Equilibrium now further away for Dubai market

Developers in Dubai will be happy with their 2017 results, with over 70% of all transactions in Dubai in 2017 being in the off-plan space, their efforts have been well rewarded.

In a year where over 69,000 real estate transactions were recorded, with a total value exceeding Dh285 billion, real estate transactions in 2017 eclipsed the 41,776 deals achieved in 2016 which represented a total value of Dh259 billion.

Winning the hearts and minds of real estate investors has never been easy. In recent years, certainly post 2008, buying off-plan would have been viewed with more circumspection as the prospect of buying finished property that would able to yield cash flow in the form of rental income virtually immediately would have been considered a less risky prospect than relying on developer platitudes regarding construction timelines.

In addition, attracting the buyers in the affordable segment has always been challenging as the purchaser tends to be more pragmatic, governed more by fiscal realities than emotion or ego. Developers needed to broaden and deepen their customer understandings and develop greater empathy for a segment that had really been neglected in the past.

So, the foray by developers into the affordable segment was accompanied by an increasingly attractive array of successfully marketed financing offers which were designed to garner an increasing proportion of available investor capital into the off-plan property space. After all, new customers have different needs requiring new strategies and tactics.

While these new tactics may have been treated with suspicion in the past, the industry has matured from the heady days of flipping, speculation, false promises and minimal accountability with the regulatory changes imposed on developers to ensure the rights of investors are protected making offerings in the off-plan space appear less risky in nature.

So, faced with a market nervous about global and regional geo-political and economic events, the imposition of a VAT, the distraction of alternative “new world” investments such as cryptocurrencies, along with burgeoning oversupply in the highly competitive and lower margin per unit affordable segment, developers, requiring greater sales volumes to achieve financial viability, needed to get financially creative to make their affordable offerings even more affordable and accessible for end users and financially more attractive for investors.

Inevitably, the amount of capital shifting from the traditional secondary market to the off-plan market created in a capital allocation imbalance, resulting in declining demand for finished properties. Interestingly, capital allocation was really the issue, as supply was quite healthy in 2017, with mortgages financing over 50% of transactions. It wasn’t that long ago that mortgages made up less than 30% of total transactions, extremely low by global standards.

So, as we enter 2018, we are faced with a familiar situation. The market is, once again, is moving further away from the equilibrium that we are all seeking.

The focus of developers to satisfy the requirements of an emerging affordable segment has been overdone, putting pressure on prices, yields and growth in across the industry.

To suggest a reversal or redirection of capital to the more expansive segments is likely in the short term is mere wishful thinking. The only way to address the issues facing todays market is to ensure that the long awaited and much speculated upon Expo inspired surge in demand transpires or to find other ways to expand the capital pool.

One initiative to do just that is in its final stages of planning. Looking to attract an even greater number of overseas investors, a series of roadshows will be held targeting key overseas markets such as India, China, Russia and the USA with the sole purpose of making investors in these countries to understand the benefits of investing in Dubai.

The schedule for the events is close to completion with events in Amman and Kuwait scheduled for late March to be followed by Cairo in April, Beijing in May, and Moscow in July before visiting London in September, Chicago and Dallas in October and wrapping up the tour in Mumbai does in December.

The importance of initiatives such as these cannot be overstated and The Dubai Land Department, realising the importance of increasing industry demand is pushing hard with this initiative.

Despite UAE investors leading the 2017 nationality rankings of investors in Dubai real estate, Indian investors continue hold second place and remain extremely important to the industry. Saudis came in third place followed by the British, who have dropped down the rankings in recent years due to uncertainty around Brexit and a decline in value of the British Pound. The Chinese are emerging rapidly as active investors in Dubai and still hold the greatest potential for foreign investment.

Foreign investors, almost 23,000 in number made approximately 30,000 transactions worth Dh56 billion in 2017. The local market’s reliance on foreign investment continues and, outside the Gulf region, there are huge opportunities to increase the awareness of what benefits the Dubai market continues to offer, not least of which, is the potential yields of 7-11 percent which are unheard of in much of the developed world.

So, the race continues … to win the hearts and minds of the global investment community.

ASK-THE-AGENT-4Nov17

Ask the agent

Gulf News Saturday, November 4, 2017
FREEHOLD
By: Mohanad Alwadiya CEO, Harbor Real Estate

I was advised to hire a property agent to get a better deal. They show what they have and say what others offer are not good. Are they being truthful?

The real estate market, like any sales-oriented industry, is a tough place to operate in since everyone is out to make a sale for themselves. So having observed the behaviour you mentioned, it would benefit you a lot to ensure you are dealing with a reputable agency with qualified professional agents. Since embarking on a real estate investment venture is a major decision you will have to make, it would be worth your while to do a little research, or ask people with some real estate know-how as to which companies have established themselves well in the industry. You may also want to have a look at the Dubai Land Department’s Brokers App, which shows you a ranked list of approved brokers in Dubai and could assist you greatly in picking out the agency that will work with you and for you.

