Meet Dubai’s own Wolf of Real Estate

By:Binesh Panicker
Published: Property Times
Date: 28 August 2016

Mohanad  Alwadiya is a well-known name in the Dubai real estate market, and he wears many hats. Apart from his professional obligations as the CEO of Harbor Real Estate, he also finds time to contribute to the betterment of the market as Senior Advisor & Instructor at the Dubai Real Estate Institute. He is already a raging hit on social media, not an easy task for someone
from real estate.

Tell us about Memaar. How did the concept take off?
Having a primetime property reality TV show in the Middle East has been a long time coming – whether you’re in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar – practically anywhere in the Middle East, there’s always a new tower, a unique residential project or a new iconic building being launched or unveiled. So MEMAAR simply had to be.

MEMAAR is the brainchild of the Dubai Channels Network (DCN), and we officially went on air for Season 1 in May 2015. We already have a solid audience following comprising millions of viewers from all across the GCC and beyond. When it comes to our guests, we always select real clients from different backgrounds and objectives in order to offer various enriching perspectives.

The show’s objective is to educate, entertain and engage viewers with the real estate sector. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of positive feedback that I receive on a daily basis from viewers from all over the world praising the show and seeking my advice. The show is now broadcasted weekly on Dubai TV every Wednesday at 7pm, Sama Dubai TV every Sunday at 9pm and Dubai One TV (with English subtitles) every Monday at 8pm with multiple repeats on all the 3 channels.

What are the future plans for the show?
After the tremendous success of the first and second seasons, we’re going full-blast on a multimedia level. We have a lot more in store for our ever-growing number of loyal fans.
We are currently shooting for Season 3, with 16 new exciting guests and episodes. The show started broadcasting on Dubai One TV with English subtitles and will continue to run on Dubai TV and Sama Dubai TV. Of course, we want to keep growing and developing, always mindful of the feedback we are getting from our MEMAAR fan base.

You are popularly known as “The Wolf of Real Estate,” which made you a huge hit in social media. Tell us more about your social media presence and its effect.

Thanks to Property Times back in 2014, I got the “Wolf of Real Estate” title given to me which has proven to be a very interesting and strategic form of branding for myself which I have, yes, fully embraced – that is, minus the negative connotation associated with the more famous moniker for Jordan Belfort – “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

However, I believe the moniker emanated from the work of our company, Harbor Real Estate, having been previously referred to as a star that emerged from the last GFC. Beyond having simply survived, it was during the GFC that Harbor Real Estate, in the face of a level of adversity that the industry had never witnessed before, really grew as a real estate enterprise of significant capability and standing in the industry.

In terms of my current social media presence, I do have more than 1,300,000 followers on my public Facebook pages, almost 40,000 followers on my “The Wolf of Real Estate Official” Instagram account, and 515,000 followers on my “Mohanad Alwadiya” official Instagram account. On Twitter, I have a little over 50,000 followers on Snapchat and over 10,000 connections on LinkedIn.
I get all sorts of positive and encouraging comments and messages on different social media platforms, such as those expressing their gratitude for the information and analysis I provide on the TV show, articles I write or social media posts. I also receive a lot of messages from followers asking for my opinion about certain issues or real estate advice. As for the unusual ones and even those which appear negative, I usually just take them with a grain of salt and try to respond positively. In general, I try to answer all the messages I receive as much as I can because I really enjoy the interaction with all my followers, and this allows me to stay in touch with the market and gauge the impact of the various activities I’m involved in.

The response from people via social media has been overwhelming and I am still trying to get used to being referred to as some sort of celebrity in my own right because, frankly, I don’t consider myself a celebrity… just the facilitator of the reality TV show MEMAAR… just doing my job!

What is your ultimate dream?
Well, there’s a lot of things on my mind, and so much that I wish to do! However, the realities imposed by time makes careful prioritization essential.
I’m currently working on a portfolio of development projects and initiatives. Harbor Real Estate continues to expand and is continually developing the capability to provide industry leading service. I call this the “never-ending initiative” as every individual or organization can always improve regardless of past achievements.

From a business growth perspective, there is plenty to be excited about. We have several new projects and unique services that will be launched very soon and we are looking forward to Cityscape to allow us to share these with investors and aspiring homeowners.

Meanwhile, I am also at the final stages of publishing my first bilingual property management book and will be working closely with the Dubai Real Estate Institute on introducing an advanced version of the certification property management course.

There are many other ideas and initiatives that I wish to develop after 2016. I still believe our industry can benefit and better serve our customers by adopting and applying technologies in the areas of product development and communications. The world has become a global marketplace but I still believe that global capital flows in our industry are still hindered somewhat because we do not do a good enough job of putting enough global investors in a position of confidence and certainty. There remains a lot of potential in this space I believe.

