Population growth key to property market success

Dubai demonstrates strong growth in population compared to other economies around the world

The fact that the property industry is typically and notoriously cyclical is widely known yet quite often forgotten as viewpoints become blinkered due to current market performance, whether positive or negative. While some embrace cycles and their sometimes-associated market volatility that enables the opportunistic investor to profit from market fluctuations as they occur, other investors, those with a clear strategy and long-term plan, simply accept, foresee and plan for cycles in the industry. They are looking for longer-term sustainable growth rather than taking additional risks by trying to accumulate wealth by taking advantage of shorter-term spikes or dips. They are true managers of their property portfolios and have a much greater chance to succeed

A growing population is the fuel of any property industry, and it will be Dubai’s population growth that will enable the market to regain its equilibrium within the next three years

Investing in property has a very simple purpose: to create wealth over the long term. However, your property investment portfolio needs to be nurtured, maintained and managed to ensure its wealth-creating potential and capabilities are achieved as it rides the inevitable cycles that will occur in the industry. This, of course, is no different to managing a share portfolio, business venture or any other type of investments. Adopting a short-term vision and narrow perspective will engender reacting unreasonably to inevitable industry slowdowns which will lead to underperformance in the longer term.

The Dubai market is, having seen a period of falling values, rapidly approaching the bottom of its contraction phase, making 2018 a pivotal year for the industry. This contraction has been brought about by increased nervousness and uncertainty about global and regional geopolitical and economic events, the imposition of VAT, the distraction of alternative “new world” investments such as crypto currencies, along with the burgeoning oversupply in the highly competitive and lower margin per unit affordable segment. Developers, requiring greater sales volumes to achieve financial viability, needed to get financially creative to make their affordable offerings even more affordable and accessible for end-users and financially more attractive for investors

So, as we enter 2018, we are faced with a familiar situation. The market, despite lower than-promised delivery rates by developers, is in disequilibrium, particularly in the affordable segment. But this is no reason for excessive concern as the market is simply exhibiting the characteristics typical of its current cyclical phase. And while many of the issues that faced the world in 2017 remain, there are positive signs ahead: a growing world economy, rising oil prices and what appears to be an easing of some of the conflicts that have dogged the world in the last five years.

As for Dubai’s property market, its current predicament would be expected to last for quite some time, primarily as supply absorption rates are hindered by weak population growth, delaying the market’s emergence from the current phase. But Dubai has one string to its bow compared to a few other economies as the emirate has consistently demonstrated strong population growth, something many countries around the world have tried and failed to achieve.

A growing population is the fuel of any property industry, and it will be Dubai’s population growth that will enable the market to regain its equilibrium within the next three years, particularly as a spike in population growth is expected as the Expo creates an estimated 277,000 jobs.

It may come as a surprise to some that Dubai’s population is likely to exceed 3 million by end of 2018. This is up almost 331 per cent since the turn of this century. This amazing growth has been consistent during this period and is expected to continue at a rate of between 6.5 and 9 per cent over the next 10 years. This is fantastic news for Dubai’s property industry and the economy overall especially when other nations are facing stagnating population growth or, in the case of countries like Japan, falling populations.

The composition of the growth is also impressive as it will continue to be predominantly driven by people seeking to immediately benefit from and contribute to an economy that is expected to grow by a healthy and sustained 3.5 per cent in 2018 and beyond, as those who are seeking to progress and improve their economic well-being take advantage of the superior opportunities that Dubai will continue to offer going forward, courtesy of such major initiatives as the Expo 2020, in addition to the time-proven economic pillars of trade, finance and tourism.

So, the opportunities are there to capitalise on this population growth and resurgence in demand for property this year. The current situation is reminiscent of 2012 when the market started to emerge from the global financial crisis to foster a strong recovery peaking in 2014. The market has shown it has the capability to respond to favourable economic conditions, and as the absorption rates of properties start to build momentum with new aspirants entering the market, the positive effect on value and prices will see handsome returns being made by those who understood the market’s cyclical position and positioned themselves to capitalise on the imminent growth phase of the cycle.