Where can people go and discuss, or lodge a complaint against a property developer?

It is a fact that issues related to property transactions and deals (tenant vs. landlord, buyer vs. developer, buyer vs. broker) cannot be avoided; thus, authorities have come up with platforms where complainants can air their grievances. The Government of Dubai has made a web portal called “eComplain” available on the Dubai Government website.

Through the said portal, customers may lodge a complaint and if the matter involves a specific government department, the complaint is routed to the appropriate government entity for further action and resolution.

But in order to deal with real estate matters directly, any issues or complaints involving property industry stakeholders, in this case, a developer, need to be referred to the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) if the parties involved have failed to come to an amicable arrangement regarding the issue in question.

Who is responsible for the upkeep of leased premises? Is there no scope for natural wear and tear in lease contracts?

The landlord is responsible for the general maintenance of a leased property unless the parties have agreed otherwise in the contract. The owner is also responsible for taking care of any defects or faults that affect the tenant’s use of the property.

However, sometimes the landlord may also transfer responsibility for maintenance to the tenant as it may happen in the case of some commercial leases (Article 16, Law No. 26 of 2007).

Natural wear and tear is taken into consideration by law (Article 21, Law No. 26 of 2007) though upon the expiry of the lease, it is assumed that the tenant will return the property to the landlord in the condition that the property was in at the beginning of the tenancy.

We are very unhappy with the facilities management services in our building. What recourse do we have when the landlord is unable to offer a solution?

In Article 16 of Law No. 26 of 2007, it states that “Landlord shall, during validity of the tenancy contract, be liable for undertaking maintenance of the property and shall rectify any defects or faults that affect tenant’s intended benefit from the property, unless the two parties agree otherwise.”

The law very clearly states that property upkeep and repair is a responsibility of the landlord. The Rental Dispute Settlement Centre, which is the judiciary arm of the Dubai Land Department (DLD), would be your last recourse in case you have already exerted effort to properly communicate the matter to the landlord and/or the property manager to no avail. It hears complaints and provides solutions in a transparent and efficient manner.

Ensure though that you bring with you the required documents when filing a case.

Question of the Week

Now that protecting the environment and sustainability have become essential considerations across various sectors, are there rules to encourage builders to promote human and environmental health?

The already existing Article 7 of the Dubai Municipality’s Decree No. 66 of 2003 involves the selection of glazing for facades with the objective to minimise solar thermal heat gains. However, the article does not provide for penalties in terms of non-compliance.

A Mandatory Progression programme was introduced in 2008 with an objective to ensure new buildings meet “green” standards.

A more current development, however, is the introduction of the “Al Safat” green building rating system. The rating system applies to all types of buildings including residential, commercial, industrial and others.

The four classifications are platinum, gold, silver and bronze (in descending order), and the system requires new buildings taking permits from September 1, 2016 to meet requirements for bronze certification at a minimum.

Old buildings will have to be retrofitted to meet the minimum requirements.

Meanwhile, buildings that have previously acquired green building certification will need to apply again to be Al Safat certified.

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

Mortgage trend continues this year

There has been a very pleasing trend that we first noticed in 2016 which is yet another demonstration of the development and maturation of Dubai’s Real Estate industry.

The marked increase in the utilization of mortgages to purchase properties in the emirate demonstrates a market that has undergone a structural shift to supply more affordable properties and the maturation of buyers in structuring their financial affairs to obtain a mortgage and buy the home of their dreams.

Historically, mortgages have represented no more than 30%-35% of property sales in the emirate. This ratio has now climbed to over 50%, in some months, levels of 60+% have been achieved.

This is great news for several reasons.

First, while this trend highlights confidence of lenders in the marketplace it also highlights the increasing confidence of consumers, mostly owner occupiers, in the market to the extent that they are prepared to take on the risks associated with committing to a mortgage for the sake of purchasing some property.

This is very important to the development of long term sustainable growth for the industry as 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, historically, they have attracted focus in a market still undergoing the maturation process which is falling short and not proportionate to their importance.

Owner occupiers see Real Estate in a different light. For them, it’s about creating a lifestyle. It’s 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.

Typically, they form the core of society, not overly wealthy, who are concerned with providing the family with a future. For some, the purchase of the first family home is the first step towards creating a legacy which hopefully, for the more romantically minded, will turn into a dynasty. These are the dreams which make owning their own home the most important decision they are likely to make. They are in it for the long term; there is a lot at stake, which is why availability of finance through mortgages is critical.