Then of course, there’s MEMAAR. As mentioned earlier, we’re all working together and collaborating on how we can keep the show growing and developing, so it only gets better every season.

What is your take on the next few months for Dubai market? There is a general feeling of positivity among agents. What is the reality?
Everyone knows that Dubai real estate has been undergoing correction for quite some time now. We feel that the decline in values associated with that correction has halted or virtually halted in all market segments, or that the market is bottoming out. In Q1 of 2016, we have already witnessed significant growth in investor activity and strong land sales. Both are leading indicators that the market is heading into its next cyclical phase. We at Harbor believe that by the end of 2016, the market will have entered its next phase of growth which is expected to accelerate as we draw ever closer to the Dubai World Expo in 2020.

Ask the agent

Can you explain the term capitalization rate?

Capitalisation rate (cap rate) is the rate of return on a real estate property based on the income that the property is expected to generate. It is used to estimate the investor’s potential return on investment. It maybe calculated by dividing the investment’s net operating income (NOI) by the current market value, where NOI is the total revenue derived from renting or leasing the property minus all operating costs. Put simply, the cap rate = NOl current market value. Given that the capital values for Dubai properties have shown greater volatility than the income being derived, the NOI being generated from the property at today’s value needs to be looked into. This allows us to see whether the property’s performance is improving or declining by referring to the cap rate. If the cap rate is declining, this leads us to conclude that selling the property would generate greater income.

Where do you think the best investment opportunities are in the Dubai real estate market?

Definitely in the affordable segment of the market!

We are encouraging clients to invest in this important segment as there are some great opportunities and the demand for affordable housing is likely to continue increasing as Dubai heads towards the Expo 2020. There are many affordable developments that have been sprouting in Dubailand and other parts of the city, especially in the outskirts. They are strategically located, with easy access to major road networks like the Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, thus residents enjoy fast transit times to most of Dubai’s popular areas. The demand for this type of affordable accommodation will continue to grow. invest in apartments and retain ownership for atleast five years to gain superior capital growth and enjoy healthy net annual rental return in the meantime.

Do you think the property prices will fall further in this current cycle? If so, would now be a good time to sell?

The fact that the property industry is notoriously cyclical is widely known yet viewed differently. Investors with a clear strategy and long-term plan simply accept, foresee and plan for cycles in the industry. They look for longer—term sustainable growth rather than take additional risk by trying to accumulate wealth by taking advantage of shorter-term spikes or dips. Investing in property has a very simple purpose: to create wealth over the long term. However, your portfolio needs to be nurtured, maintained and managed to ensure its wealth-creating potential is achieved as it rides the inevitable cycles that occur in the industry. Adopting a short-term vision and reacting unreasonably to inevitable industry slowdowns will lead to underperformance in the longer term. Consider engaging a good property manager who will ensure that you maximize returns.

I plan to purchase our first family home. What are the factors to consider when getting a mortgage?

There are a number of considerations that you need to factor into your plan of buying a home. One of these is getting a mortgage. Generally speaking, you are much better off financially in applying your hard-earned money towards building equity, but keep in mind that mortgage payments can be subject to fluctuations as interest rates rise. Not all mortgages are the same. Try and have the mortgage establishment fees waived. Depending on the institution, this may save you up to Dh3,000. Also request that you are not penalized 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 Dhl0,000, but try to have this stipulation dropped from your contract. Make sure your provider will allow you to utilize the equity you build in your home over time. Some lenders will allow you to use this as security for further borrowing.

Question of the week

I am buying an off-plan property. Can you explain the principles of escrow?

An escrow can be described as a legally recognized financial instrument held by a third party (typically a bank) on behalf of two other parties (typically a buyer and a seller) who have agreed to conduct a particular transaction in accordance with certain conditions. Funds are provided by the buyer and held by the party (bank) providing the escrow service until it receives the formal advice that certain previously agreed obligations of the seller have been fulfilled upon which time, the seller can receive funds to the amount specified in the agreement between the seller and buyer.

The use of escrow accounts by Dubai developers has now been mandated by law for the purpose of protecting the prepayments made by buyers. This limits developers from gaining access to funds until certain construction milestones are completed, helping ensure developers are not misappropriating funds provided in advance for purposes other than which they are intended.

Anybody can open an escrow account but not anybody can open one for the purposes of property development in Dubai. The developer must first be registered as a bona fide developer with RERA which involves providing documents ranging from those which establish the bona fide nature of the developer including details of its officers and solvency, title deeds proving ownership of the land to be developed, NOC from relevant parties to performance guarantees.

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Ask the agent

Q1) There are many opportunities invest in off-plan properties, but the values in the secondary market have improved significantly. Are there still advantages of buying off-plan?

