What is behind Dubai’s strength as a real estate proposition?

Over 30,000 properties are expected to be added to the market in early 2018.

Dubai’s real estate growth is driven mostly by a combination of overseas investors living all over the world, and foreign nationals living in the UAE.

For 2017, the Dubai Land Department (DLD) recorded a total of 69,069 completed real estate transactions. The combined value of these transactions is more than Dh 285 million ($77.6 billion). This figure breaks down as Dh107 billion ($29.15 billion) invested by 39,480 investors making 52,958 transactions, and more than 65% of this is by foreign investors.

The total value of the land transactions in Dubai in 2017 is worth Dh285 billion. To put this figure into context, this is higher than the GDP of an astonishing 144 countries from the 211 recognised by the United Nations.

Figures show that around 23,000 non-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and non-Arab investors completed 30,000 property transactions worth about Dh56 billion. Around 9,790 nationals completed or were involved in just over 14,380 transactions with a combined total of more than Dh37 billion. Almost 7,000 investors from Arab states but non-GCC completed 8,644 real estate transactions worth more than Dh14 billion.

Where are overseas investors from?

The largest number of foreign investors in 2017 came from India, making Dh15.6 billion worth of property transactions in Dubai. Next on the list was Saudi Arabian nationals who collectively invested more than Dh7 billion, then British and Pakistani investors whose investments came to Dh6 million and Dh5 million respectively.

Other nations investing increasingly in Dubai real estate are China, Egypt, Jordan and Canada.

Why is Dubai attracting this amount of investment?

These figures are extraordinary, particularly when it’s considered the total investment is higher than many countries’ GDP (gross domestic product), as mentioned earlier. The reasons behind this phenomenal overseas investment lie within the unique advantages Dubai offers as a global investment region.

The biggest reason for the investment specifically for the real estate sector is the very attractive RoI (Return on Investment) that can be earned by investors. This is a main consideration for any kind of investor before making a decision.

Rental income is an important consideration as part of the RoI as it matures straight away, when compared with capital appreciation that can only be achieved through the sale of the property or by releasing equity through a mortgage.

Average RoI in Dubai

The average amount of RoI earned on apartments in Dubai in 2017 was 7%. Villas achieved 5%, despite a general softening of sales prices and rent amounts. Research shows that for a two-bed apartment costing Dh1 million, an investor could net rental returns of Dh80,000. This is an 8% annual return on investment and would lead the investor to recover the entire investment within just 12.5 years even without inflation.

However, it’s worthwhile taking the post hand-over payment plans that are used by some people. This is where the buyer/investor pays 50% or Dh500,000 when the property is handed over, with the rest due within three to five years. As the rent from the very first day would remain the same, it would mean a RoI of 16% for the investor.

World-leading real estate sector

Dubai leads the real estate sector globally in terms of major cities offering investment hotspots. Returns average between 7 and 8% per year, which is high when compared with other high performing cities.

The sector is also helped with the solid regulatory environment. This reassures investors and ensures protection. During the last decade, the DLD has strengthened the regulatory and legal framework to make sure best practice is in force at every level of property management, from development to sale.

In addition to these positive points, Dubai has an accessible and liberal foreign exchange regime that promotes strong connectivity with investors from overseas. As it allows the free movement of profit and capital with little to no restriction, it’s obviously an attractive proposition for major investors.

This infrastructure is being refined all the time and is consistently improving. The progressive economy, consistent and continuous expansion of major infrastructure and world-class attractions has completely transformed Dubai into the five-star property investment destination it is today.

Aspen Woolf on the recent boost in offplan sales in Dubai

Foreign investment in Dubai property has seen record levels in 2017.

During the last week in May, a seven-day selling spree gave Dubai its best monthly offplan sales in 2018 so far.

According to data from GCP-Reidin, the overall offplan sales during May came to 1,830 units against the previous best number of 1,752 units racked up in January.

Combined value

Collectively, the May offplan deals were worth Dh2.28 billion. This beat April’s combined total of Dh2.05 billion and 1,461 units, despite the widespread assumption that this was the peak.

Usually sales would decrease during Ramadan and continue to do during the summer. However, it seems 2018 will buck this trend.

Seven City success

Much of the high number of sales is down to a developer called Seven Tides, who released 661 units at its high-rise project located in Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT). This development is called ‘Seven City’ and all 661 units were bough over a span of seven days.

In total, the developer took bookings worth Dh300 million and is now gearing up to release another job lot of units at Seven Tides at some point in the future. The CEO of the developer said that… “if you offer investors a compelling proposition, based on ROI (return on investment), location and quality, they will invest irrespective of overall market sentiment and that is essentially, our three-pronged marketing strategy.”

A studio apartment at the development went for Dh354,000, while one-bed apartments went for Dh683,000.

