Structural Shift

It is always a very promising sign when an industry demonstrates the flexibility and resilience to undertake a structural shift when market requirements change or develop. This is exactly what has happened in Dubai’s property and real estate industry.

It came as no surprise to those that take a broader view of the industry that calls from a variety of industry participants including the government, banks and the more visionary industry observers for more affordable housing in Dubai had gathered volume and intensity over the past few years. In so doing, there was a recognition that the most important investor in Dubai’s Real Estate market had been forgotten too often by developers and brokers and that a refocusing on building affordable, robust and sustainable communities to be inhabited by the average family living frugally on an average salary was of irrefutable importance if Dubai’s economy was to develop and grow to the next level.

The bedrock of any property industry is its owner occupiers. They represent the core of the industry as it is they who view property as an investment in life, not just a way to make a quick buck. And yet only recently have they attracted focus in Dubai’s rapidly maturing industry which is more proportionate to their importance.

Owner occupiers see Real Estate in a different light. Typically they are normal people, not overly wealthy, who are concerned with providing the family with a future. For them, it’s about creating a lifestyle. Its about creating a home which will provide an environment that is safe and secure within which the individual, couple or family can grow and develop in all aspects whether physical, emotional, social and, of course, financial. In this respect they have a lot more at stake than those investors with financial interests only.

Healthy, vibrant and progressive communities are built around the stability that owner occupiers bring. They are less likely to migrate to another neighborhood and are more concerned with regards to the overall well being of the community that they are part of. They establish relationships that strengthen the fabric of a community which itself can become a powerful voice for progress.

And these communities are now springing into life all over Dubai. Communities such as Skycourts, Q Point and Motor City in Dubailand have shown how rapidly communities can develop and grow to provide a lifestyle that belies their affordability.

So who needs to ensure that this most important consumer segment is catered for in an industry which can be notoriously out of touch with consumer requirements? Well, just about everybody who plays a role in our industry but, more significantly, the government, the financiers and the developers. And given the results of 2016, they are to be congratulated for initiating the structural shifts that we are witnessing.

The dialogue regarding the dual objectives of affordability and profitable sustainable growth for the real estate sector must be ongoing as a continual and constant review of possible initiatives and regulatory actions that will ensure that the considerable progress already made and foundations laid in strengthening and modelling the industry is continually built upon. The health of the industry is too important and the issue of affordability is critical to the broader economy as well. Dubai can ill afford becoming cost uncompetitive in the global market in the lead up to the 2020 World Expo.

For any Real Estate market to function efficiently and effectively, it requires a banking sector which is also functioning efficiently and effectively. Banks play a fundamental role in enabling prospective home owner occupiers own a piece of Real Estate. If you consider that in most global markets, anywhere between 65% and 85% of residential property transactions involve some form of financing, and reflect on the fact that in Dubai the number of residential property purchases financed by mortgages in 2016 was around 50% there appears to be plenty of scope for more growth. This number is actually up from the 33% historically seen in the emirate so it appears that the banks are discovering the formula of providing accessible finance to a broader consumer base without taking on excessive, whether real or perceived, risk.

Developers have come a long way in providing greater supply of affordable housing. To their credit, they now have a deeper understanding of what is required by this segment of the market. They themselves have improved in providing recognizable value, emanating from a greater focus on the customers and their requirements and value expectations. Some have demonstrated innovative approaches to delivering affordable solutions which are valued by the customer, and done so profitably.

Virtually every industry has faced this challenge over the last 5 decades and many have demonstrated that giant strides in the provision of true value while retaining healthy margins is possible. Dubai’s property Industry will continue to follow a similar path in 2017.


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

When it comes to amusement, I have always thought that Dubai has a definite competitive advantage in that it is uniquely placed. With its geographic location, infrastructure, stability, cultural diversity and existing reputation as a leisure destination of note, development as the destination of choice by, not only GCC families and youth, but visitors from all over the world who desire amusement, adventure and unique experiences, will play an increasingly important role in building a strong, vibrant and resilient economy and, of course, property industry.

So, it was with excitement, not amusement, which I read about the latest addition to a city already swelling with entertainment and activity alternatives – the IMG Worlds of Adventure. This amusement park took three years to build and cost more than 3.6 billion dirhams. To be labelled “the world’s largest indoor theme park” is no idle boast, with the complex covering over 1.5 million square feet or around 20 times the size of the pitch at Emirates Stadium in London.

And, wait for it… there is more to come…

The next six months should see an even bigger development which, built at a cost approaching 10 billion dirhams, will include such entertainment icons as LEGOLAND and Bollywood, and a giant water park.

The new theme parks will play a key role in ensuring the emirate’s target of 20 million visitors will be visiting the emirate annually from 2021 will be achieved. Very impressive stuff!

But the reason why I love these latest theme parks is not because I enjoy rollercoaster rides … I will leave that for the more adventurous. I am excited at the effect these fantastic initiatives will have on the economy and, more specifically, the property industry that is so close to my heart.

From an economic point of view, this is very serious business indeed!

Aside from the obvious direct benefits of tens of billions of dirhams being invested into the economy, few people realize the enormous economic contribution theme parks make to the overall economy post launch. It is a cliché, but the world is a small place and the war for providing entrepreneurial and employment opportunities is waged on a global battleground and a successful entertainment and amusement industry is just one economic weapon that Dubai can employ to great effect.

And being a global growth industry, participation cannot be ignored.  Consider the following which was sourced from the TEA/AECOM 2015 Theme Index and Museum Index:

In 2015, there were …

…420 million visits to attractions run by the top 10 global theme park groups, up by 7.2 percent.
…236 million visits to the top 25 amusement/theme parks worldwide, up by 5.4 percent.
…146 million visits to the top 20 amusement/theme parks in North America, up by 5.9 percent.
…131 million visits to the top 20 amusement/theme parks in Asia-Pacific, up by 6.9 percent.
…61 million visits to the top 20 amusement/theme parks in Europe, Middle East and Africa, up by 2.8 percent.
… 29 million visits to the top 20 water parks worldwide, up by 3.7 percent.

In a world that is struggling to generate any form of impressive economic growth, the growth within this industry is truly impressive.

Without doubt, the current world leader with regards to amusement parks is the southern US state of Florida. It’s a fact that theme parks are a major reason why people visit this American state. Here are the top theme parks in Florida and the number of annual visitors they attracted in 2014 according to the TEA/AECOM Theme and Museum Index…

… Magic Kingdom – 19.3 million
… Epcot -11.5 million
… Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 10.4 million
… Disney Hollywood Studios – 10.3 million
… Universal Studios – 8.2 million
… Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios – 8.1 million
… SeaWorld – 4.7 million
… Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – 4.1 million

Truly impressive numbers which only highlight that the economic advantages created by having such a robust entertainment industry are staggering. The state estimates tourism brings in a whopping $82 billion in visitor spending while the State Department of Economic Opportunity says that of the approximately 9.1 million workers in Florida, 1.1 million of them hold jobs directly attributed to tourism. That’s better than 1 worker in 10!

Obviously, the job creation potential of this industry, both direct and indirect is staggering… which is why amusement parks are such serious business. The true long-term value of these projects lies in the long-term economic advantages of employing people and creating commercial activities in order to develop a unique capability to entertain the families and youth of the region and beyond.

And job growth fosters population growth which is critical to any property / real estate Industry. It is the undisputed catalyst to industry growth and the population growth generated by the substantial increase in investment and employment opportunities that a successful foray into the entertainment industry would generate would be and have huge and long-lasting benefits for the property / real estate industry downstream.

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.