Dubai’s beleaguered property market won’t rebound anytime soon, according to a Reuters poll of property market experts, largely due to a chronic oversupply of homes coupled with an economic slowdown in the city-state.
Dubai house prices have slid by at least a quarter since mid-2014, the peak from its recovery from the 2009 debt crisis, and the end of this latest bout of weakness is not yet near.
The Nov. 6-20 Reuters poll of 10 economists and property analysts showed average property prices would decline 10% this year and another 5% next year.
While those forecasts were unchanged from a September poll, the median view for 2021 showed them falling at a slightly slower rate of 2.5% compared with 3.3%.
An oversupply of homes remains a chronic problem in Dubai, according to every respondent who answered an additional question in the poll.
“Oversupply has been a long-standing issue and recent developer activity indicates that this is unlikely to change in the near future,” said Chris Hobden, Head of Strategic Consultancy at Chestertons MENA.
The economy in Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates, is heavily reliant on global trade, which has been under threat from the U.S.-China trade war.
To try to address the property market slump, the government set up a real estate planning commission in September but it is early days for measuring tangible results.
“While the establishment of the Higher Committee for Real Estate Planning suggests an appetite to address the imbalance moving forward, the Committee’s market impact is still unclear,” Hobden said.
All but two respondents to another Reuters poll question said a further slowdown in activity was more likely than a rebound, while they all said a revival was at least a year away.
“While the government has launched a number of initiatives to boost the economy, they will take time to filter through, which means the real estate market will continue on the downward trajectory until they do,” said Jenny Weidling, Manager of Research and Advisory at Asteco.
But recent sales transactions – which have been rising for 10 months – clocked their highest monthly tally since 2008 in October.
Home ownership has become somewhat more affordable after years of falling prices. When asked to describe affordability of the average home on a scale of 1 to 10 – from extremely cheap to extremely expensive – the median response was 5.5, lower than given in September.
Controlling supply, further government stimulus, job creation and visa reforms were listed as potential effective policies for significantly stimulating activity and prices, respondents to another survey question said.
“The combination of these government initiatives … are expected to boost FDI, increase business activity and boost market sentiment and thereby boosting real estate demand”, said Dima Isshak, a Senior Manager at CBREMENAT.
What was the general market movement in Q3?
While on the most part rents were still declining, as they have done for the past couple of years, there were possibly the first signs of recovery in the capital, with some areas recording rises during the period from July to September.
Chestertons reported a 1 per cent average fall quarter-on-quarter for apartments and no change for villas. JLL also found no change to villa rates and a 2 per cent decline for apartments, while Asteco said the changes were "marginal" and noted that areas which experienced significant decreases in previous quarters had no change.
Although there were disparities between the data provided by the brokers, Chestertons said it witnessed an increase in rents in Mohammed bin Zayed City and Al Raha Beach - 4 per cent for a two-bedroom apartment in the latter.
It also reported a 1 per cent rise in villa rents in Khalifa City, while it said Al Raha Gardens' four and five-bedroom villas experienced the biggest declines suggesting "people could be downsizing in this location to save costs".
What else did the property companies have to say?
Despite the slight improvement compared to the previous few quarters, the downward pressure is expected to continue as more supply becomes available.
Most villa developments "maintained healthy occupancy rates", according to JLL, but it said the supply situation means "vacancies are expected to increase further".
The biggest rental movements for apartments were on Saadiyat Island where Chestertons said the cost of a one-bedroom apartment dropped from Dh100,000 in Q2 to Dh90,000 in Q3. The Asteco data showed a 3 per cent average fall for apartments in that area during the third quarter.
How does the supply situation look for the rest of the year?
Like in neighbouring emirate Dubai, there is no shortage at the moment. However, the figures for completed units vary.
JLL said approximately 380 residential units were completed, bringing the total residential stock to 260,000 units. Projects included two buildings in the Shams district on Reem Island, and a tower in Khalidiyah.
