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.

Why are Mortgages Key to Growth?

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

I read a very pleasing article over my morning coffee.

The article revealed that mortgage transactions, including refinancing, have represented approximately 50 per cent of all apartment sales September last year to date with some months achieving over 60 per cent. This is in stark contrast to what has historically been the case in Dubai, as mortgages rarely represented more than 30 per cent to 35 per cent of property sales for most of the prior decade.

This is great news for several reasons.

First, while this trend highlights the 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 to this lucrative market going forward.

Why it is a good time to buy property in Dubai


The market has been cooling for around a year now,

but is expected to pick up again in 2016

I receive so many questions regarding the current state of the market and whether now would be a good time to buy. My answer is invariably yes, especially as the market has become attractive with opportunities available and advantages to be gained from purchasing now.

The market has been cooling for around a year now, but is expected to pick up again in 2016 as the next five years are expected to see strong economic growth in Dubai. Picking the exact timing is always difficult but it is better to be early rather than late and starting early will be a prime determinant of your success.

I recommend you start your property search immediately as a property investment requires the same approach and set of considerations regardless of the state of the market and proper due diligence can take time. You are embarking on a major purchase which has the potential to affect your life in either an extremely positive or negative way. So you need to make a timely decision, not a hasty one.

Be critical in determining what you can afford. If you have-the cash, I suggest you pay for your new purchase outright. However, don’t be afraid to take out a mortgage… just be sure you fully understand what mortgage ‘repayments are going to do to lifestyle and whether you are prepared to make some sacrifices to own your own property. Make sure that you consider the many and varied easy payment plans that are currently on offer as many of these plans will save you considerable amounts of money.

Think carefully about location, surrounding infrastructure, construction quality and developer reputation and building amenities. Properties which are close to the beach, with a sea view, a golf course view or part of an iconic development such as Downtown usually provide good returns. If you have close access to the Metro, even better.

When buying an apartment, you also need to consider the efficacy of the owners’ association, costs associated with service charges and the quality of maintenance services as these will impact the long-term value of your investment. Finally, be purposeful, persistent, patient and pragmatic in your approach and you are well on the way to making a sound decision.

Property Times


Now that the market has entered its correction phase, the time has come to consider whether you should take advantage of value opportunities that are starting to appear and benefit from the capital appreciation that is likely to accumulate over the coming five to seven years. For those who don’t have the cash readily available, the first step is to organise a pre-approved home mortgage. It’s always best to be in a position to make an offer for a house with your mortgage pre-approval in place rather than expect to arrange your mortgage once heavily involved in a negotiation process.

So, how to go about selecting the right mortgage for you?

You must first envisage your economic circumstances at least two years into the future and ask yourself the question … “Given my projected earning capability and desired lifestyle,  what  mortgage  payment  will  be financially feasible and acceptable to me in two years’ time?”

Why two years’ time?…  because most mortgages interest rates on offer at the moment are locked in for two years, after which you will be subject to likely interest rate increases as after an initial two year period of fixed interest rates, the mortgage reverts to a variable rate.

First of all, estimate your projected earning capability. Be real. We all hope to progress  rapidly  in  our  professional  (a.k.a. financial)  pursuits  but there are generally more people disappointed than delighted with their achievements. And, notwithstanding the latest reports of 5% salary increases for Dubai employees in 2015, history has shown that salary increases generally tend to lag cost of living increases so conservatism in estimating future cash-flows is a must.  Then there is lifestyle. Is there a new baby planned in the near future? … a new car perhaps? What effect will significant family or lifestyle events have on disposable income? Are there existing children who will need to start school in that time frame? All these events will have an effect on disposable income and thereby decrease the financial flexibility to address interest rate shocks. And finally, what is financially feasible may not be acceptable to you or your spouse. How much sacrifice are you and your partner willing to make to service your mortgage? What are you willing to do without and what lifestyle changes are you prepared to make? Once again, being honest with oneself is paramount.

So, notwithstanding correcting markets, value opportunities and cheap finance, cautious financial planning based upon realism and self-honesty is key when planning the purchase of your dream home. Your future happiness could well depend on it. As a general guide, we recommend that not more than 40% of your household disposable income be devoted towards paying down your mortgage. So once you have determined what type of repayment you are willing to commit to, then it’s a case of determining the mortgage amount you can actually afford. This will be determined by the Loan to Value ratio (LTV) you are prepared to accept, the amount of your own cash savings you are prepared to put towards the property, the tenure of the loan and the interest rate that you expect to be paying initially and well into the future.

When talking to mortgage providers, they will help you assess what mortgage is best for you by looking at a number of specific factors such as other debts (including credit cards) you may have, reliability of current and future income streams, the Loan to Value ratio that you would be seeking, the type of mortgage you prefer, your true disposable income and what other assets that you may own. Don’t be surprised if different mortgage providers  suggest  significantly  different mortgage  solutions  for  your  requirements including  repayment  options.  These will include the most common type of mortgage known as the Capital and Interest (Reducible Balance) Repayment Mortgage but you may also consider interest-only payments, part repayment and part interest-only mortgages although these types of mortgages are usually used for very specific investment purposes. Then it’s a case of deciding if you wish to undertake a fixed rate, variable rate or fixed/variable combination mortgage. Once again you need to think long term. If you think that mortgage rates are likely to rise and you would like to lock in a fixed rate of interest for the foreseeable future as long as you understand that once the fixed interest rate term comes to an end, a variable interest rate will apply. In many cases, the variable rate will be greater so planning is essential. If however, you expect interest rates to fall in the near future, a variable interest rate mortgage would make better financial sense as long as you have the flexibility to handle an increase in mortgage payments if interest rates do not follow your predictions and unexpectedly rise. There are a number of items which you should pursue as part of your mortgage negotiations. Try and have the mortgage establishment fees waived. Depending on the institution, this may save you up to AED3, 000. Also request that you are not penalised for paying the mortgage down faster or in its entirety. By law, the mortgage provider cannot charge you more than 1% of the outstanding amount or a maximum of AED10, 000, but you should try to have this stipulation dropped from your mortgage contract.

And finally, make sure your mortgage provider will allow you to utilise the equity being built up in your home as you diligently pay down your mortgage.  This equity will compound if the value of your property is increasing due to favourable economic or market factors. Some lenders will allow you to use this equity as security for further borrowing. This can be very handy if you want to make some major home improvements, buy a new car or perhaps invest in another property. When selecting a mortgage, the key is to know what you need and pick the one that best suits you over the long term.