Preparation is the key

The Cityscape Global Conference provides tremendous knowledge-sharing opportunity to investors

As a proud real estate professional, there is no more exciting time for me than when Cityscape Global opens its doors in Dubai and showcases to the world what a fantastic industry we have. And that time is rapidly approaching – Cityscape Global is just around the corner and this year’s edition will be as exciting and informative as those in years past.

For buyers and investors, there is no better place to gain an appreciation of the myriad opportunities on offer. I always advise my clients that the best way to get the most out of the event is to canvas all the interesting opportunities on display and gradually yet efficiently establish a shortlist of the best opportunities.

Establishing such a list from an exhibition as huge as Cityscape is not easy and requires a disciplined approach. This is where a property asset management professional can assist and it’s a role that keeps me extremely busy with my clients over the entire period that Cityscape is open and for some weeks subsequent to its conclusion.

A lot of the work in ensuring that investors and potential buyers make the most of their Cityscape experience is actually done beforehand in preparing an understanding of what the overall investment environment looks like. This enables efficient and focused assessment of all that is on offer.

It’s also important for investors to understand what they want to invest in and what their investment objectives are. Too many investors formulate the answers to these questions “on the run” during the exhibition. This lack of preparation just leads to confusion and ultimately poor decision-making.

As a general theme this year, I am advising most of my investors to look for value opportunities in the affordable housing segment, particularly in Dubai South, as this segment in this location is likely to be the subject of some very attractive easy payment plans to further enhance affordability and, to some extent, mitigate risk.

This segment has outperformed its more luxurious alternatives for some time now and continues to show potential, even through the recent cyclical correction. And while the value is irrefutable, the risks associated with investing in the afford-able segments of the industry as opposed to the luxury segments are much lower.

But not every Cityscape attendee will have a check book in hand. The Cityscape Global Conference, which is held as a precursor event at the Conrad Hotel on September 10, is a fantastic opportunity to gain a high level of understanding of the factors shaping the industry. This conference always forms part of my preparation for the exhibition and I always recommend that my investor clients avail themselves of this tremendous knowledge sharing opportunity.

The developers who do well out of Cityscape are those who utilize the event as a part of an overall “go to market” strategy. Prior preparation of at least 12 months in will increase the chances of maximizing the returns from participating in the event.

So, for those of us with a passion for the industry, it is going to be an exciting three days. It always seems to end too early!


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


Question of the Week

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

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