The second reason why this is such good news is because we are witnessing, in real time, the market adapting to legislative changes that were made in early 2014. There is no doubt that the implementation of the mortgage caps earlier in 2014 had affected the demand for many first home buyers who were relying on a mortgage to acquire their dream home.  I remember writing an article at the time of the legislative change and observing the following …

“At Harbor, we see 62% of our clients who were considering buying a property prior to the mortgage caps delay their purchase until they can accumulate the down-payment differential while 38% have settled (or compromised) for a cheaper property to get an initial foothold in the market.”

As predicted, “… the new mortgage caps have certainly produced a definite lag in demand as clients adjust to the new financial realities and many of these clients are planning to participate within the next three years.”

 I am pleased to say, that these observations have essentially been proven correct. The legislative change made by authorities was implemented to help cool what was then, a rampant market. The desired effect was achieved but buyers didn’t simply disappear, they modified their purchasing behavior, another sign of an increasingly resilient and maturing market.

Finally, a growing number of mortgages are being undertaken for properties that are purchased in the more affordable areas of Dubai, which further demonstrates the systemic shift to affordable housing in the Dubai property market is becoming even further entrenched as a long-term characteristic.

A natural occurrence within any economy that is growing rapidly and is formally recognized as maturing and transitioning from being a “frontier” to “emerging” market as Dubai did back in 2013, is that its middle and lower-middle income segments will expand to support the rapid rise in commercial activities and economic initiatives being instigated by entrepreneurs and corporate or government entities. This expansion is unavoidable if the economy is to grow and providing affordable housing to enable this expansion is a critical element to the future growth of Dubai and the development of the Real Estate industry into a mature model that can efficiently cater for a broad and diverse set of people with different incomes, tastes, preferences and requirements.

And demand is set to grow very rapidly. A case in point … the World Expo is predicted by independent analysts to create over 270,000 jobs. The vast majority of these jobs will not be for people occupying senior executive positions. They will be for people in middle management or lower positions, many with families, who will be seeking affordable accommodation.

The importance of maintaining affordability for the average buyer is critical and the availability of affordable finance in the form of mortgages is vital to enable many to gain access this lucrative market going forward.

Affordability matters most

This year’s Cityscape Global Exhibition and Conference is forecast to be the largest yet and comes at a time when Dubai’s Real Estate industry is expected to start entering a cyclical growth phase in the lead up to the World Expo 2020.

The importance of Cityscape Global cannot be overstated. As with many exhibitions, it provides a concentrated and focused forum which allows the industry to showcase its vision and capabilities and demonstrate what shape Dubai will take in the future. But Cityscape is much more than that.

Cityscape Global is an open invitation for all stake-holders to understand, evaluate, participate and prosper in an industry that continues to literally change the shape of Dubai. It is a meeting place of some of the biggest and brightest minds representing all stakeholders in the industry and a confluence of opinions, ideas and opportunities which are shared, debated and developed. It allows stakeholders to gain a macro sense of in-dusty direction and a micro understanding of the various elements that will shape the industry going forward.

For buyers and investors, there is no better place to gain an appreciation of the myriad of opportunities that are on offer, but the sheer scale of the exhibition can become a little overwhelming, especially when you are looking to invest.

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

This segment has outperformed its more luxurious alternatives for some time now and continues to show lots of potential, even though the recent cyclical correction. Affordable properties will continue to be on high demand as Dubai’s population growth gains momentum during a period of expected strong economic growth leading up to the end of the decade. And while the value is irrefutable, the risks associated with investing in the affordable segments of the industry as opposed to the luxury segments are much lower. Demand for affordable accommodation will continue to grow as Dubai’s population swells in the run up to the Expo. As Dubai continues to grow, so does the need for affordable housing.

Yet, although I see great value in investing in the affordable segment, it doesn’t mean some interesting opportunities won’t appear in other segments as well.

So, while you might focus on identifying opportunities in the affordable segment, you need to keep an open mind and be wary of unique opportunities that may be present.

I always advise my clients that the best way to get the most out of the event, is to canvass all the interesting opportunities on display and gradually yet efficiently establish a short list of the best opportunities.

Establishing such a list from an exhibition as huge as Cityscape is not easy and requires a disciplined approach. This is where a property asset management professional can assist…

Why? It’s important to understand what factors are going determine the potential of any investment. For property, these factors include everything from macro level influences such as global economic performance and policies, geopolitical issues, currency rates and oil prices to more regional or local factors such as industry supply I demand levels, consumer confidence, government policy and regulatory framework, industry cycles and liquidity in the marketplace.

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

But in addition to understanding the invest environment, it’s important for the investor to understand why he or she wants to invest in property and what the investment objectives are. Too many investors formulate the answers to these questions “on the run”, once they are traipsing around the exhibition. This lack of preparation just leads to confusion and ultimately, poor decision making.

