities. If they cannot make one opportunity work to their satisfaction, they move on and find another opportunity. Regret simply slows down the effective pursuit of the next great opportunity.

Never accept the unpalatable as inevitable!!

Victims have no choice. Successful investors create alternative solutions to every problem and will carefully consider all of them. In this way, successful investors are never victims for they create an environment filled with choices. Then it’s just a matter of deciding which choice represents the best way forward.

Successful investors know how to create opportunities where normal people think none seemingly exist. Successful investors believe that opportunities always will exist, but they are hidden in the recesses of our individual and collective imaginations. The reason why there are successful, is largely due to their determination and ability to extract those opportunities, while others are stagnating in the belief that they don’t exist!!

lifetime_opportunity

A lifetime Opportunity

With the 2020 Dubai Global Expo just around the corner, the expected flood of expats moving to Dubai to participate in preparing the event for the world to see is expected to gain momentum as we head towards the end of the decade.

It’s not hard to see why expats choose Dubai. It has a lot of attractions… beaches, restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities, rich diverse culture … even snow skiing! Dubai boasts a modern infrastructure and is regarded by many as one of the safest and happiest places for families to live in the world and is located advantageously for excursions to Europe, Asia and the African continent.

As the Emirate has grown and matured, the average tenure of expats living in the emirate has been on the increase. This is due to a number of reasons however principal among them is the recognition of employers that 3 year employee tenures are inefficient and the recognition by expats that Dubai is actually a very good place to live.

With so many expats now considering living in Dubai for longer, an increasing number are contemplating purchasing a home instead of renting. The likelihood that the UAE Dirham is going to strengthen against expat home currencies over the foreseeable future only further whets the appetite for potential home owners.

Nevertheless, for many, making this commitment can be a daunting prospect and decision-making will often become clouded. There are many things for the uninitiated to consider such as budgeting and finance, asset type, area, fair values and timings to mention just a few.

So, as an expat, why buy your home instead of renting it? Some may re-phrase this question by asking “How do I use my money to increase my wealth instead of the wealth of my landlord?”

Buying your home is a positive step towards establishing your financial security by building your equity or “net worth”. Owning property allows you to change the application of your hard earned dirhams from covering an expense which offers you no financial return to investing in an asset which does. In a way, it’s a forced form of saving which will reap benefits for you in the future.

Conversely, paying rent actually detracts from your ability to build net worth because, not only are you paying out money for no financial gain, but you are at the mercy of rental inflation as well. This is a problem because you are consistently being asked to pay more while your salary increases are lagging behind, effectively eroding your ability to build wealth. By owning your home, inflation is working in your favor because, in all likelihood, your property is increasing in value and, if kept for multiple years, will enjoy an inflation driven compounding effect on its value. This allows you to build your individual net worth through capital appreciation of your property.

The fundamentals of buying Real Estate in Dubai are no different from those elsewhere in the world. As an expat in a new country, you may be even more anxious regarding the decision to buy which is all the more reason to stick to some tried and true principles.

First of all, you need to be very clear as to why you are investing in Real Estate. Whether it’s to provide the family with a home, generate a steady stream of income or build equity for the future, make sure you are very clear about what your expectations are and quantify them wherever possible. Plan for the long term as the industry is cyclical yet very rewarding if you ride out one or two cycles.

You also need to ensure that you know what you can afford. If you have the cash to pay for the property that you really want, I suggest you pay for it outright however don’t be afraid to take out a mortgage as at least your repayments are building equity, not being lost forever on rent.

Then it’s a case of finding the right property.  A reputable Real Estate Brokerage to assist you in doing this but make sure that you conduct your own research as well. It’s a big decision you are making and you need to make sure you take the responsibility.

As always, stick to the basics. Think carefully about location, quality of the building, developer reputation, completion status and quality of infrastructure and building amenities. Properties which are close to the beach (especially with a sea view), a golf course view or part of an iconic development such as Downtown is a good place to start. If you can also have close access to the metro, even better. These locations are more likely to provide a superior appreciation in capital value as well as riding out cyclical volatility with less distress.

You also need to consider the effectivity of the Owners Association, service charges and the quality of maintenance services.  Facility management is becoming increasingly more important to determining the value of buildings and it will have an effect on the long term value of your investment.

Finally, think clearly and rationally. If you cannot find a property immediately that will satisfy your requirements and objectives, do not settle for less, regardless of what’s happening in the market. Be purposeful, persistent, patient and pragmatic in your approach and you are well on the way to making a very sound decision.

Property investing in 2017… many alternatives

There are many alternatives for the property investor in today’s market. Here are just a few of them and why I think each presents significant opportunities to increase my client’s wealth.

Affordable housing

The affordable housing segment in Dubai has outperformed its more luxurious alternative for some time now and continues to show lots of promise. Affordable properties will continue to be in high demand as Dubai’s population growth gains momentum during a period of expected strong economic growth leading up to the end of the decade.

Examples of affordable projects that are providing good rental returns and expected capital appreciation are the Skycourts project and the adjacent QPoint project. Apartments in Skycourts have proven to be very popular with tenants and investors alike and have historically delivered excellent capital growth with some apartment values growing by 20 to 25% % in the 24 months leading up to the correction and shedding no more than 5% reduction in values during the correction with rental premiums of at least 7% not uncommon. Purchasing an apartment at Skycourts has been made even been made more affordable with the developer offering units, some with existing and reliable tenants, with a very attractive easy payment plan. QPoint is also providing rental yields of 6% to 7% and has also showed strong resilience in losing minimal capital value during the correction.

And while the value is irrefutable, he risks associated with investing in the affordable segments of the industry as opposed to the luxury segments are much lower. Demand for this type of affordable accommodation will continue to grow as Dubai’s population swells in the run up to the Expo and the demand for well-located affordable housing increases. As Dubai grows, so will the need for affordable housing.