An additional 5,400 units are scheduled for delivery by year-end, mainly within Reem Island, Al Raha Beach and Saadiyat Island.
Asteco put the number of completed units at 1,000, of which 900 were apartments and it expects a total of 4,100 to be finished in the fourth quarter.
Will it be a similar case of supply outstripping demand next year? Chestertons doesn't think so.
"There is not a significant amount of new supply expected to be delivered next year which means there could be a better balance between supply and demand which will ultimately lead to a more stable market in the future," it said.
Anything else of note?
The introduction of toll gates in the capital was meant to come into force on October 15.
However, the Department of Transport announced that the tariffs would begin from January 1, 2020, and so any effect on residents' decision on where to live will unlikely be felt until well into next year.
Meanwhile, there have been further plot sales launched, after successful offerings earlier in the year.
Aldar launched Saadiyat Reserve, a 422,370 square metre community featuring 306 serviced villa plots, with planning approval for 4 to 6 bedroom villas. They were available to all nationalities for between Dh1.6 million and Dh2.5m.
Wahat Yas by Wahat Al Zaweya Real Estate Development also launched. This is located between the Al Bahia area and Al Raha Beach, next to the Yas Island water canal. It comprises villa and building land plots (available to UAE nationals only) that start from about Dh1.1m.
Furthermore, Aldar is offering rent-to-own deals for select homes in its West Yas residential community on Yas Island. Tenants pay Dh220,000 a year for five years which is then converted into equity.
Sharjah continues to be the favourite place to live amongst expatriates looking for affordable housing.
And now they have all the more reason to be happier as the rents recorded a further drop of at least three per cent in the third quarter of 2019.
There has been an approximately 11 per cent drop in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the corresponding period in 2018, according to a report by Asteco, a Dubai-based real estate company. The rents in Sharjah dropped by about 32 per cent since the first quarter of 2015 peak time.
“Drop-in rents in Dubai has impacted the rental market in Sharjah as well for the tenants are now negotiating with landlords to reduce their rents or they would vacate the flat,” Karim Aga, a real estate broker in Sharjah told Gulf News.
He said that new tenants are negotiating rents even more while the tenants renewing contracts are also now in a commanding position as they ‘threaten’ landlords to reduce their rents or they would move.
However, Aga noted that more expatriates are moving from Ajman to Sharjah due to dip in rents. “I have noticed that many people who work in Dubai but lived in Ajman are now moving to Sharjah to reduce their travel time to work,” he said.
The affordability in rents is also giving more choices to residents in Sharjah as many of them are upgrading to bigger and luxurious flats in new buildings at better locations and improved facilities.
The decline in rental price has given residents more control and stability in the city.
Preferred areas in Sharjah
Known as family-friendly emirate, Sharjah has a huge selection of properties available for lease. For instance, when it comes to renting apartments, countless options are available to choose from. The most popular version is the 1 BHK flat in Al Majaz, one of the several communities in Sharjah.
Al Nahda is considered one of the most popular areas that are popular for renting apartments. The reason behind its popularity is its location, which is next to Dubai’s border. This area appeals to many residents who commute to Dubai for work as living here tends to cut down their commute time dramatically.
Next on the list is the community of Muwaileh area which is popular for the most affordable rental rates its rental rates. Al Majaz and Al Taawun areas are also popular for upscale housing as they are close to several attractions including beaches, Qanat Al Qasba and the Sharjah Water Front.
According to the latest report, a studio flat in Sharjah now cost from Dh12,000 to Dh23,000 whereas the range for one-bedroom flat is from Dh13,000 to Dh38,000.
It will cost from Dh20,000 to Dh62,000 to rent a two-bedroom flat whereas the rent range for a three-bedroom flat is from Dh30,000 to Dh70,000 depending on the location, amenities and the quality of the buildings. The average rent for 4-bed flats in Sharjah is about Dh80,000 per year.
Has your monthly apartment rate decreased by around 10% or more in the past twelve months? That’s the average rental decrease in the Dubai residential property space during this period.