Every industry has its shows, whether it’s the myriad of motor shows held around the world, film festivals, fashion events, airshows and the property industry is no different. What many don’t understand is that Dubai’s Cityscape Global has established itself as one of the best Real Estate and Property events globally… and its right on our very own doorstep!

So, for those of us with a passion for the industry, it is going to be an exciting 3 days. It always seems to end too early!

Alternatives real estate assets

While Real Estate Investment Trusts are common in many Real Estate Markets around the world, they are a relatively new here in the Middle East with the Emirates REIT, being the first, launched in 2010. In November of 2016, Saudi Arabia created its local version of a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). The reasoning behind this move was to enable the smaller investors to provide liquidity to the market and support government efforts to resolve a housing shortage and increase the percentage of housing generated by developers to 30 per cent from its current level of 10 per cent. Now, more recently, there has been a second REIT launched in Dubai, the ENBD REIT.

While there are advantages for any industry to have financial structures such as REIT’s to support burgeoning property and construction industries, what are the advantages for the investors who will be providing the capital?

There was a time when the property game was for the wealthy investor and those with only small amounts to invest had to look elsewhere to invest their hard-earned capital. This is no longer the case due to the rise of new investment platforms which enable even the smallest of investors to enjoy the returns of investing in property.

One such platform which is relatively new to the local market is the REIT. REIT is an acronym for Real Estate Investment Trust which, as a trust company that accumulates a pool of money through an initial public offering (IPO), buys, develops, manages and sells real estate assets. The IPO is identical to any other security offering with many of the same rules regarding disclosure and reporting requirements and regulations.

Investors, whether large or small, instead of purchasing stock in a single company, have the opportunity to buy a unit which is actually a portion of a managed pool of real estate. This pool of real estate then generates income through renting, leasing, selling and financing of property and distributes it directly to the REIT holder on a regular basis.

Units held in a REIT can be bought like a stock on a stock exchange. The REIT invests in real estate directly, either by buying, selling or leasing properties or by investing in property mortgages.

There are 3 types of REIT’s.  Equity REITs invest in and own properties and therefore are focused on increasing the value of those properties while also accumulating revenues from their properties’ rents.  Mortgage REITs deal in investment and ownership of property mortgages. These REITs loan money for mortgages to owners of real estate, or purchase existing mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. Their revenues are generated primarily by the interest that they earn on the mortgage loans while Hybrid REITs combine the investment strategies of equity REITs and mortgage REITs by investing in both properties and mortgages.

Individuals can invest in REITs either by purchasing their shares directly on an open exchange or by investing in a mutual fund that specializes in REITs that are listed on the stock exchange. Among other things, REITs invest in shopping malls, office buildings, apartments, warehouses and hotels. Some REITs will invest specifically in one area of real estate – shopping malls, for example – or in one specific region, state or country. Investing in REITs is a liquid, dividend-paying means of participating in the real estate market.

REITS allow both small and large investors the ability to invest in real estate without investing large amounts of capital or devoting a lot of time in directly managing a property portfolio. A REIT also allows a greater amount of portfolio diversification because of the large amounts of pooled funds available to the REIT Management team enables the accumulation and operation of different types of property assets in different locales.

Investing in a REIT is no different to investing in any company. Some companies represent lucrative opportunities, while some companies may represent too much risk or poor value.  Investors still need to look at the REITS performance in terms of Nett Asset Value growth and dividend payment history, current portfolio composition and performance, the management team, future plans for the REIT as well as have an understanding of the likely performance of the property market and overall economy in which the REIT participates. Investors, having completed a thorough and in depth assessment of the probability that the REIT will provide desired returns, can participate at the level that is consistent with what they can afford to invest.

Another investment platform which allows smaller investors to participate in the property market is Crowdfunding. A relatively new concept Crowdfunding entails the pooling of funds by a group of individuals to finance initiatives such as real estate investment projects. This is usually done via the internet.

The advantages are obvious. Investors get access to the real estate market with small amounts of money and can pick and can efficiently choose which Real Estate projects they wish to invest in, thereby spreading risk and enabling the possibility of building a portfolio made up of a variety of assets, in a variety of locations being developed by a variety of developers.

For developers, Crowdfunding provides another source of funding for their projects. Using the internet is an efficient way of attracting interest to their projects and the reach that the internet provides magnifies the potential for raising funds more quickly.

However, as with any investment, Crowdfunding is not without its risks. Obviously, investors will be exposed to any gyrations in the market along with all the other investors. In addition, the risk of default from developers can be higher when compared to peer-to-peer and direct real estate investment funding. In addition, unlike investing in a REIT, the absence of a secondary market restricts the ease with which an investor can liquidate his or her position. These risks need to be considered carefully when determining the type of return required and, as with any investment, extensive due diligence by all investors, regardless of whether they be big  and small, is of paramount importance.

