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.

Innovation… thriving where others do not survive


There have been a number of articles recently published describing the pressure that some real estate agencies are feeling as a result of the current correction in the Dubai real estate market. There have also been instances of real estate brokerages laying off a significant number of their staff or closing their doors altogether.

For some, survival was a short-lived ride on the post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) wave, and the recent instances whereby entire businesses have struggled to continue surviving begs the question: what are the determinants of success in today’s market climate?

The answers are as simple as they are difficult to attain. They remain elusive for many companies; but those establishments that understand them, capture them, develop them and practice them stand a greater chance at enjoying unbridled success.

It may be a cliché, but a primary ingredient essential to success is passion. Without passion, you cannot be successful in this business. Any real estate operation must attract, develop, motivate and retain a passionate group ofprofessionals, and any serious client will recognize this. This is a people’s business, and without a passionate and professional team, survival will be impossible.

Experience is critical. We are in a business characterized by high capital requirements, a broad spectrum of risks and deep emotional involvement. Failure cannot be an option. That is why I know I am fortunate to be part of an executive team with over 20 years of experience in the Dubai real estate market. As we are all aware, the industry has been evolving rapidly and still remains one of the most dynamic in the world. The GFC did show us that this is not an industry for those who don’t know what they are doing, and to be able to draw deep on experience is invaluable.

Being flexible and developing the capability to adapt is a prerequisite to success, particularly in a market that is changing so rapidly. The GFC was a period of rapidly changing circumstances, which bore unprecedented challenges requiring immediate yet innovative solutions. This was a difficult period, but also one of great learning, which put those who were flexible and adaptable in a great position to capitalize on the opportunities that were to eventually emerge with the recovery. It was no easy task and it required a brutally honest assessment of individual capabilities, as well as the capabilityof the organization to continue to provide the services that clients required, but within a totally new environmental context emanating from what was essentially economic turmoil.

But it is a culture of innovation that separates the “thrivers” from survivors. There is no doubt that tried and true practices that worked in the past have required an overhaul in order to address new realities, and create and maintain a discernible edge in a highly competitive market. This is what really differentiates those that have thrived in the post-global recession period, from those that managed to survive only to falter as a result of the latest market correction. A key learning from the GFC is that innovation relevant to circumstances will always prevail regardless of the situation. Whether the market is hot or cold, innovation will always provide the competitive edge.

If you look at the industry today and compare it to the days of 2008, it has come a long way. The advances made in the legal framework, regulatory infrastructure and overall governance typify a market that is rapidly heading towards full maturation and the type of sustainable profitable growth that all stakeholders in the industry have been seeking.

As professionals who care about our business, we must continue to embrace and support any change that will improve the health of our industry. Because it is the health of our industry that really matters most. Those of us who are around to tell of our experiences during the GFC will recall that the initial objective was pretty basic: to survive in an environment that nobody in the industry had witnessed before and, in order to survive, we needed to adapt, innovate and develop as individuals and organizations. Those that didn’t fell by the wayside, for after all, that is what a recession is all about… survival of the fittest… and it is the fittest that will thrive.

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.