This permits a Tenant to lease a studio in Business Bay from forty thousand Dirhams and at thirty-five thousand Dirhams and over if the location preference is for Dubai Marina.
According to the latest report from Asteco a single-bedroom unit in the Greens can be purchased for Dh 50,000. Rents are down by eleven to twelve percent at all three locations in the twelve months to end September.
These rentals are based on prevailing and existing trends in these residential clusters. Variations can be expected on these depending on the building, its relative age, amenities, etc. Yet, today, it’s difficult to find any tenant who has not gained from a downward revision of his annual rental outgo. No neighborhood has been immune to the pull.
More handovers are preferred in residential hotspots which should lead to repeated pressure on rental terms decided between Landlords and Tenants. “This trend is likely to intensify owing to the sheer volume of supply expected for handover in short to medium term,” Asteco notes.
For the record, Dubai has seen a thirty-five percent decrease on the residential side since the second quarter of 2014. That was the time when rentals had zoomed to a six-year high after the 2009 downturn.
Dubai's real estate firms are pinning their hopes on lucrative incentives, attractive long-term repayment plans as well as government initiatives to control over-supply to drive home sales.
Property developers in the emirate are left with no option but to offer a series of attractive schemes to win over buyers confronted with a huge supply of an estimated 50,000 units this year. Home prices have plunged anywhere between 25 per cent and 33 per cent in nominal terms since 2014, Standard & Poor's said in a report, citing property consultancy firm Asteco.
Property developers are going the extra mile to lure potential buyers for their newly launched and ongoing projects by extending post-handover payment plans on off-plan properties to ready homes, rent-to-own options and by arranging mortgage finance for initial down payment of the property. Rent-to-own scheme allows the tenants to pay in rent each month, towards a home that they will own at the end of the tenure, making it a much more cost-effective option.
Prominent developers in the UAE, including Emaar Properties, are adopting rent-to-own like schemes to open up their customer base to a new market of potential investors.
Falling Home Price
Developers also hope the low valuations in the aftermath of price corrections in the past couple of years could prop up demand.
"Developers are very aware that they need to be creative with new offerings to attract more foreign direct investment and be competitive with other popular investment markets," Lynnette Abad, director of research and data at Property Finder told local media.'
More than 80 per cent of expatriates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) still live in rented homes and most of them aspire to own their home and attractive repayment plans will surely help them.
"In fact, all industries depend on financial institutions for growth and momentum. But considering the challenges and barriers that most potential homeowners face from the financial institutions in the region, the rent-to-own plan is imperative for the industry to sustain and support its own growth," Shaher Mousali, chairman of Arthur Mackenzy Properties Group, was quoted as saying by ValuStart, a leading consulting and advisory group.
Mousali said that the rent-to-own scheme, which came to the UAE market some years ago, eliminates the entry barriers that hold back many prospective buyers.
Apart from the rent-to-own scheme, developers are also looking up to the long-term payment plans. "I feel a long-term payment plan up to 15 years or 20 years can lift the market and will inspire existing tenants to become a homeowner in one of the best-developed markets of the world," noted Mousali.
Experts also indicated that a recent move towards a more centralised, well-planned strategic approach of government-based developers to address competition with their private sector counterparts could help mitigate the demand-supply mismatch seen during the last few years.
Sizable Contribution To Gdp
Last year, Dubai's economy grew merely 1.9 per cent, the slowest since the 2009 financial crisis, hit by the downturn in the real estate sector that contributes 13.9 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP). In fact, as many as 20,978 residential units were completed in the first half of 2019, according to an estimate by Property Finder.
An additional 38,426 residential units in 152 projects are scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year. However, according to media reports, the number of projects on hold has risen to 980, constituting 28 per cent of all those under construction.
Besides, Dubai recorded a 12 per cent growth in real estate transactions at 106 billion dirhams for the first five months of this year, the latest annual report of Dubai Land Department showed.