WHY TRUMP WILL MATTER IN 2017

I read other day that Dubai developer Damac Properties has confirmed that work on its major golf-course projects including the Trump International Golf Club Dubai are on track. Good news indeed!
Regardless of what you think about Donald Trump, he has established an immediately identifiable global brand and there is no doubt that he will influence the economy of Dubai and, more specifically, the property industry here.

But I am not talking about the Donald who “dabbles” in real estate, construction, hospitality, entertainment, book and magazine publishing, media, model management, retail, financial services, board game development, food and beverages, business education, online travel, airlines, helicopter air services, beauty pageants (etc. etc.) here …

… I am talking about the next President of the United States or POTUS.

As POTUS, decisions (and Tweets for that matter) made by Donald will influence the strength of the US Dollar which just so happens to be one major issue that is likely to face Dubai’s Real Estate Industry in 2017. Already, the campaign promises, rhetoric and ubiquitous tweets have already given rise to the “Trump” effect and, combined with the US Federal Reserve interest rate increase of December 14, has already driven the USD to its highest level in almost 15 years.

What’s more, it is likely that, given the Feds intention to embark upon at least 3 interest rate hikes in 2017, the USD will remain at this elevated level for at least the first 6 months of 2017 which is likely to dampen the amount of investor capital that flows into the property market.

A strengthening US dollar, in an industry where 40% of purchases are made by investors that hail from countries whose currencies float freely, could have significant effects.

Potential investors from India, Pakistan and China will find it more expensive to invest in the emirate, just as Russian investors have over the past 3 years as the ruble devalued.

A strengthening US dollar will also make property in other markets such as the UK, Asia or Europe more attractive, essentially putting pressure on the amount of capital being invested in Dubai.
Meanwhile, it appears that the on-going saga of the Brexit implementation is likely to carry on for some time, probably leading to a continuance of a weak British pound for the foreseeable future. The local property market is likely to continue to feel the pressure of the Brexit effect.

So, what is the likelihood of a strong USD in the first half of 2017? … very likely !
But it isn’t all doom and gloom … far from it.

What happens in the latter half of 2017 is a bit more of a mystery but, already, pundits are saying that the Trump effect will not last and that his campaign promises regarding fiscal, trade and immigration policies will be very difficult to achieve.

If so, and given the Federal Reserve’s history of changing course on predicted interest rate hikes, it is not unlikely that we could see a weakening of the USD sometime on the latter half of 2017. Once we get clarity on the likelihood of this occurring, we could see confidence growing amongst investors and capital flows reverse, to the benefit of the local market.

From a macro level, Dubai needs people to support an economy that is expected to grow at a targeted 4%+ in 2017 and beyond. Underpinning this growth trajectory is a commitment and determination to deliver on initiatives such as the 2020 World Expo and, in 2017, we will see the countdown to 2020 and the massive infrastructural investment associated with the event markedly gather pace.

While Dubai’s reliance on oil is minimal due to its economic diversification initiatives, the recent OPEC (and others) agreement to cap oil supply resulting in in higher oil prices is, nevertheless, welcomed. This augers well for a return of the Russian investor whose ruble has been the best performing currency for the last 3 months but should also see increased capital being available to local investors.

Tourism and trade is flourishing in Dubai and the focus of spending has been on new projects to grow these important revenue generating economic segments and further diversification. The launch of 2 major theme parks in 2016 will ensure Dubai attracts over 15 million visitors in 2017, continuing a growth trend of approximately 10% per annum since 2010 and is well on track to attracting over 20 million visitors in 2020.

So, I see 2017, the first year of Donald’s reign as POTUS, as being a year of two halves … first half of the year being really a continuation of the market uncertainty that has been such a characteristic of 2016, as the world comes to grips with what the new POTUS can actually achieve …

… while the latter half of 2017 to be more positive, with an increase in investor confidence and therefore investment activity, property values and first home ownership as the tangible and real effects of world events, such as the US elections and Brexit, that so surprised us in 2016, begin to become more apparent and the risks associated more assessable.

Rather sooner than later, I think!

The YEAR 2016 WAS NOT JUST ABOUT OIL

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

I believe that the malaise that was felt in Dubai’s real estate industry was due to a wide variety of factors, not just the price of oil and that considering oil prices alone is simply too one dimensional. The factors that have affected the Dubai property industry in 2016 are many, varied and, in some instances, quite complex.

Many investors had high expectations for 2016 but not many really expected 2016 to announce its arrival with such mayhem and drama. In short, most investors started the year peering into a fog of uncertainty with only continual negative headlines to guide their reasoning.