Ready available properties

For properties that are ready and available in the secondary market, overall demand is steady. In May there were 1,028 of these sold, compared with 986 in April and 1,121 in March 2018.
There is a steady allocation of funds to this secondary market, which is something that offplan developers need to keep an eye on. It’s difficult to know how much unsold inventory is backed up from previous offplan launches, as not every developer makes this information available.

Most successful locations

The locations that did well in the May offplan sales are as follows. JLT drew a lot of offplan investor interest in May, but there were also increases for the Medan master-development MBR City. This ended up with total sales of 314 units.

Developers including Azizi and Sobha have launched focussed and sustained campaigns surrounding MBR City. Added to this, steady progress on the Meydan One Mall is also interesting investors.

After Meydan, Jumeirah Village Circle sold156 units, the Downtown sold 119 and Dubai Marina sold 118. In the ready property space sector, Dubai Marina did the best with 170 deals sewn up in May 2018.

Aspen Woolf On The Fluctuations In Dubai’s Property Market Since 2008

Dubai skyline at sunset - Aspen Woolf

It’s been ten years since the economic woes of 2008 that saw the biggest challenge yet for Dubai’s property market. Since then, the market has gone through various transformations as it continues to develop along with the city itself.

What kind of challenges did the imploding of the property bubble bring to Dubai’s market? In this blog, we look at the challenges that have been overcome as well as the biggest achievements of the industry over the last decade.

Sustainable Real Estate Market

While the immediate impact of the property bubble bursting in 2008/2009 were harsh, ten years on we’re looking at a more sustainable real estate market in Dubai. It boasts a more robust regulatory and legal framework and is generally much more mature.

One highlight of the last ten years is the development of the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), which started in 2007. Since then it’s come a long way in developing a standardised regulatory framework that protects investors and end users alike. It also helped to restore market confidence across the board.

Consumer Protection

The introduction of consumer protection measures has also helped the market to mature. The most notable of these is the introduction of mandatory escrow accounts for all developers involved in selling off-plan.

A significant amount of legislation has been implemented to further clarify the relationship between off-plan investors and developers should either party default. RERA also now has powers to cancel projects and there are guidelines in place concerning the process of liquidation.

A rental index came into force in 2013 and tenancy contracts were standardised in 2017. These are all positive steps forward in terms of tenant protection. Other legislation that legally distinguishes between residential and commercial property leashes is being discussed.

Regulating The Industry

Dubai’s real estate industry was very young prior to the crash, and this has meant regulating it from scratch. When you compare this to the UK’s property industry, which has had centuries to develop and refine legislation, you can see how challenging this is.

The city’s property market is evolving fast and the efforts of RERA and the Dubai Land Department (DLD) are really paying off.

Improving Market Transparency

‘Form A’ has been implanted to help with Dubai’s transparency problem. This is the standard contract mentioned above between broker and seller. The DLD is also planning to provide more up to date information to the market, which will help the drive towards transparency.

Restoring Investor Confidence

The main challenge after the crash of 2008 has been to restore investor confidence in Dubai’s property market. The city has introduced measures to make sure the market cannot overheat in the same way, and these have proven successful so far.

All the steps taken since 2008 have led to a solid foundation for the industry and should help to take the city to the next level over the next decade.

Market Maturity

Dubai’s real estate market in 2018 is much less speculative than it used to be. Investors are making measured decisions through the analysis of annual returns, and there is an increase of end-user demand. There are fewer speculative investors which has led to a more stable market, which means it’s a more attractive market.

The Youth Effect

Over recent years, younger people have settled in Dubai for the long term, meaning that more young people are prepared to invest in property. This is positive for the future of the market, and the city’s economy as a whole.

Future plans including the focus on tourism, developments and infrastructure in the lead up to Expo 2020, will continue to drive demand in the city for property. Despite the slight decrease in rental yields over the last few years, Dubai’s real estate market is widely thought to be one of the most reliable, attractive and sustainable markets in the world.

How Dubai Is Rebranding As A Family Friendly Property Market

UK investors should take notice of the vast potential for growth in Dubai.

Over the last decade, Dubai has become a destination people want to live and work in. In 2018, most property investors and buyers are looking to stay long term rather than flipping properties quickly. There are newly fashionable areas springing up all the time. For example, Business Bay has become home to many looking for downtown living space. Developments like Volante Tower, which is a residential tower in Business Bay, which has mostly sold to owner/occupiers. It’s not long been completed but only seven apartments are still available in the development, thanks in part to the amazing views across the Dubai Water Canal towards the world’s tallest tower, the famous Burj Khalifa.

