ask-the-agent-oct-16

Ask the agent

By Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulf News
Dated: October 2016

What property features should I prioritize in listing my apartment for sale?

If you have a listing agent, or are already working with a realtor, they would know exactly what characteristics of your property should be highlighted in order to make your property stand out from the rest and be highly marketable. But, just FYI, the most important features that will make or break your goal to sell your apartment include the fact that it must be competitively priced or priced just right for the market, its location or proximity to landmarks and important infrastructure such as transportation links and commercial districts, size, building facilities and community amenities, quality and current physical condition, whether or not it is being handled by professional property management, fully paid or financed, etc. Also, make sure you mention any improvements done, e.g. upgrading of original material such as plain ceramic flooring to granite, or changing original fittings purchased locally to Italian-made fittings, and if it has any other special feature such as a nice view, a balcony, closed kitchen, extra storage, being located close to the community center / park, etc.

I want to make some structural changes in my villa. What is the typical procedure I need to follow?

You will need to establish that the amendments that you plan on doing does not threaten the structural integrity or safe habitation status of your villa by you or by future owners should you decide to sell it one day.

Therefore, you should prepare the architectural and MEP drawings for the proposed concept. These would need to be viewed in conjunction with the architectural and MEP “as-built drawings” by a number of different authorities and regulatory bodies to ensure that the proposed designs will be structurally sound and meet all the required building codes and regulations.

You will need to obtain NOCs from your OA, the zoning authorities, the Civil Defense authorities and, in some instances, your project developer. Depending on the extent of your renovations, you may also require NOCs from DEWA regarding electricity supply and water supply.

If renovations are extensive, you may be required to have the work inspected by the Civil Defense department and also the Building Department of Dubai Municipality.

In the majority of cases, your architect or contractor can arrange for all approvals on your behalf and I suggest you engage professionals who can achieve this for you.

What documents do I need to provide so I can arrange for an agency to market and sell my villa?

The first piece of documentation is the provision of proof of identity, usually provided by way of passport identification and/or Emirates ID so we know who we are dealing with.

You should also provide a copy of the original Sales and Purchase Agreement so we can verify with the Dubai Land Department (DLD) that we are dealing with the bona fide current owner of the property, and that there are no third party legal entitlements to the property.

If the property is leased, you should also provide us with all details of the lease agreement including the status of outstanding payments and any information or documentation pertaining to the history with the tenant. You should also provide us with the status of payments of items such as service charges or owners association charges.

We will sit and consult with you as to what your requirements are and prepare for you a letter of engagement which would contain the details of what you require from us as a professional agency and what fees we have mutually agreed upon.

If you are located overseas and you would like us to represent you, we would need you to provide a Power of Attorney which will detail the extent to which you would like our representation in the various facets of marketing and selling your property.

What are the limits landlords must work within when it comes to increasing the rent to a rate they want in Dubai?

Rental increases are usually a main source of contention between tenants and landlords, especially when there is a failure in the communication process. By law, tenants should be informed of any changes in the rent three months prior to contract renewal. But even then, the rate of increase may also be questioned by the tenant. By now, everyone has probably heard of the RERA Rental Increase Calculator which is a handy tool accessible online (via the Dubai Land Department website) for tenants who wish to check if the rent increase being imposed by their landlord is justified, and for landlords who want to make sure that the rent increase they are asking for is within their rights. Rent caps apply to all property types in the different areas of Dubai whether they be commercial, industrial, staff accommodation, or residential units. Using the rent calculator as a reference helps prevent disputes between landlords and tenants, and has given the Dubai rental market a modicum of order in terms of preventing unabated rent increases.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

With so many attractive off-plan offers today, I am very tempted to buy off-plan property. But how do I know if I am buying property with real potential?

Whether you are buying ready property or one that is off-the-plan, market fundamentals still apply, and always make sure that an off-plan purchase is consistent with your property portfolio strategy.

Location is always critical and can never be disregarded. This simply means considerations regarding how close the project is to commercial, educational and leisure hubs, to medical and health facilities, public infrastructure, popular and established communities, and the manifold views one could enjoy all add up to the desirability of a property’s location, add to that the possibility of being neighbor to some celebrity types – the perceived benefits that a location may bring to a prospective buyer can account for up to 90% of a property’s value.

The asset type is also important. What type of asset will be in demand in the future: affordable apartments? Townhouses? Villas? Be smart about the “product” that you buy. Look for certain property types in locations which you believe will be keenly sought in the future.

You need to do some careful financial analysis which will enable you to determine the value of the discount that you anticipate receiving by buying off-plan. Easy payment plans which can ensure your limit your capital exposure before completion and you need to be conversant with financial concepts such as net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR) to guide you in your decision-making when assessing your alternatives.