The issues in 2016 were as varied as they were significant. Everything from a U.S. presidential race that has the world bemused (and perhaps frightened as to its outcome) to doubts regarding the capability of China to effectively manage and steer its economy away from being export driven to relying on local consumption and the development of its middle class to a massive refugee crisis will continue as long as there is violence in the Middle East which, of course, shows little sign of abating.

Then there was the continuing saga of U.S. Federal Reserve’s shift from the near-zero interest rates that continued to spook investors to the extent that all rational and fundamental analysis enabling investment decisions seems to have been replaced by an intense and sometimes amusing focus on the vocabulary and grammar used in Fed statements in an effort find some hidden indication of its intent. Thankfully the Fed raised interest rates on December 14, putting to rest all the unnecessary speculation and pointless chatter that was crowding the airwaves.

Meanwhile, the ongoing collapse of oil and commodity prices had threatened to trigger recessions in emerging economies like Russia and Brazil all at the time that Europe continues to struggle for growth. Thankfully, OPEC and a few other oil producing nations such as Russia finally came to some agreement to cap supply after realising that unbridled production in pursuit of long term market share was beginning to destroy some economies.

Then of course, there was Brexit, the effects of which will be as diverse as they will be complex… if only they can figure out how to do it! Experts are still unsure as to  how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything from the European geo-political and socio-economic landscape, the strength and resilience of the European Union in the face of further discontent within its member states, the social and economic ramifications to a newly  “independent” United Kingdom and the inevitable question as to whether the United Kingdom can remain united given the Scottish and  Northern Island  wishes to continue as part of the EU.  The pound has plummeted and is likely to remain subdued for some time.

Not surprisingly, the IMF trimmed its global growth outlook for 2016 to 3.1 percent, down from 3.6 percent, however it is forecasting 3.4 percent for 2017.

So, what could an investor do in 2017? …  mired in the depths of despair and confusion at the deluge of negative headlines, Trump tweets and seemingly shallow financial advice and at the direction of global economies and financial markets, and feeling clueless as to where the opportunities for returns on his hard-earned capital might be?

Well, investing in Dubai Real Estate has still provided significant potential to satisfy the appetite for investment returns and the fundamental reasons are compelling.

As detailed above, an economy growing on the back of strategic commercial and infrastructural initiatives unique to the region driving population growth of 7% annually makes investing very interesting, particularly when taking the medium to long term view.

Tourism and Trade are flourishing in Dubai and the focus of spending has been on new projects to grow these important revenue generating economic segments and further diversification. The launch of 2 major theme parks in 2016 will ensure Dubai attracts over 15 million visitors in 2017, continuing a growth trend of approximately 10% per annum since 2010 and is well on track to attracting over 20 million visitors in 2020.

Then, continual diversification of the economy provides reduced risk and is the language of economic planners now, not oil, and any risk is well compensated for by superior returns with rental yields in Dubai being among the highest in the world with the added advantage of favourable tax conditions for most investors.

Perfect timing

By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Senior Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute
Published: Property Weekly
Dated: August, 2016

Cityscape Global is just around the corner, and the 2016 edition promises to be the best Cityscape exhibition yet. Having been a professional in real estate for over a decade now, I get more excited when Cityscape time rolls around as Cityscape Global showcases to the world what has been made possible in the world of Dubai real estate and, as a proud professional in the industry, that is something I take pride in.

Every industry has its shows, whether it’s the myriad of motor shows held around the world, film festivals, fashion events and airshows, real estate is no different. What many don’t understand is that Dubai’s Cityscape Global is up there with the best real estate and property events globally.

Many times, I have been asked questions about this year’s event as the level of interest in the Dubai property industry continues to grow, partly because of the cyclical slowdown that the industry has experienced over the last two years, and also because of the opportunities that many investors are predicting will emerge as the emirate accelerates rapidly towards the Global Expo in 2020.

The usual questions I receive from a broad base of industry participants are about the significance of the event as it relates to current market conditions – whether the event will provide a boost or momentum to the market, going forward, and who will eventually benefit most from such an event.

Spanning in excess of 41,000 sq.m. of exhibition space at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the 15th edition of Cityscape Global will run from the 6th of September to the 8th of September. The show will be open from 10am in the morning until 7pm in the evening. It is expected to attract over 40,000 overseas visitors to Dubai coming as investors, representatives of financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals to attend the world’s largest property exhibition where over 150 developers from both Dubai and overseas will showcase hundreds of property project launches.

Cityscape Global has grown to become the world’s largest networking exhibition and conference on property development, and this 2016’s will be the largest and most influential real estate investment and development event for emerging markets globally. Bringing together investors, developers, government officials and real estate professionals, there is no better place to find investment opportunities, new business partners and have the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of internationally renowned industry experts.