Purchasing a property off-plan can provide you with superior capital gains by the time of completion, providing you are buying at a discount to today’s finished inventory and the market strengthens up to the completion date for the particular property that you are considering. This will depend on an estimation of economic growth, population expansion, the number of competing projects in the pipeline and eventual industry inventory position. Be smart about the “product” that you buy and try to avail yourself of a payment plan. Look for certain property types complete with amenities and facilities in locations you believe will be sought in the future. Deal only with reputable developers and check the status of the escrow account.

Q2) I am planning to invest in Dubai real estate.As this would be my first property investment, can you give any useful tips?

First of all, know why you want to invest in property. You must have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and what role your property portfolio will play in building your wealth. Then you must set your financial objectives carefully. Success in property investment can only be attained when (and if) those objectives have been realised. Always think long term for your greatest success. Those who have had the greatest success possess the ability to think long term, make rational, well-researched and carefully thought-out decisions with the end objectives in mind and understand that every real estate industry globally will go through cycles of growth and contraction. Make sure you know your-stuff by being able to communicate intelligently and knowledgeably with the experts. Always strive to eliminate risks. Plan your finances, cash flows, capital requirements and debt levels carefully.

Q3) I wish to sell my villa, but the garden needs a little bit of work. Is it worth investing in improving the garden? Am I likely to get my money back?

For your garden to become a selling point, you need to establish a low-maintenance, functional landscape that is highly appealing to the potential buyer. Resist the temptation to clutter the landscape with every species of flora known to man. Plants grow and you need to keep that growth in check as your garden can look unkempt and create a negative impression. Ensure that all landscaping elements must be coordinated carefully. if you don‘t know or understand the differing qualities of certain soils, it’s time to call your landscape gardener and have him produce an impressive garden for you. Even if you don’t plan on selling your home for another five or 10 years, now is a good time to lay the foundation for a great landscape design that will win over your future homebuyers.

Q4) While the correction in the Dubai property market is broad, certain segments have undergone a greater correction than others. Are there greater-opportunities in some segments in terms of long-term ROI?

Definitely! We are encouraging everyone to invest in the lower priced, higher value, affordable segment of the market as there are some great opportunities. There are many high-performing, yet affordable developments spread all across Dubai, giving investors a wide range of options to choose from. Apartments in some developments have seen excellent capital growth with some residences growing by 35%-over the past two years, with rental premiums of at least 7% not uncommon. Demand for this type of affordable accommodation continues to grow especially as Dubai’s population swells in the run-up to the Expo. invest in an apartment and retain ownership for at least five years as you will benefit from superior capital growth and enjoy a healthy net annual rental return.

Question of the week

Q5) Recent reports have suggested that the current property correction in dubai has bottomed. Would you agree with this and is it a good time to buy?

It is always difficult to pick peaks and troughs in real estate cycles.
Having said that, there are definitely opportunities available and advantages to be gained from purchasing now as the next few years are expected to see strong economic growth. Start your property search immediately as a property investment requires the same approach regardless of the state of the market. lf you have the cash, pay for it outright, but do consider taking out a mortgage as long as you understand the impact of interest rate rises in the future. Think carefully about location, surrounding infrastructure, construction quality, and developer reputation and building amenities. Properties with attractive views, close to the beach, with golfing facilities, are part of an iconic development and have close access to the Metro generally provide good returns. You also need to consider the effectivity of the owners association, the service charges and the quality of maintenance services as these will affect the long-term value of your investment. Be purposeful, patient and pragmatic and you are well on the way to making a very good investment decision.

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Reletting property to a new tenant

Entering a unit vacated by an absconding tenant could be illegal without obtaining court approval

I think the tenant of my property has left the country without paying several months’ rent. What do I need to do to re-let the property to a new tenant?

If you have determined that the tenant has left the country, you will need to send him a 30 days official written notice for non-renewal/ payment of rent. As you are unlikely to receive a reply from your absent tenant, you should also ale a case against him at the Rent Disputes Committee. It will hear your concern and help you to gain legal access to your property by sending a representative to open the property. (You will have to arrange and pay for any locksmith charges).

You must not enter the property prior to legal access being granted as you will be in violation of the law. This is an important point to note as many landlords feel that, because they own the property, they have automatic right of entry. This is not the case when there is a current tenancy agreement in place.

The representative will make a schedule of belongings which have been left by the absconding tenant and you will have to store these at your cost for three months upon which time they can be auctioned and the revenues can be paid to cover your expenses and any shortfalls in compensation.

As soon as the apartment is ready for rent to a new tenant, you’ll have to settle any outstanding utilities and prepare it for re-renting. The case against the tenant will remain on ale and, if he should return to the UAE, you can pursue him through legal channels and claim all your losses.

As always, we recommend you engage professionals to help you deal with recalcitrant tenants and any claims you may have against them.

I plan on investing-in a property within the next four months to take advantage of the current lower prices. Can you advise on where I should invest?