Business ethics in real estate

Upholding business ethics in real estate

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

While the term “business ethics” is not something alien or new to us, some people with careers outside of the real estate industry may view the term, especially in relation to real estate, with a critical eye, with some perhaps even joking about the incompatible nature of the words “business” and “ethics.”

But we all know that in real estate, a number of professions emerge including, but not limited to: commercial or residential brokerage, appraisal/valuation, property management, real estate counselling, etc. That being said, for a job to be considered a bona fide profession, it would require some commitment to a certain standard of conduct that the general public expects from the practitioner. This is where the real estate code of ethics comes in.

However, some might say: but anyone can become a realtor, so how does this seemingly “open” industry professionalize current practice and regulate the activities of real estate practitioners? What rules or structures are in place to prevent any form of abuse and/or malpractice in an industry where sometimes morally contradictory relationships or grey areas exist such as in the case of open market listings where one seller lists with various agents, and the big question is where would the realtor’s loyalty be – with the seller or the buyer? Or in the case of valuation assignments where the client may indirectly or even expressly makes known to the appraiser the outcome they are expecting.

Another dilemma confronting realtors is their reliance on commission-based remuneration whereby agents’ dependence on said commission may run counter to the best interests of the client. While a good commission structure would evidently motivate realtors to give their best efforts in order to successfully convert a lead and close a deal, the question of whether or not conditions set are for or against the best interests of their client remains – with yes being the answer in some cases, and at other times not so especially in cases of self-dealing in real estate.

Aside from By-law No. 85 “Regulating the Real Estate Brokers Register in the Emirate of Dubai” which expressly states the legal mandate governing the real estate practice, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) and the Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI) established a mandatory certification program for new and experienced agents who wish to work in a real estate brokerage in Dubai. The DREI also organizes license renewal courses and exams along with a very rich variety of career development programs intended to help elevate the standards of professionalism and effectiveness of brokers in Dubai.

All realtors are, therefore, expected to abide by local laws pertaining to the real estate practice as well as to government regulations that are periodically introduced and, at times, go through a series of revisions or reforms in order to address new issues or problems that crop up every once in a while.

But even in the face of such regulation, real estate firms must also take it upon themselves to continuously educate and empower their agents to make the best decisions in order to maintain individual and corporate integrity, professionalism and, ultimately, success in the real estate business.

Investing in training, whether in-house or otherwise, definitely pays a huge dividend. Extensive and tailor-made training programs should include education on the industry and pertinent rules/regulations (especially on current or new legislation), soft skills and specialized training courses that help employees attain a level of mastery in all the macro and micro aspects of their profession.

The ongoing development of the industry’s regulatory framework and implementation of laws and regulations to safeguard both consumer and investor interests, the overall industry and the economy at large from rampant and irresponsible speculative, predatory or unethical practices, all reveal a mature and balanced approach to shaping an industry which exhibits sustainable growth over the long term.

Taken altogether, the laws of the land serve as the primary push for realtors to act in a way that upholds and reflects the greater good while constant education through training, workshops, seminars and the like (whether mandatory or voluntary) help real estate practitioners internalize the values that must inherently pervade the system for the industry to thrive and continue to serve as one of the primary sectors supporting the UAE economy.

ask the agent

Ask the agent

Mohanad Alwadiya
Published: Gulf News Free Hold
Dated: 14th May, 2016

Question: I have an apartment I wish to rent out. Which would be a more practical approach, getting a rental agent or a property manager? I heard that property managers usually charge more, why is that?

If you are going to engage the services of a realtor, you would enter a leasing agreement assigning the real estate agency to locate suitable tenants for your apartments, facilitate the signing of the tenancy agreement, and leaving you to assume the responsibility and devote your time to managing the tenant and all aspects of the property thereafter. A property management agreement includes a lot more.

A competent property manager will provide an assessment, strategy and activity plan designed to harness the true financial potential of your property. Considerations include history, current market factors and risk factors, whether they be global, regional or local in nature requiring a good understanding of economic factors, industry knowledge extending to policy and regulation, finance and market dynamics.

An activity plan will be provided covering pricing and marketing, customer relationship management, tenant management and policy, cost management, maintenance supervision, communications and review schedules, status reporting, financial reporting and resourcing. All of these activities will be performed by the property manager under a property management agreement.

A professional property manager will make your investment work harder for you and the additional returns you receive will outweigh any fees he/she might charge, which means less headaches for you.

 

Question: I am 52 and planning for my retirement with Dubai in mind as a future part-time retirement destination. Right now, I want to invest in a property I can rent out, then use personally in the future during retirement. Is this a good strategy?