Expert Eye, Gulf News, Dated: 19-04-2018 by Mohanad Alwadiya

Equilibrium now further away for Dubai market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FACTORS THAT IMPACT THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR

By: Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulf News Freehold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, this trend highlights both confidence of lenders and consumers, mostly owner occupiers, in the market. The second reason why this is such good news is because we are witnessing, in real time, the market adapting to legislative changes that were made in early 2014. There is no doubt that the implementation of the mortgage caps earlier in 2014 had affected the demand for many first home buyers who were relying on a mortgage to acquire their dream home

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

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

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

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

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

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

The impact of Brexit on UAE real estate

Published by Expert Eye
By Mohanad Alwadiya

June 23, 2016 will forever be remembered in history as the day the British, all 52 percent of the 71.8 percent referendum turnout versus the 48 percent who elected to stay, voted to leave the European Union (EU).

However, with the United Kingdom being one of the world’s largest economies, the so-called “Brexit” which is yet to be finalized in the next two years depending on when UK leadership will actually “trigger” Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is expected to send ripples around the global business community, not to mention the political ramifications of said move.

The effects of Brexit are as diverse as they are far-reaching, with experts considering how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything from the European geopolitical 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.

In addition, the whole strategic alliance framework of the West has been weakened somewhat as a robust and strongly united European Union was always considered to be a cornerstone to an effective defence to an aggressive Russia and China on both economic and security fronts.

Understandably, the whole world is worried because all the financial and trade mechanisms, agreements, communication channels, policies, protocols and security arrangements that have taken over four decades to build will soon be set to zero for renegotiation.
No wonder the world is nervous and understandably uncertain as to what the future might hold.

And it’s that uncertainty which will have an effect on the UAE property scene. As we all know, investors and potential homeowners alike do not handle uncertainty, especially of this scale, well.

And it’s uncertainty that now lies around the effect of the Brexit on world growth and the possibility of European and UK recessions in the coming year that will make most investors move to less risky assets and safe haven currencies such as the Yen and the US dollar.

Of course, uncertainty regarding world growth has also negatively affected oil prices so many investors will be more reticent to invest in those economies that rely on its revenue. While we all know that Dubai is much less reliant on oil than its neighbouring emirates and countries, it will still be affected by investor nervousness by way of association which is unfortunate yet a reality. Just look at the Dubai Financial Market. It lost 3.3 percent, the biggest decline since January, as Emaar Properties PJSC fell 4.7 percent, mirroring the Brexit effect on many other markets around the world. Hardly rational, in my view.

Investors will be looking closely at the effect on UAE’s tourism. In the first quarter of 2016, Western Europe was the second largest source of tourists to Dubai by region, accounting for 23 per cent, led by the UK’s eight per cent and Germany’s three per cent. With the Euro weakened to $1.10, and with most analysts bearish on its immediate future, it is hard to imagine that level of contribution will continue until the post-Brexit uncertainty dissipates. Now such a strong pillar in the UAE’s burgeoning economy, tourism rates can be affected as nearly every global currency has depreciated versus the AED, making travel to the UAE more expensive for the majority of global travellers while journeying to the UK and Europe for most people has just got a lot cheaper. Hopefully, many will still use the country as a travel hub from and take advantage of what this exciting country has to offer during stopovers.

At the time of writing, the British pound had fallen more than 10% to below $1.34 and still falling as uncertainty continues to cloud everybody’s view as to the future of the UK economy. This is significant as British investors alone injected £1.9 billion into Dubai’s property sector in 2015 purchasing around AED 10 billion worth of UAE property assets, putting them at No.2 with an overall 7 percent of total investments made in the sector in 2015.

Needless to say, with such a currency devaluation and an uncertain outlook, Dubai property has suddenly become a lot more expensive for those wishing to purchase with British pounds, while the London property market has just become a lot more affordable. While a feeding frenzy hasn’t developed as yet, a prolonged weakness in the pound could divert significant levels of investment capital away from a market such as Dubai, especially as British expats, living in the emirate and earning UAE dirhams, take advantage of exchange rate gains to invest back home.

But even in the face of such uncertainty, there is no need to act with undue haste or panic. With or without Brexit, the world of real estate investment has always been riddled with both risks and opportunities. One thing is certain, though, mature and astute investors would know when to grab onto property or let go, making their own calculations and analyses, and seeking further expert advice as events continue to unfold.