There is no doubt that the affordable segment in Dubai is showing lots of promise as these properties will be in high demand as Dubai’s population growth gains momentum on the back of a period of expected strong economic growth leading up to the end of the decade.

Properties located in non-prime areas such as Dubailand continue to do very well and represent great value at today’s prices. With the current market correction in full swing we have witnessed the more affordable or secondary areas of the market continue to provide superior total returns for investors.

Examples of affordable projects that are providing good rental returns and expected capital appreciation are the Sky courts project and the adjacent QPoint project. An apartment in Sky courts have proven to be very popular with tenants and investors alike and has historically seen excellent capital growth with some apartments growing by 20 to 25 per cent over the past 24 months with rental premiums of at least 7 percent not uncommon. Purchasing an apartment at Sky courts has been made even been made more affordable with the developer offering units, some with existing and reliable tenants, with a very attractive easy payment plan.

QPoint, although recently released is also attracting rental yields of 6 per cent to 7 per cent. At the moment, apartments in Q Point are being valued between Dh685-Dh750 per square foot, representing fantastic value for this new development.

Demand for this type of affordable accommodation will continue to grow as Dubai’s population swells in the run up to the Expo and the demand for well located affordable housing increases.

There is no doubt that real estate values have been declining for some time now. Has the market reached the bottom and do you think now is the time to buy?

If you are considering purchasing a property, there are definitely 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 the Dubai. Picking the exact timing is always difficult but it is better to be early rather than late.

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.

Know what you can afford. If you have the cash, I suggest you pay for it outright. However, don’t be afraid to take out a mortgage. 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.

You also need to consider the effectiviness of the Owners Association, service charges and the quality of maintenance services as these will have an effect on 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 very sound decision.

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Gulf News Freehold – Ask the Agent

I am concerned about the risks involved in purchasing an apartment, particularly with regard to my rights if something should go wrong.

Laws have been introduced to better protect the rights of industry participants. These include measures to standardize and clarify the relationship between parties to a real estate agreement and provide recourse when a party has been disadvantaged because of unethical behaviors or practices. There has been a lot of progress made in other areas as well such as the management of investor finances with the introduction of escrow accounts; owner empowerment with the introduction of strata law and introduction of owners associations; investor recourse when disadvantaged by delays in handing over of projects or changes in specifications of properties; or tenant protection with the introduction of mechanisms to restrict the imposition of ridiculous rent hikes.

I am looking to buy an apartment in Jumeirah Lakes Towers or the Dubai Marina area. Do you think it is a good time to buy? Any recommendations?

lt is definitely a good time to buy right now. The market has corrected well for buyers and there are some fantastic easy payment schemes on offer. One example of an extraordinary payment plan is that which is being offered in Dubai Marina. Some two-bedroom apartments in the area are being offered with prices starting at Dhs 2,150,000. All you need is a 10% deposit and you can pay the balance in pro-rated monthly installments over the ensuing seven years with no profit charges applied to the balance.

Meanwhile, Jumeirah Lakes Towers is also a sought-after destination for residents and tenants because it is known to provide various housing options that offer affordable rates. It likewise has the huge advantage of being closeto the Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram, Dubai media and Internet Cities, the business district and Dubai Marina.

I have a young family and I am considering purchasing our-first home. Can you provide any advice as this is the first purchase I am making.

Here are common factors to consider as a first time buyer:  1)The real estate market is cyclical and home values do not always appreciate over time. Very careful planning is required if you plan to move in just three or four years; 2) You are much better off financially if you apply your hard-earned dirhams towards building equity in your own home, but remember that mortgage payments can be subject to fluctuations as interest rates rise, while rent increases are governed by law; 3) Avoid making lifestyle sacrifices by choosing a home and a mortgage that suit your budget; 4) Factor-into your decision your family requirements in the future; 5) The Dubai market today is a buyer’s market. If you have done your planning properly, you should be in a position to make a quick decision.

I am looking at expanding my business by establishing several branches around the city. What should I factor into my planning?

lt is all about the convenience and prestige that a carefully thought-out location can bring to your existing and potential customers, staff and business associates. Location is critical to establishing a competitive advantage. There is no use having a superior product or service if your location is inconvenient for your customers. The same can be said for the staff. Proximity to public transport and parking availability reach new levels of importance when summer reaches its peak and staff will be appreciative if you recognize their needs as well. Taking advantage of a prestigious location can do wonders for your brand image. People naturally gravitate towards successful enterprises and a prestige location can help send the message that your business is successful, strong and superior to the others located in lesser environs. Business associates will also be eager to visit and do business with you.

