Only the strongest will survive

Reality Check

The number of real estate brokerages and agents who operate within them will always fluctuate in accordance with market cycles. Wherever there is opportunity, those with a desire to capitalise will readily set up operations.

This phenomenon is not unique to the real estate industry and will occur any where there is economic opportunity coupled with relatively low capital requirements to start a business, where the skill set is not perceived as being particularly specialised or rare, and where there are minimal legal, political or policy barriers to launch a commercial enterprise.

However, in any industry, especially those yet to fully mature and develop such as Dubai’s real estate, there exists a natural process that essentially eliminates the weakest entities. Competition is fierce and only those that compete by applying experience, knowledge, skills, adaptive capabilities and business acumen will survive.

Put simply, as a market or industry matures, only the strongest survive. The cyclical nature of the industry facilitates this process by testing who can best capitalise on the opportunities in a growth market and who can best sustain operations in a contractional cycle.

So the fact that some brokerages are closing their doors is inevitable as the industry continues to mature, and the well-chronicled phase of correction the Dubai market is experiencing has played a natural role in eliminating the weakest players that cannot compete.

It is actually healthy for the industry as Dubai has too many brokerages. At the time of writing, there were 2,389 brokerages registered with Dubai Land Department. This is simply too many for the industry to support during the inevitable contraction or low growth periods. And one of the key drivers of industry maturation is to have fewer, but higher quality, brokerages and agents.

The levels of professionalism, quality and customer service in the industry still require a lot of attention. While good progress has been made by the Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI) towards elevating the standard of real estate practitioners, too many poor performers remain, effectively hindering the development of the industry into the efficient and transparent marketplace we all desire.

Obviously, progress will require the continuance of the good work already done by DREI and Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), but improvements cannot be achieved by these industry bodies alone. All participants need to embrace the idea that a sector that is comprised of a body of professionals who are knowledgeable, conversant, proficient, ethical and highly motivated will play a significant role in providing sustainable and profitable growth over the long term.

Put simply, the more efficiently and effectively an industry operates, the greater the rewards will be for all. This requires better people, not necessarily more people. As industry leaders, it’s up to all of us to make it happen.

Unfortunately, to introduce a “foolproof” system is always very difficult, but there are some common sense steps that every consumer must take.

First, it is always essential to determine the brokerage is registered with the Dubai Land Department. If not, walk away immediately.

In addition, careful investigation as to the reputation, online presence and market visibility of the company should be undertaken along with a meeting at the company offices to get a feel of its size, resources and stability. In addition, ensure that any individual brokers you deal with are registered and ask for proof of identification.

Only when you are 100 per cent sure that the company looks safe, solid and trustworthy should you consider handing over any monies that may be vulnerable to misappropriation. Ensure you get a written receipt.

In some circumstances, usually where large transactions are being conducted, funds advanced may be held by third-parties such a lawyer or bank in a form of an escrow arrangement. This can help ensure that funds provided are only released when certain conditions are met, making it much harder for any party to misappropriate the funds. With the resurgent real estate market of the past three years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of brokers. However the rate of growth was highest in the first two years, slowing significantly in 2014 and now showing signs of decline. This is due to many factors including the tougher guidelines and policies that are being introduced by RERA.

There are stricter requirements due for introduction by Dubai Land Department as well. For example, the pass percentage for brokers taking the mandatory exam to renew their licenses has been increased to 85 per cent from the current 75 per cent. Emirates IDs will replace broker ID cards as part of a new smart system allowing all the details regarding an individual agent to be monitored, including when they change employers. This will ensure that only licensed brokers operate in the market. Any broker who does not officially record any transaction for six months will be warned and if no improvement is apparent within one year will be deregistered.

In addition, new brokerage firms in Dubai will be restricted from employing more than four agents. If the agency can demonstrate good performance over the first year, an additional broker can be hired.

The quest for improvement is never-ending and regulatory frameworks should always be enhanced, updated and improved to ensure the industry operates as efficiently, effectively and equitably as possible.

Expert Eye – Gulf News

Home buying process explained

Purchasing a property in Dubai is relatively straightforward yet, as with the purchase of any property anywhere, there is a series of checks and requirements that must be completed to ensure a successful and issue-free transaction takes place.

Depending on a number of factors, it typically takes between two and six weeks to complete a property transaction.

Financial advisor. The first step is to consult a financial advisor who can help you determine what you can realistically afford.

Pre-approved mortgage. You should then obtain a pre-approved mortgage, if required. This is important as it can prevent any disappointment or embarrassment later on. .

Hiring a real estate broker. Then it is time to select a registered broker or agent. A good property broker will add value by finding the property that meets your requirements, saving you money, minimising your risk, ensuring you are legally compliant and providing you with peace of mind, allowing you to make the best decision possible.

Checking out available properties. Searching for the property of your dreams can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience.

While you can delegate this to your appointed property broker, I recommend you conduct your own search as well.

It will assist you in gaining an appreciation of what product is available in your budget range, where it is located and which facilities and amenities will be able to meet your needs.

It will also show you whether the property that you are seeking is rare or whether availability is high. This is important as it will affect your negotiating ability

Background checks. Once you have identified a property that is of interest to you, your broker should complete all the necessary background checks to ensure there are no impediments to a successful sale.

This would include establishing the ownership status of the property (is it mortgaged?), the occupation of the property, the availability of the owner to negotiate and conclude the transaction, among several other factors.