WHAT TO FACTOR INTO SPACE CALCULATIONS

If you are planning on expanding your business or simply relocating from your old office, the first major task at hand is determining how much office space you will require for your enterprise. Now, this is no easy task, and there are many considerations to be made as the decisions that you make at this stage can have a serious impact on how efficiently and effectively you will be able to conduct your business.

How so? Because your new office space will have a direct effect on your staff morale and productivity, impressions made on your new or potential clients or visitors to your office, and on your overall brand image as well.

When estimating space requirements, you first need to understand how you plan to arrange your employees so as to promote efficiency and productivity through the application of clever office spatial design. You must appreciate that allocating office space and configuring seating plans is very political, and egos within your staff can be either inflated or deflated depending on what you decide to do. So tread carefully, and make sure you can logically justify every decision that you will make.

For a start, everybody will have an argument as to why they must have their own office, or why their office needs to be bigger. Reasons, some valid and some not, will range from the need to keep confidential data and material away from prying eyes to the necessity to hold confidential meetings, to requiring a quieter work environment so as to concentrate better. Typically, its ego that’s the real driver behind such requests.

The easiest way to allocate work space is to do so on the basis of seniority requirements.

For example, I would generally allocate an office (or cabin) for the president, VP(s), CEO, general manager, directors, and anybody who deals with particularly sensitive information such as personnel managers or legal staff. The actual size of the offices is a function of seniority, how much of an impression you wish to make on clients, how efficient your office is in utilizing digital data storage, how many meetings are conducted with your clients or staff, and the size of the meetings that you will periodically conduct.

Depending on the above considerations, I would usually recommend to my clients that the offices should range in sizes from 40 sq.m. for presidents, 25 sq.m. for VPs to 15 sq.m. for general managers. Obviously, these sizes will vary according to business size and type, and you may find that many larger corporations actually will have guidelines as to what positions within the company warrant an office and how large it should be.

Cubicles or workstations tend to be of a more uniform size except where the organization employs team leaders or supervisors.

Employees such as secretaries, customer service reps, accountants, programmers, data entry, clerks and engineers generally require around 12 sq.m. to 15 sq.m. depending upon document storage requirements and desktop hardware such as computer screens, laptops, printers, scanners and telephones.

Estimating document storage is a critical factor. While every employee will probably require their own document filing cabinets, many businesses also need to provide for central file or document storage areas. This is one area where inefficiencies in data storage by employing digital storage capability can cost a company dearly by paying for, what in some situations may be premium space to simply store files which may be referred to only in emergencies. This is extremely inefficient, and alternative solutions such as digital data storage or offsite warehouse storage should be explored.

There are many additional spatial requirements that also need to be considered. Reception areas will logically depend upon the number of receptionists employed, but also be influenced by the number of visitors are typically received, and whether you utilize the reception area as a waiting area as well.

Conference and meeting rooms are always an interesting topic of discussion. It always seems that there are never enough, and many companies have quite elaborate online booking systems for staff to reserve the meeting room of their choice. Rule of thumb would suggest that a conference room should be 5 sq.m. with 2.5 sq.m. allowed for each seated person. Obviously items such as projection equipment, screens, sizes of conference tables and spare seating would need to be factored in before a final size could be determined.

Depending on the size of the organization and the actual amount of mail traffic expected, the mail room can be anywhere between 15 sq.m. to 30 sq.m. The process for distributing mail will play a large part in determining space requirements as systems utilizing “pigeon holes” can be quite space intensive.

Lunch and break rooms are very important for employee morale and can add to productivity as well as they often promote teamwork and cross-functional dialogue. Make sure that you provide a comfortable space for your employees by allocating at least 7 to 10 sq.m. plus 2.5 to 3 sq.m. per person seated.

Finally, do not get caught in the trap of outgrowing your premises halfway through the lease period. Calculate your future space requirements based upon your projected growth plan. Many organizations neglect to factor in the possibility of growing by at least 25% over the ensuing 5 years, and find themselves desperately short of space with no convenient place to expand to. While you may have unutilized areas in the initial period of the lease, this is far cheaper than having to either terminate a lease to relocate or have a second office situated in a different address.