I am thinking of diversifying my property portfolio by buying some commercial assets. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Things are looking very promising for new business in Dubai. As the emirate seeks to grow economically, readily available office space is one of the important factors that new enterprises will consider. A few points to keep in mind:

  • Dubai’s economic growth is strong at around 4%, driven by tourism and trade. New projects to expand these revenue-generating economic sectors are a feature of Dubai’s growth outlook
  • The amount of infrastructural, development and economic initiatives, culminating in the hosting of the expo 2020, is indicative of the government’s commitment to economic progression
  • Population growth is forecast to be between 5% and 7% going forward and, by some estimates. Is considered to be conservative
  • Business establishment costs, including the cost of capital, have been at their lowest for years

Office rental returns are staging a recovery. There is a relative shortage of Grade A, large floor-plate, single-owner space favored by large companies. This represents strong investment potential. But, there is still a considerable, albeit shrinking, vacancy rate of around 23% which represents good opportunities for value purchases providing strong cash flows increasing with Dubai’s economic momentum over the longer term.

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Advice for hassle-free ownership

Mohanad Alwadiya is Managing Director of Harbor Real Estate and advisory board member and instructor at Dubai Real Estate Institute, the official training and certification arm of the Dubai Land Department.

A long-term outlook is important for property owners to maximise their investments

It seems that with all the new projects that have been announced over the past two years, Dubai’s real estate market is about to enter a new period of oversupply. What are your thoughts on this?

There is no doubt that developers have recommenced construction on many projects that were stalled during the recession, or launched new projects on the back of the market’s recent resurgence. Given the frequency of the headlines announcing new projects and the size of the developments being launched, it is easy to be concerned that an oversupply scenario may eventuate.

However, calculating optimal supply levels, particularly when emerging from a recessionary period, is challenging. It depends on an accurate estimation of demand for real estate assets, which will emanate from population growth. In Dubai’s case, this will largely be driven by overall economic growth going forward. In addition, one needs to comprehend a lag effect from the time that conditions conducive to development are identified by developers and when properties are completed and are released on to the market.

Given that Dubai’s economy is expected to grow at an estimated 5 per cent annually for the remainder of the decade and initiatives such as the World Expo 2020 are expected to generate an additional 270,000 jobs, the demand for housing and commercial facilities is expected to grow significantly. Much of the city’s planning estimates the number of people living in the emirate to grow to 3.4 million by 2020, or a 7 per cent annual increase from the current population of 2.25 million.

We take a minimum five-year view when trying to understand supply and demand. Taking into account the nature of the market’s resurgence, strong growth in fundamental economic drivers such as tourism and trade, levels of investment into infrastructure and initiatives, and stakeholder commitment to sustainable growth, we believe that while inventory levels may spike in the interim, they will not be excessive at the end of our five-year forecast period.

I own an apartment that is leased. The lease will expire in three months and I wish to refurbish the apartment and use it personally once the refurbishment is complete. Can you advise on any legal issues I might need to consider?

You need to consider the rights of the tenant. Law No. 33, Article 25 (2) provides protection to the tenant by stipulating the circumstances under which a tenant can be evicted. If the landlord wishes to demolish the property or conduct construction that makes it impossible for the tenant to use the property, the landlord has grounds for eviction. This would appear to apply in your case. However, if challenged, you will need to provide proof of your intentions, such as plans, contractor agreements, etc.

A landlord who wants to use the property himself or give it to next of kin also has the right to evict a tenant. He will have to prove that he does not have access to an alternative property.

The landlord must give at least 12 months’ notice of eviction and provide the reasons and necessary documentation supporting it.

Therefore, I recommend you advise the tenant of your intentions in advance of the upcoming lease renewal as he or she could choose not to renew and vacate the apartment. If this is not the tenant’s preferred course of action, at least you have abided by the law.

I just had a problem tenant vacate my apartment. How can I ensure I don’t get another troublesome one?

Bad tenants can make your life very miserable. There have been many reports regarding tenant rights but I feel the rights of landlords should also be recognized as much.

There are some basic steps you should take. Set a meeting to get to know the potential tenant better, including his or her lifestyle and employment stability. Try to figure out his or her plans for the future as such details can often give you an insight into the type of people you are dealing with. This will help you instinctively understand a person’s character. Trust your instincts.

Request references or contact details from previous landlords to identify any past issues with regard to the care of rental property or missed rental payments.

Obtain a letter from the employer stating the tenant’s salary and a copy of a bank statement. You should check for regular salary payments into the account, which should correspond with the employer’s salary statement and also determine whether there is enough to cover rent.

Obtain a copy of the tenant’s passport and visa. Check all details to ensure the person you are talking to is the actual lessee.

Use the standard contract form provided by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency. Once signed by all parties, it should be registered in the Ejari system, and you should ensure all cheques are signed by the party to the contract.

Finally, engage a property management company to take care of all the above (and more) for you. You will sleep a lot easier and stand a greater chance of realizing your investment’s potential.