Past events have revealed the breadth of its global appeal as it attracts visitors from every corner of the world. Indian nationals typically represent around 25 percent of attendees with Pakistani nationals making up around 10 percent. UAE nationals and British citizens make up about 8 percent of the audience each with the remaining 53 percent of attendees arriving from virtually every other nation in the world.

There will also be a one-day Cityscape Global conference on the 5th of September at the Conrad Dubai Hotel which will feature a comprehensive program covering the full spectrum of real estate development with the highlight being an exclusive talk from leading futurist Rohit Talwar on “The Disruptive Futures Reshaping the Property Sector.”

The conference will focus on topics relevant to today’s industry and market environment and will encompass three distinct programs which will focus on the Market, Architecture and Real Estate Brokers. The sessions are designed to be dynamic and will feature official keynote speakers, exclusive reports, and explore concepts and ideas by utilizing panel discussions and case studies.

The intrigue that surrounds the 2016 Cityscape Global lies with the state of play of in today’s real estate market. The Dubai economy experienced a significant post-recession boom and its real estate industry, a major beneficiary of Dubai’s rapid growth in tourism, trade and commerce, experienced a boom of its own. So much so that it attracted the attention of the IMF and various central banks which began voicing concerns about asset bubbles developing as a result of the market becoming too hot.

However, things have cooled a little over the last 2 years and the slowdown was being eyed nervously by some while many others, including myself, considered the market to be experiencing a healthy correction, not a recession. We all knew that the growth rates of 30+ percent experienced in 2013 were unsustainable. So, in that regard, a slowdown has been welcomed in the interests of a more sustainable and profitable future.

High interest

So next week’s Cityscape Global can be regarded as being held in a very interesting time for the industry. We all know that the industry is cyclical in nature and, as the industry matures, as it has done so rapidly over the last 5 years, the peaks and troughs of cyclical fluctuations become shallower and cycles are characterized by corrections, not boom and bust scenarios. What is pleasing is that the industry has shown itself to being much more resilient to global economic and geo-political influences and events. Therefore, it can be considered that the industry is actually at the bottom of its first true correction of this century. I say this because I do not consider the events of 2008 and 2009 to be a cyclical but rather an anomalous event.

I think this year’s event, while dynamic, rich in content and exciting, will definitely be surrounded by a heightened level of intrigue and discussion as to where the market will be going for the remainder of the decade. Regardless of mood and sentiment, Cityscape Global 2016 will play an important role in allowing participants to opine debate and determine what the future opportunities are for Dubai’s real estate industry and how they can participate, contribute or help shape its realization.

Intrigue

It is highly likely that keynote speakers will highlight the positive outlook for Dubai’s property market, promoting investment in the emirate while the city is at the bottom of its cycle. No doubt, the positive effect that the Global Expo 2020 will have on the industry will be a topic that will be explored exhaustively.

The importance of Cityscape Global to the industry cannot be overstated. As with many exhibitions, it provides a concentrated and focused forum which allows the industry to showcase its vision and capabilities, and demonstrate what shape Dubai will take in the future. But Cityscape is much more than that.

Cityscape Global is an open invitation for all stakeholders to understand, evaluate, participate and prosper in an industry that continues to literally shape Dubai. It is a meeting place for some of the biggest and brightest minds in the industry representing all stakeholders in the industry, and a confluence of opinions, ideas and opportunities which are shared, debated and developed. It allows these stakeholders to gain a macro sense of industry direction and a micro understanding of the various elements that will shape the industry going forward.

So, for those of us with a passion for the industry, it will certainly be an exciting three days.  My personal interest and intrigue goes way beyond the concepts on display – to harnessing, considering and evaluating the thoughts, opinions, concerns, visions and ideas of those assembled in one of the most diverse and informative real estate forums in the world.

Let the show begin, again!

Make the most of your Cityscape visit…

  • Check online which developers/establishments are exhibiting, make a short list of those projects/exhibits which you want to visit
  • Know your objective – to buy a new home or to invest?
  • What is your price range?
  • Are you interested in a specific location?
  • Make your rounds – find out which projects will likely support or satisfy your goal(s)
  • Don’t decide in haste – there will be a lot of good offers; be on the lookout for the best deals
  • Always read between the lines, ask questions and haggle
  • Attend as many conferences as they are usually free

PROFESSIONALIZING THE REAL ESTATE PRACTICE

By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Senior Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute
Published by: Property Time Magzine

During the years marking the last global economic recession, reports on fraudulent business practices and shady dealings in real estate became quite rampant, and people (investors and end-users) realized that those who fail to practice due diligence have nothing to gain in a relatively new and still-emerging albeit rapidly growing property market.

Now, even as the UAE economy as a whole continues to lag from its earlier predicted level of activity, the real estate industry, in spite of the industry-wide slowdown, continues to earn its share of winners and non-gainers in terms of current industry practice.