Making an offer. Assuming all is in order, you may proceed to make an offer.

Memorandum of understanding. Once your offer has been accepted, you will need to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which details the terms, costs and responsibilities of both parties as agreed.

  1. You will then provide a deposit of 10 per cent of the purchase price of the property.

Property valuation. If you have applied for a mortgage on the property, your bank will be informed as to your intentions and will carry out a valuation on the property. The inspection is typically completed by a third party engaged by the bank to provide professional property valuations.

‘No Objection Certificate.’ Assuming all is in order and the bank gives the go-ahead, the seller will apply for a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) from the developer.

Make an appointment at the DLD. An appointment is then made with the Dubai Land Department (DLD) to complete the transfer. The seller, buyer, their respective agents and, if necessary, their bank representatives all attend to formalise the transfer. When all documents have been checked and details have been registered, and you have paid the seller of the property, the agency commissions, and 4 per cent transfer fee (plus Dh315) to the DLD, you will receive the title deed.

You can then start celebrating. Your dream house is now in your hands!

Property Times


Now that the market has entered its correction phase, the time has come to consider whether you should take advantage of value opportunities that are starting to appear and benefit from the capital appreciation that is likely to accumulate over the coming five to seven years. For those who don’t have the cash readily available, the first step is to organise a pre-approved home mortgage. It’s always best to be in a position to make an offer for a house with your mortgage pre-approval in place rather than expect to arrange your mortgage once heavily involved in a negotiation process.

So, how to go about selecting the right mortgage for you?

You must first envisage your economic circumstances at least two years into the future and ask yourself the question … “Given my projected earning capability and desired lifestyle,  what  mortgage  payment  will  be financially feasible and acceptable to me in two years’ time?”

Why two years’ time?…  because most mortgages interest rates on offer at the moment are locked in for two years, after which you will be subject to likely interest rate increases as after an initial two year period of fixed interest rates, the mortgage reverts to a variable rate.

First of all, estimate your projected earning capability. Be real. We all hope to progress  rapidly  in  our  professional  (a.k.a. financial)  pursuits  but there are generally more people disappointed than delighted with their achievements. And, notwithstanding the latest reports of 5% salary increases for Dubai employees in 2015, history has shown that salary increases generally tend to lag cost of living increases so conservatism in estimating future cash-flows is a must.  Then there is lifestyle. Is there a new baby planned in the near future? … a new car perhaps? What effect will significant family or lifestyle events have on disposable income? Are there existing children who will need to start school in that time frame? All these events will have an effect on disposable income and thereby decrease the financial flexibility to address interest rate shocks. And finally, what is financially feasible may not be acceptable to you or your spouse. How much sacrifice are you and your partner willing to make to service your mortgage? What are you willing to do without and what lifestyle changes are you prepared to make? Once again, being honest with oneself is paramount.

So, notwithstanding correcting markets, value opportunities and cheap finance, cautious financial planning based upon realism and self-honesty is key when planning the purchase of your dream home. Your future happiness could well depend on it. As a general guide, we recommend that not more than 40% of your household disposable income be devoted towards paying down your mortgage. So once you have determined what type of repayment you are willing to commit to, then it’s a case of determining the mortgage amount you can actually afford. This will be determined by the Loan to Value ratio (LTV) you are prepared to accept, the amount of your own cash savings you are prepared to put towards the property, the tenure of the loan and the interest rate that you expect to be paying initially and well into the future.

When talking to mortgage providers, they will help you assess what mortgage is best for you by looking at a number of specific factors such as other debts (including credit cards) you may have, reliability of current and future income streams, the Loan to Value ratio that you would be seeking, the type of mortgage you prefer, your true disposable income and what other assets that you may own. Don’t be surprised if different mortgage providers  suggest  significantly  different mortgage  solutions  for  your  requirements including  repayment  options.  These will include the most common type of mortgage known as the Capital and Interest (Reducible Balance) Repayment Mortgage but you may also consider interest-only payments, part repayment and part interest-only mortgages although these types of mortgages are usually used for very specific investment purposes. Then it’s a case of deciding if you wish to undertake a fixed rate, variable rate or fixed/variable combination mortgage. Once again you need to think long term. If you think that mortgage rates are likely to rise and you would like to lock in a fixed rate of interest for the foreseeable future as long as you understand that once the fixed interest rate term comes to an end, a variable interest rate will apply. In many cases, the variable rate will be greater so planning is essential. If however, you expect interest rates to fall in the near future, a variable interest rate mortgage would make better financial sense as long as you have the flexibility to handle an increase in mortgage payments if interest rates do not follow your predictions and unexpectedly rise. There are a number of items which you should pursue as part of your mortgage negotiations. Try and have the mortgage establishment fees waived. Depending on the institution, this may save you up to AED3, 000. Also request that you are not penalised for paying the mortgage down faster or in its entirety. By law, the mortgage provider cannot charge you more than 1% of the outstanding amount or a maximum of AED10, 000, but you should try to have this stipulation dropped from your mortgage contract.

And finally, make sure your mortgage provider will allow you to utilise the equity being built up in your home as you diligently pay down your mortgage.  This equity will compound if the value of your property is increasing due to favourable economic or market factors. Some lenders will allow you to use this equity as security for further borrowing. This can be very handy if you want to make some major home improvements, buy a new car or perhaps invest in another property. When selecting a mortgage, the key is to know what you need and pick the one that best suits you over the long term.