I am new to Dubai, having started a new job six months ago. I am currently renting an apartment, but considering buying either an apartment or a villa for myself. What advice can you give someone new to investing in Dubai?

The first factor to consider is location as this can drive up to 90 per cent of the property value. The more established and prestigious locations such as Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina and those close to the Metro will always command a premium, while areas such as Jumeirah Lakes Towers, The Greens, Dubai Sports City, Skycourts, Queue Point, Discovery Gardens and International City offer affordability and value for money. A lot depends on your budget and lifestyle.

Quality of product and maintenance services as well as the extent of completion and quality of infrastructure surrounding your intended home are important, along with considerations such as an owners association and its effectiveness.

With regard to the type of property, current and future supply of various asset types need to be examined. You should consult a reputable property broker to assist you with this. For example, villas across the board have out-performed other asset types because of supply shortages. However, when looking at the inventory pipeline, this may not be the case in the future with more affordable property likely to be in higher demand.

Financial planning is key. It’s important to know what you can afford in terms of repayments, whether you will need a mortgage, how flexible you can be should interest rates rise and what other demands may arise on your disposable income.

Finally, get yourself a good broker. As a newcomer to the Dubai real estate scene, you will benefit from the experience and knowledge that a good broker can bring to your property ownership aspirations.

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Gulf News Freehold – Ask the Agent

ls Dubai’s realty market about to enter a new period of oversupply? With new projects being announced and the market now in decline, will this prolong the current market correction?

Calculating optimal supply levels, particularly when emerging from a recessionary period, is particularly challenging. it depends on an accurate estimation of demand for real estate assets which will emanate from population growth which, in Dubai’s case, will be largely driven by overall economic growth. It also needs to comprehend a lag effect from the time that conditions conducive to development are identified by developers and when properties are finally released into the market. Given that the Dubai economy is expected to grow at an estimated 5%+ annually and initiatives such as the Expo 2020 are expected to generate more jobs, the demand for housing and commercial facilities is expected to grow significantly.

l recently arrived in Dubai. Can you give me tips on what l should consider when looking to rent a property?

There are six key considerations when going for your first rental.

  1. Know what you can afford and allow 30% of your gross household income for rent.
  2. Give yourself time to find the best solution that fits your budget. Do not jump at the first possibility and do not settle for less.
  3. Make sure your agent is registered with RERA. You can log on to the Dubai Land Department (DLD) website to check.
  4. Make sure the tenancy agreement is as per the RERA standard template. Check DLD website.
  5. Ensure you document any property defects before you sign the contract. Raise them with your agent before you sign anything.
  6. Ensure your rental contract is registered in RERA’s Ejari system. Insist that your broker completes the registration as it is the first step towards safeguarding you rights as a tenant.

I have owned my home for over seven years and I am looking at how I can save money by upgrading particular aspects of the property.

  1. Here are seven ideas that may help you save a few dirhams:
  2. Use low-flow fixtures to cut water usage by up to 40%.
  3. Buy fluorescent bulbs which last four to l0 times longer than regular light bulbs
  4. Update your dishwasher. Modern units use 42% less water than older models.
  5. Consider a tankless water heater and save on electricity.
  6. Good ceiling fans can reduce air-conditioning costs. They dispel the need to turn on the aircon often.
  7. Apply energy reducing film on windows to reduce internal temperatures.
  8. Consider fitting solar panels.

Our contract states there is payment due at handover and payment as maintenance advance. The developer is asking all payments on “completion date.” ls “completion date” not the same as “handover date?”

“Completion date” and “handover date” are not the same. The building can be deemed complete once the official “Completion Certificate,” which ensures the building passed all inspections has been received. Just because a building has been issued a completion certificate does not mean it is ready for handover and occupancy. Often, there are a number of small items that need to be completed before it can be occupied. l suggest you confirm that your SPA definitely refers to the “handover date” as what triggers the final payment and maintenance advance. If so, you should not make the final payment until the developer is ready to hand over the keys to you and only after you (or a professional) had the chance to inspect the apartment to ensure you are receiving what you paid for.

With the current correction in the market having been underway for some time now, do you think the market has bottomed and represents a good opportunity to buy?

There are definitely opportunities available and advantages to be gained from purchasing now. The market will pick up again as the next five years are expected to see strong economic growth in Dubai, but picking the exact timing is always difficult.

Start your property search immediately as a property investment requires the same approach and set of considerations regardless of the state of the market.

Know what you can afford. If you have the cash , I suggest you pay for it outright; however, do not be afraid to take out a mortgage as long as you plan and understand the impact of interest rate rises in the future.

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

Also consider the effectivity of the owners association, service charges and the quality of maintenance services as these will have an effect on the long-term value of your investment.