Some individuals still manage to pose as agents or real estate representatives, produce fake documents, and get away with the money virtually scot-free. And while the government has put in place strict protocols whether it be in professionalizing industry practices or instituting new policies and regulations to guard the best interests of the market, there are still a few unscrupulous individuals who manage to prey on buyers, even tenants.

The term “business ethics” is not something alien or new to us, but some people with careers outside of the real estate realm may view the term with a heavily 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.

The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) and the Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI) have set a mandatory certification program for new and experienced agents who wish to work in a real estate brokerage in Dubai. The Dubai Real Estate Institute also organizes license renewal courses and exams along with a very rich variety of career development programs designed to help elevate the standards of professionalism and effectiveness of brokers in Dubai.

The impact of Brexit on UAE real estate

Published by Expert Eye
By Mohanad Alwadiya

June 23, 2016 will forever be remembered in history as the day the British, all 52 percent of the 71.8 percent referendum turnout versus the 48 percent who elected to stay, voted to leave the European Union (EU).

However, with the United Kingdom being one of the world’s largest economies, the so-called “Brexit” which is yet to be finalized in the next two years depending on when UK leadership will actually “trigger” Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is expected to send ripples around the global business community, not to mention the political ramifications of said move.

The effects of Brexit are as diverse as they are far-reaching, with experts considering how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything from the European geopolitical and socio-economic landscape, the strength and resilience of the European Union in the face of further discontent within its member states, the social and economic ramifications to a newly  “independent” United Kingdom and the inevitable question as to whether the United Kingdom can remain united given the Scottish and  Northern Island  wishes to continue as part of the EU.

In addition, the whole strategic alliance framework of the West has been weakened somewhat as a robust and strongly united European Union was always considered to be a cornerstone to an effective defence to an aggressive Russia and China on both economic and security fronts.

Understandably, the whole world is worried because all the financial and trade mechanisms, agreements, communication channels, policies, protocols and security arrangements that have taken over four decades to build will soon be set to zero for renegotiation.
No wonder the world is nervous and understandably uncertain as to what the future might hold.

And it’s that uncertainty which will have an effect on the UAE property scene. As we all know, investors and potential homeowners alike do not handle uncertainty, especially of this scale, well.

And it’s uncertainty that now lies around the effect of the Brexit on world growth and the possibility of European and UK recessions in the coming year that will make most investors move to less risky assets and safe haven currencies such as the Yen and the US dollar.

Of course, uncertainty regarding world growth has also negatively affected oil prices so many investors will be more reticent to invest in those economies that rely on its revenue. While we all know that Dubai is much less reliant on oil than its neighbouring emirates and countries, it will still be affected by investor nervousness by way of association which is unfortunate yet a reality. Just look at the Dubai Financial Market. It lost 3.3 percent, the biggest decline since January, as Emaar Properties PJSC fell 4.7 percent, mirroring the Brexit effect on many other markets around the world. Hardly rational, in my view.

Investors will be looking closely at the effect on UAE’s tourism. In the first quarter of 2016, Western Europe was the second largest source of tourists to Dubai by region, accounting for 23 per cent, led by the UK’s eight per cent and Germany’s three per cent. With the Euro weakened to $1.10, and with most analysts bearish on its immediate future, it is hard to imagine that level of contribution will continue until the post-Brexit uncertainty dissipates. Now such a strong pillar in the UAE’s burgeoning economy, tourism rates can be affected as nearly every global currency has depreciated versus the AED, making travel to the UAE more expensive for the majority of global travellers while journeying to the UK and Europe for most people has just got a lot cheaper. Hopefully, many will still use the country as a travel hub from and take advantage of what this exciting country has to offer during stopovers.

At the time of writing, the British pound had fallen more than 10% to below $1.34 and still falling as uncertainty continues to cloud everybody’s view as to the future of the UK economy. This is significant as British investors alone injected £1.9 billion into Dubai’s property sector in 2015 purchasing around AED 10 billion worth of UAE property assets, putting them at No.2 with an overall 7 percent of total investments made in the sector in 2015.

Needless to say, with such a currency devaluation and an uncertain outlook, Dubai property has suddenly become a lot more expensive for those wishing to purchase with British pounds, while the London property market has just become a lot more affordable. While a feeding frenzy hasn’t developed as yet, a prolonged weakness in the pound could divert significant levels of investment capital away from a market such as Dubai, especially as British expats, living in the emirate and earning UAE dirhams, take advantage of exchange rate gains to invest back home.

But even in the face of such uncertainty, there is no need to act with undue haste or panic. With or without Brexit, the world of real estate investment has always been riddled with both risks and opportunities. One thing is certain, though, mature and astute investors would know when to grab onto property or let go, making their own calculations and analyses, and seeking further expert advice as events continue to unfold.