Successful Residential Areas

How Dubai Is Rebranding As A Family Friendly Property Market Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Maher Najm via Flickr

Business Bay is just one of many enormously popular residential areas with infrastructure designed to make it accessible and enjoyable for residents. For example, there are miles of cycleways and pathways laid out, allowing people who live there to ditch their cars and enjoy the city streets in the cooler season between November and April.

New ideas such as a private member’s club within Volante Tower, including a pool, gym, spa and cinema, are boosting the popularity of living in the area. Its penthouse is priced at £6.5 million and represents decent value when compared to other countries. A report from Knight Frank in 2016 estimated that a similar place in prime central London would cost an average of £35 million, and almost double that in Monaco.

New Legislation To Protect Buyers

Other reasons for the growing popularity of residential areas in Dubai are the new legal frameworks that have been implemented to protect the buyer or investor. Since 2014, freehold titles have been available for foreign owners in specific free zones. These areas offer significant tax exemption and in Dubai include Business Bay, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Burj Khalfa and Emirates Hills.

Where freeholds aren’t available, leasehold laws have been implemented, closely modelled on Australian laws for terms of 99 years. These changes in legislation are being developed to attract international investors.

British Families Choose Dubai

How Dubai Is Rebranding As A Family Friendly Property Market Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Serge Bystro via Flickr

Around 10,000 people move to Dubai from the UK every year, and there are increasing numbers of families settling in the region. This means more education facilities also. For example, half of the pupils at Dubai College hold British passports. The headmaster of this facility predicts that high class educational institutions will expand even further over the next few years He said: “We don’t yet have the numbers for Brexit but we see fewer people leaving for the States thanks to Trump.”

Wealthy expats from the UK generally prefer high-end detached villas in neighbourhoods such as Emirates Hills and Arabian Ranches. The latter now has an English-speaking school, and five-bed houses sell for about £2.5 million. A more affordable, but equally popular residential area is the Meadows, where a four-bed detached house will go or about £800,000.

Expanding Cultural Scene

There are lots of improvements going on in Dubai to ensure the city is offering what long-term residents and families want. These range from art fairs, film festivals, the Dubai Opera and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Dubai is very much entering a new phase and while property prices don’t yet match their previous heights of 2008, the chance of another recession affecting prices like this is remote.

According to a report by property consultants Cluttons, Dubai remains the most popular area for property investment in the Gulf.

Dubai Housing Market Shows Signs of Growth

Dubai has a booming property market, especially in terms of rented accommodation.

There has been a significant shift in recent times in the Dubai housing market, if a recent report is to be believed. And it’s one that should be of real interest to prospective investors, as it shows growth in an area that isn’t usually associated with the super-rich image of Dubai.

Encouraging Figures for Growth

Dubai Housing Market Shows Signs of Growth Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Djordje Radovanovic via Flickr

The research – released by dubizzle Property and real estate consultants JLL in their End of Year Property Report for 2017 – shows that sales leads for properties under AED1,000 per sq ft have risen by an impressive 24 percent in the last 12 months. The findings suggest that it is in Dubai’s mid market segment that things are now really starting to move, with well over half of the residential properties that dubizzle Property are listing falling into this category. It’s part of a wider trend, according to Samer Abdin, the company’s general manager.

“Developers in Dubai announced 16 new projects this year – several of them were in the mid-market segment offering attractive payment plans,” he says. “Agencies who are focused on off-plan sales and have inventory that falls under the less than AED1,000 per sq ft bracket are likely to see gains here.”

The First Signs of a Potential Recovery?

Taking an even wider view, the bigger picture in Dubai also seems to be one of encouraging signs of growth in the mid and lower segments of the housing market. It’s no secret that the property market in Dubai has head into the wrong direction in the past, but it appears that the recovery now may well be on its way.

“This is where I believe the market is extremely undersupplied and not adapted to the demand,” says Salah Belkhayat, managing director of property adviser Valuance Consulting. “The prices in that segment are increasing while the rest of the market is still correcting.”

A Real Opportunity for Investors

Dubai Housing Market Shows Signs of Growth Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Maher Najm via Flickr

The research suggests that paying close attention to the differing trends in the distinct sectors of the Dubai property market is a smart approach for investors.

“The Dubai residential market has remained relatively soft during 2017, while there has been little change in average sale prices, rents have continued to decline in most locations,” says Craig Plumb, head of research, JLL MENA. “This disguises variations between different communities and different sectors of the market.”

While many expats in particular may still be earning high salaries, it’s clear that there are a growing number for whom the top-end properties are a step too far. Many have been looking to rent or buy in neighbouring emirates where prices are lower – but the rising demand for affordable properties in Dubai shows that it is still a highly desirable location.

So, while it seems that the higher end luxury market has struggled in the face of low oil prices and unemployment issues, the more affordable parts of the Dubai property market are now bouncing back – presenting potential investors with a real opportunity to take advantage of a sector where demand is increasingly healthy.