Send in your property issue-related questions to be answered by industry experts, mentioning ‘Ask the Agent’ in the subject line, to: properties@gulfnews.com

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Boost your portfolio

By Mohanad Alwadiya

Long-term planning is paramount to maximize financial gains

I have a property portfolio consisting of a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments in Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Dubai Marina. How can I capitalize on opportunities that arise as the World Expo 2020 draws near?

You need to seek professional advice. Many landlords across Dubai are bound to miss out on the revenue-generating opportunities that the Expo will bring because of poor or non-existent planning. A competent property manager will maximize your financial gains by providing an assessment of the opportunities and a strategy. Do  not  make  the  mistake  of  leaving  your  planning  for  too late. You will need to comprehend current and future market conditions and events, factors that may enable or inhibit revenue growth, inflation and cost increases as well as a complete understanding of financial modelling and the ever-developing area of industry policy and regulation. Depending on the size and complexity of your portfolio, you should have, as a minimum, a rolling five-year activity plan, which covers cost management and maintenance schedules, pricing and marketing, and tenant management and policy. A competent property manager will also provide you with communications and review schedules, as well as status and financial reporting.

There are a lot of opportunities to buy off-plan at the moment.  How can I protect myself against buying an apartment of inferior quality?

Firstly, make sure that you are dealing with a reputable developer. A positive effect of the recession was that a lot of inferior developers were exposed and are no longer in business. Seek professional guidance — those in the industry have a good understanding of who the reputable developers are. Secondly, ask about the proactive measures taken to ensure the product is built to an acceptable standard and take the time to inspect the developer’s completed projects. Warranties and any quality assurance policies should be discussed in detail. Get the sales and purchase agreements reviewed by a professional so you have legal recourse should any issues arise. Upon completion you have the right to inspect your apartment and report any legitimate issues to the developer for rectification. Matters that can be remedied in the short term should be fixed immediately.  Remember, once you have taken ownership of the apartment, the developer is obliged to fix any issues that may arise for 12 months following the transfer of ownership.

Mohanad Alwadiya is Managing Director of Harbor Real Estate and advisory board member and instructor at the Dubai Real Estate Institute, the official training and certification arm of the Dubai Land Department.

Mohanad Alwadiya

Gulf News Freehold – Ask the Agent

With the Dubai property market undergoing a correction, does it make sense to invest or wait until the market is showing signs of picking up?

While the market is cooling a little, there are advantages to be gained from purchasing now. The market will pick up again as the next five years are expected to see strong economic growth, but picking the exact timing is difficult. Start your property search immediately as a property investment requires the same approach regardless of the state of the market. Know what you can afford. If you have the cash, pay for it outright, but don’t be afraid to take a mortgage. Think about location, infrastructure, construction quality, developer reputation and building amenities. Consider the effectivity of the owners association, service charges and quality of maintenance services. Be purposeful, persistent, patient and pragmatic in your approach to make a sound investment decision.

There seems to be a lot of press and activity regarding the Expo 2020. How can I, as a landlord of four apartments, capitalise on any new opportunities?

Seek professional advice on to how to manage your portfolio. Many landlords across Dubai are bound to miss out on the revenue generating opportunities that the Expo will bring because of poor or non-existent planning.

A competent property manager will provide you with the best opportunity to maximise your financial gains. Do not make the mistake of leaving your planning too late. Know the current and likely future market conditions and events, risk factors that may enable or inhibit revenue growth, inflation and cost increases and a complete comprehension of financial modeling and the ever-developing area of industry policy and regulation. Depending on the size and complexity of your portfolio, make a five-year plan which covers pricing, cost management and maintenance schedules and several other considerations.

I have 14 apartments which are becoming too large to manage. I am considering hiring a property manager. What type of fees can I expect to pay?

It will vary by provider. It may be between 3% and 6% of the rental receipts; some will have an administrative fee. Understand what you expect from your property manager as the depth and breadth of their services vary greatly. You can negotiate a fee structure based on your actual requirements. Ask for referrals and make sure you follow up with some existing clients to check their efficiency and professionalism. A competent property manager will provide an assessment, strategy and activity plan designed to harness the financial potential of your property. You should have a rolling five-year activity plan which covers pricing, marketing and tenant management among others. A competent property manager will also provide you with review schedules regular financial reporting and many more.

With many new projects and off-plan opportunities, I am nervous about the quality of end products. Can we expect an improvement in quality?

During the global financial crisis, many developers realised that properties of poor quality were dealt the harshest of value declines. As a result, many developers did not survive. Having said that, the old caveat of “buyer beware” still applies. Deal with a reputable developer. Ask around or seek professional guidance. Ask what proactive measures are taken to ensure the end product has been built to an acceptable standard. Warranties and any quality assurance policies should be discussed in detail and have the sales and purchase agreement reviewed by a professional. Engage an expert to inspect (snag) your property and report any legitimate issues to the developer for rectification. Remember, once you have taken ownership of the apartment, the developer is still obliged to fix any issues that may arise during the full 12 months following the transfer of ownership.