Including property as part of your retirement plan is a sound investment decision and a safe bet to ensure you maximize whatever you savings or wealth you possess at this time. The key to choosing your property is determining the right balance between the amount to be invested, the returns you require in the interim period before you retire, and what type of property you want to enjoy in your retirement.

As the property will eventually be for your own use, you need to determine what you will enjoy in your retirement. The good news is, your tastes are likely to be shared by your tenants in the interim so renting should not be a problem.

Quality properties are available starting from AED 700 per sq.ft., but if you want to purchase in the prime areas of Dubai such as Downtown Burj Khalifa, somewhere close to the beach or with a golf course view, you can easily double or triple that amount. The choices are varied, and getting what works for you is certainly achievable.

You can expect a minimum net rental return of around 5% to 7% which, given the cheap financing available at the moment, makes for a solid investment in preparation for outright ownership and retirement. But be careful with fluctuations in exchange rates.

Factors such as location, the developer’s track record, building quality, service fees, building management and the existence of a functioning owner’s association will require a reputable local real estate professional to help you minimize any risks with your investment, whether during the procurement stage or managing your investment until you are ready to assume occupancy during retirement.

 

Question: What property characteristics should I, as a buyer, pay close attention to in order minimize any risks associated with my investment decision?

An old adage in real estate says “location, location, location” – as it is the first factor to consider and can drive up to 90% of any property’s value. The more established and prestigious locations such as The Palm, Downtown, Dubai Marina and JBR fared extremely well in the post-GFC period, and secondary, more affordable areas such as JLT, The Greens, Sports City, Discovery Gardens and International City followed suit.

But there are other factors as well. The quality of the end-product and maintenance services, and the extent of completion and quality of infrastructure should also be part of any investment consideration. With so much upcoming supply, buyers can demand, seek out and purchase the best of what is on offer.

Value for money and superior ROI must be considered very closely especially if you are an investment buyer. In the post-recession era, the chase for yield along with an increase in the level of critical assessment of true values has meant that properties that offer more in way of physical product and potential rental returns are attracting the greatest attention.

Current and future supply levels of various asset types need to be examined so consulting a reputable property broker to assist you is a must. For example, villas as an asset type, across-the-board, have outperformed other asset types because of supply shortages. However, when looking at the inventory pipeline, this may not be the case always as more affordable properties are likely to be in higher demand – a trend we are already experiencing.

But one thing is certain, it is the fundamental drivers of market values which remain, i.e. location, product features and benefits, product quality and demand and supply.

 

QUESTION: Can you please share some information on Dubai property management fees?

Like most services, property management fees would vary depending on the service provider. It may be anywhere between 3% and 6% of the rental receipts, and some will charge an administrative fee as well.

You need to know and understand what you can expect from your property manager as the depth and breadth of services provided by them in Dubai can vary greatly.

You can negotiate a fee structure based upon your actual requirements. We have had many clients who went with the cheapest on offer, with an ill-defined scope of services and, sadly but almost predictably, had very poor experience, resulting in all sorts of tenant problems, maintenance deficiencies, missed revenue, and generally poor advice with regard to marketing and obtaining the best returns from their property.

A competent property manager will provide an assessment, strategy and activity plan designed to harness the true financial potential of your property.

Depending on the size and complexity of your portfolio, you should have, as a minimum, a rolling 5-year activity plan which covers pricing and marketing, tenant management and policy, cost management and maintenance schedules. A competent property manager will also provide you with communications and review schedules, status reporting formats and regular financial reporting.

Ask for referrals and make sure you follow up with some existing clients to get an appreciation of levels of efficiency and professionalism.

 

Question: What would be the consequences if we hire a property manager who does not have the relevant property management license?

The property management practice has risen in importance since the last GFC made it harder for real estate brokerages to generate revenue from transactional services alone. In addition, demand for property management expertise grew rapidly as investors started to realise that investing in property is not a “set and forget” proposition, and requires constant attention as factors influencing its performance as an investment are as broad as they are complex.

You need professional help to manage your property investment, particularly during times when yield is harder to generate. Your property manager must ensure that you maximize returns from your property portfolio while operating within the law.

Your property manager should be licensed, experienced and have a strong history of successfully managing properties. If you knowingly engage a person or organization who does not possess the correct license to manage properties, you are essentially aiding that person or organization to operate outside the law which places you in an awkward position should something go wrong.

In addition, if you have a legal dispute of any kind regarding your investment properties, any involvement of the non-licensed party that you have managed to manage your property will place your legal position in jeopardy.

It takes only a little effort to check on the licensing status of any organisation by referring your query to RERA, the regulatory authority for real estate professionals in Dubai. Remember, it is better to be certain than shoot arrows in the dark – especially when it involves investing your trust and hard-earned money in any business venture.