Where Are The Most Popular Investment Areas In Dubai?

Foreign investment in Dubai property has seen record levels in 2017.

For investors looking for property in Dubai, there’s a breadth of choice on offer with new communities springing up every year. But where are the residential property hotspots?

Desirable Areas

Aspirational properties are usually found in the newer areas of the city. Some good examples are Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and Emirates Hills. Newer communities boast desirable amenities and ever-better facilities, but the older residential areas still attract investment too.

CEO at Core-Savills, David Godchaux, describes some of these areas as “historically core” and where “long term investors and occupiers who are keen on the central locations are the ones holding interest”.

Outlying Areas Remain Stable

Areas that lie further out from the city centre, such as Dubai Sports City and Dubailand, have kept a stable upward momentum. Over in Discovery Gardens, ‘double dipping’ has been prevalent, with new developments reaching completion at competitive prices.

On the other hand, areas such as The Meadows and The Springs have seen a slowdown in sales, despite having led a recovery for districts that consist mainly of villas.

Core Apartment Districts

Where Are The Most Popular Investment Areas In Dubai? Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Serge Bystro via Flickr

Core Savills Research has issued its Q2 2017 Dubai Residential Market Update, which shows that core apartment districts continue to show steady transaction activity. These areas include Dubai Marina, The Views, The Greens and Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

Outer areas are seeing the largest amount of supply deliveries, while just a few buildings in Dubailand, Jumeirah Village and Al Furjan gained traction for buyers looking for cheaper prices.

This reflects prices as well as the fast turnaround for properties in desirable locations. Units priced at competitive rents in these core apartment locations are only on the market for two to three weeks, clearly showing the active rental market in these areas.

Looking For Affordability

The first half of 2017 showed more sales in the non-premium end of the market, while luxury property stalled. There is a certain amount of reluctance to commit to luxury property all around the world, and this includes Dubai.

Year-on-year prices for luxury property in Burj Khalifa were down by 25%, while Palm Jumeirah Village also saw a decline of between 15 and 18%. These areas are the weakest-performing and also house the most expensive properties in Dubai.

Affordability has become the most important factor of price corrections, shown in mid-priced properties holding their values. Dubailand, which has lower entry level rents than other areas, has bucked the trend of rental softening across the board.

Huge Demand for Key Worker Accommodation

Research assessing rental performance across all price tiers for the seven years from 2010, shows a high demand for accommodation for the drivers of the economy. These key workers include hair dressers, shop assistants and many other mid-level workers.

While back in the 1950s, this kind of housing stock was built at the edge of old Dubai, it’s now in the centre of the city. People want affordable housing close to transport links and facilities.

Data supplied by Cluttons shows that areas with more affordable housing are showing fewer rental dips and spikes when compared to the average. Karama is Dubai’s first affordable housing area and currently accommodates 76,000 people, while International City has 22,000 residential units housing 60,000.

Other Desirability Measures

Where Are The Most Popular Investment Areas In Dubai? Aspen Woolf

Image credit: *Crazy Diamond* via Flickr

Supply can support stability in certain areas of Dubai. For example, in Downtown Dubai there have been no price changes for 12 months. This is due to the lack of space for new homes, and the ensuing 45% drop in launches of new units. The less chance to buy new builds, the more stable the area’s prices remain.

It’s not possible to classify and typecast the real estate market in Dubai, and investors will always have to create a strategy to deal with the sub-locations they are considering.

Trends in Residential Housing

The research from Core-Savills shows various residential trends during the first half of 2017. These include:

  • Supply: More than 3,500 units were delivered in Q2. It was expected that this would slow down in Q3 and by year end pick up again. They estimate 11,200 units for the second half of the year.
  • More transactions at the same value: There were 6% more transactions in Q2 compared with the same quarter last year. The total value stayed around the same.
  • Off-plan sales increasing: This causes a detrimental effect in terms of secondary sales for some apartment districts.
  • Softening rental market: Tenants are more conscious of market conditions and are increasingly renegotiating their contracts, or moving homes completely. Many are also choosing to buy instead of rent.
  • Popular communities like The Views, The Greens and Dubai Marina are maintaining transaction activity.

The 2020 Expo Effect

There is significant investment going on due to Dubai winning the bid to host the 2020 World Expo. Areas around Al Maktoum International Airport such as Dubai South and Al Furjan are seeing a lot of development activity, including various residential projects featuring affordable housing.

These areas are now seen as new and emerging areas, and as communities are established, there will be a corresponding rise in demand. It’s expected that the Expo will herald a spike in rents and property prices in general

Dubai will host around 25 million visitors during Expo 2020, and many developers are hoping to deliver projects in 2018-2019 to cater to this massive rise in demand. There’s no doubt that the Expo will have a positive impact on the Dubai property market as a whole.