Now that the market has corrected, there are many good opportunities in completed assets. Given the rising value of finished properties, are there advantages of buying off-plan now?

Purchasing an off-plan property. can provide you with superior capital gains by the time of completion, provided you are buying at a discount to today’s finished inventory and the market is expected to strengthen up to the completion date for the particular property that you are considering. This, of course, will depend on an estimation of economic growth, population expansion, the number of competing projects in the pipeline and the eventual industry inventory position.

Be smart about the product that you buy and try to avail yourself of a payment plan.

Look for certain property types complete with amenities and facilities in locations you believe will be keenly sought in the future. Do not assume that all property types in all locations will improve their values homogeneously. No market works this way. Also check the latest Metro route planning.

Deal with reputable developers only and check the status of the escrow account of the development. Escrow accounts were introduced under Law No.  8 whereby all property developers in Dubai must be registered with RERA and hold an escrow account which protects the funds of the buyers and ensures safety of the purchase.

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Gulf News Freehold – Ask The Agent

I own an apartment in Dubai. I got a new tenant and increased its rent but I cannot raise it further according to the rental index. The market seems to have peaked. Should I sell it?

Yes, there is price correction, but we are far removed from experiencing a long-term trend. Looking over the next five years, we expect the market to achieve an average price growth of around 7%. Bear in mind that we are talking averages here and popular areas have a habit of outperforming the average. It really comes down to alternatives. If you have identified an alternative investment to give you a better income stream and capital return than what you expect to receive in five years from your apartment, then the right decision may be to sell. However, if you have not, hold on to the property. You will continue to receive at least a 5-7% net rental return and achieve around 7% per annum capital growth in the future.

Why is it that the rents of not so new apartments in some areas remain high? The rates in these areas did not fall as much when recession struck and when rents increased, their rents also increased fast. How come?

The value of a particular location is usually derived from the levels of pleasure, lifestyle convenience, security, harmony, future economic value or even status that can be derived from the property. Whether it is a spectacular view (sea, lake and others) or proximity to public transport, business districts, entertainment, dining, schools or hospitals, the perceived benefits that a location may bring to a prospective tenant can account for up to 90%, Areas close to the beach and entertainment venues as well as properties located close to/within. Downtown Dubai or the business district will command a location premium. Most potential tenants consider a view as a key factor for their house to be enjoyed.

I think that l am paying excessive service charges. Getting access to information that might prove my suspicions is difficult. Is my OA obliged to provide me with information?

Attending owners association (OA) meetings and requesting details on the service charges would be the logical place to start and they are obliged to address your query. Remember, the purpose of the OA is to manage, operate and maintain the common areas, virtually all of the “owner shared” elements of the building. They do this by appointing contractors with the expertise to carry out the required tasks and set a service charge that all owners must pay to cover the cost of the contractor services. The OA is a “not for profit” business entity in its own right with the powers to operate a bank account, sue (or be sued), purchase, own and dispose of assets and enter legally binding agreements. You can request and view the financial statements of the association to ensure the charges you are paying are justified and correct.

Reports are saying that the market has slowed and prices are correcting. Is it a good time to buy?

Picking the exact timing is difficult. Start your property search immediately as this kind of investment requires the same approach regardless of the state of the market. Know what you can afford. If you have the cash, pay for it outright, but you can always take a mortgage. Think carefully about location, surrounding infrastructure, construction quality, developer reputation and building amenities. If you have close access to the Metro, even better. Also consider the effectivity of the OA, service charges and the quality of maintenance services as these affect the long-term value of your investment. Be purposeful, persistent, patient and pragmatic in your approach and you are well on the way to making a very sound investment decision. However, if you decide to rent, there are also great deals. With robust tenant protection legislation and a rental index to limit your exposure to increases, your rights will be recognised.

The property market seems to swing in favour of buyers and investors. Where do you believe the best investment opportunities are likely to appear?

Definitely in, the affordable segment of the market. We are encouraging clients to invest in this segment as it has great opportunities.

Excellent examples, of high performing yet affordable developments are the Skycourts and Queue Point communities in Dubailand. These have seen excellent capital growth.

Demand for this type of affordable housing will continue to grow and we expect other developments that are located close to the two communities to benefit as well, especially as Dubai’s population swells in the run-up to the Expo and the demand for affordable housing increases.

A smart move would be to invest in an apartment and retain ownership for at least five years as I am confident that you will benefit from superior capital growth and enjoy very healthy net annual rental return in the meantime.

In addition, consider looking at the apartments in Sarah Ajmal and Windsor Residence. They are all expected to perform very well as the demand for affordable properties continues to grow.

Of course, there are the established areas such as Remraam, International City, Discovery Gardens and International Media Production Zone, while the Town Square project is one to watch out for.