Hospitality

The rise of Dubai as one of the world most preferred tourist destinations is a remarkable story. Tourism and associated commercial activities are flourishing in Dubai and the focus of investment has been on new projects to grow these important revenues 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 with continual investments in infrastructure and attractions expected to generate 25-30 million tourists annually to the emirate by 2030.

The local market offers significant opportunity. The GCC, with a total population of just over 40 million people, has one of the youngest populations in the world. Approximately 50% of the population on the Arabian Peninsula is below 25 years of age. What a wonderful opportunity this represents for Dubai. The possibility exists for the construction of the only mega family entertainment destination in over 2,500,000 square kilometers of territory. From an economic point of view, the provision of memorable entertainment experiences for the youth and families of the region must have a multiplier effect on the economy.

Offices

All things being equal, offices in today’s market can provide an ROI significantly greater than 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 this type of property.

Managing tenants 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 and less likely to default on rental payments. In many cases, office 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.
In addition to lease rates and periods, negotiations can include such items as provision of fit-out assistance, maintenance, implementation of office and storage systems, insurance, lease to buy provisions and options … the list goes on. The variations are countless.

Labor Camps

One alternative that is not considered very often is the ubiquitous labor camp. Dubai is going through a high construction phase with a growing requirement for construction labor. Demand for this asset type has been very strong and continues to grow. Yields above 15% are not uncommon and by selecting the right tenant, longer term contracts can be negotiated. This investment is certainly worth consideration when economic activity is expected to increase or remain strong for extended periods of time.

Why buy rather than rent this year?

I am predicting that over 70% of the people who are reading this article are concerned about ensuring their financial security by building equity or “net worth”.

I am also predicting that every person reading this article understands that owning property allows will allow them to achieve their financial security goals by building an asset base that will serve them and their families’ well into the future.

For those who don’t act upon that knowledge, the opportunities that will emerge in 2017 will go begging and are bound to be viewed in retrospect with some regret by the clear majority of Real Estate investors because, put simply, only a few will open their eyes to the opportunities that 2017 will offer. History has shown us time and again, the majority will be too late to make the most of the opportunities on offer today. They will wait, pontificate and procrastinate and, later ruminate on how they missed the boat.

If you are living in Dubai now, you are uniquely placed to take advantage of a variety of positive developments.

For a start, the market is offering the best value for some time. A slew of affordable properties that have been launched over the past 2 years and there will be more launched in 2017. This structural shift in the market has been a boon for first home buyers and affordability, or a lack thereof, as a reason to continue to rent is disappearing fast. Whether it’s an affordable studio or a luxury villa, there are great value opportunities in every segment of the market supported by the most affordable payment plans seen in years.

Also, the value of your property will be increasing as the US dollar continues to strengthen in 2017. The US Federal reserve is committed to normalizing interest rates in 2017 which is good news for investors who are holding assets denominated in or pegged to the value of the US dollar.

And then there are mortgages themselves … although interest rates will be increasing going forward, they will remain at very affordable levels for quite some time. Now is the time to do some financial planning to determine how you can obtain that most desirable of assets, the family home.

And the economic environment will improve from this time forward. Put simply, Dubai needs people to support an economy that is expected to grow at an estimated annual average of 5% for the remainder of the decade and to deliver initiatives such as the 2020 World Expo. The Expo alone is expected to generate an additional 270,000 jobs and drive demand for housing and commercial facilities that, by and large, don’t currently exist. Much of the city’s planning comprehends the number of people living in the emirate to grow to 3.4 million people by 2020, a 7% annual increase from today’s population of 2.25 million.

While the price of oil is a big issue for the region’s economies, with oil representing only about 4% of Dubai’s GDP, the effect of the decline in oil prices is not as drastic as some may think. Infrastructural spending continues unabated with the total budget outlay of Dh 48.7 billion for 2017 being marginally up from Dh 48.55 billion allocated to 2016. Looking at the 5-year budget plan of Dh 248 billion, the average annual spending of Dh49.6 billion is higher by 6.5 per cent than Dh 46.6 billion spent during 2014 to 2016 inclusive. This is significant as it demonstrates an unwavering commitment to economic and societal development.

Dubai’s economy is being driven by fundamentals such as tourism and trade and a slew of new projects to grow these important revenue generating economic segments. Predicted by Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index to be the 4th most popular destination in the world by year end, Dubai will have welcomed almost 16 million overnight visitors in the by the close of 2016. This will represent a 12% increase over 2015 and continue a trend of approximately 10% per annum since 2010.

And those visitor number will seem paltry once the 2020 Expo kicks off. And the 277,000 extra jobs that are generated to ensure the estimated 20 million visitors to the Expo see Dubai in its most favorable light cannot be underrated in terms generating significant demand for Real Estate assets. Hosting the World Expo will provide additional impetus for the industry to enjoy continued growth and the predictable surge in demand for accommodation and commercial space of all types is sure to have a significant effect on property values.

The structural shift towards more affordable housing will not only serve to accommodate the expected rapid population growth associated with the 2020 expo, but also serve as an important factor in the development of the Dubai economy overall. Every emerging economy needs to develop a strong middle class as its expansion is critical to growing a sustainable economy and developing resilience in the face of external financial and economic shocks.

2017 will be remembered as a year of the astute investor. When opportunity knocks, be ready to welcome and embrace it.

Published: Gulf News Freehold
Dated: 19-March-2017

REITS… preferred by some investors

In November of 2016, Saudi Arabia created its local version of a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). The reasoning behind this move was to enable the smaller investors to provide liquidity to the market and support government efforts to resolve a housing shortage and increase the percentage of housing generated by developers to 30 per cent from its current level of 10 per cent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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