There are clear signs of growth in demand for homes in the emirate if latest data is any indication. For instance, off-plan sales in the first nine months of this year touched 16,056 units, against 12,979 units for the whole of 2018, according to a Gulf News report, which cited Reidin-GCP data.
However, there was a marginal decline in average price in the third quarter, compared to the previous quarter, according to property website Bayut. And the slide in property prices is likely to continue for the rest of 2019 and is expected to stabilise in 2020 with no meaningful recovery expected until 2021, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor's.
Have you seen your apartment rent go down by 10 per cent or more in the last 12 months? That’s the average rental drop in the Dubai residential property space during this period.
This allows a tenant to lease a studio in Business Bay from Dh40,000, and at Dh35,000 and over if the location preference is for Dubai Marina.
A single-bedroom unit in the Greens could be had for Dh50,000. At all three locations, rents are down 11-12 per cent in the 12 months to end September, according to the latest report from Asteco. Across Dubai, this has been the rental declines based on listings or tenancy contracts. In the third quarter alone, the average dip was 3 per cent.
These rentals are based on prevailing trends in these residential clusters. There could be variations on these based on the building, its relative age, amenities, etc. But these days, it’s rare to find a tenant who has not benefited from a downward revision of his annual rental outgo. No neighbourhood has been immune to the pull.
And more handovers in preferred residential hotspots should lead to renewed pressure on rental terms decided between landlords and tenants. “This trend is likely to solidify due to the sheer volume of supply expected for handover in the short to medium term,” Asteco notes.
For the record, Dubai has seen a 35 per cent dip on the residential side since the second quarter of 2014. That was the time when rentals had zoomed to a six-year high after the 2009 downturn.
At the time, rentals were hugely inflated as Dubai was yet to see the steady completion of new projects. Landlords could demand and get what they wanted.
A better comparison for today’s rental rates should be with early 2017, by which time more the market had seen the last of the super-inflated rental terms. Between 2017 and now, rents would have dropped around 20-22 per cent.
But it need not be a given that tenants can get landlords to meet all their demands on rent cuts. “While the softening market conditions are good news for residents, it is important to note that securing reduced rents requires negotiating skills from the individual tenants … and a willingness to move should the landlord prove unyielding,” the report adds.
“Residents also need to assess the financial benefits of discounts/incentives against the cost/stress of moving. While in many cases the scale tips in favour of the latter, a growing disparity will likely lead to increased tenant relocation in the face of intransigent landlords.”
At the end of the negotiations, what matters is how desperate the landlord is to secure a tenant. Because there’s ample proof that if they do not drop their asking rates, interested tenants can just head to the landlord of their neighbouring property and get a sweet deal.
According to one tenant who recently signed a contract for an upscale villa, much depends on the landlord and his/her estate agent. “My initial experience dealing through an estate agent was dismal — the demand was for Dh180,000 plus. The landlord was an overseas investor and all negotiations had to be done through the agent.
“But just waiting for a month yielded a tenancy for Dh160,000 for another villa in the same cluster. That’s because I could have a direct communication with the landlord.
“In this current market situation, everyone needs to get realistic.”
Flood of new supply
Asteco reckons full-year delivery to total “just over 20,000 apartments and 7,500 villas in 2019. Whilst these figures represent a marked decline on previous projections, it is still a significant volume and a notable increase from 2018, which recorded deliveries of 12,000 apartments and 2,750 villas.”
The report states that handover volumes actually declined in the third quarter — to 4,600 units compared to over 5,000 in both the first and second quarters.
It’s all getting affordable
Head to Jumeirah Village and chances are you can get a brand new — or reasonably new — studio for Dh25,000 plus a year. In International City, the asking rate starts from Dh18,000, while Discovery Gardens and Sports City studios start from Dh24,000, Asteco reports.
Apartment rents in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates recorded average quarterly and annual declines of 3 per cent and 11, respectively. The dip in Sharjah and Ajman was “exacerbated by the increase of supply in those emirates, coupled with the continuous delivery of affordable properties in Dubai.”
Arabtec Holding and Trojan Holding have mandated Swiss bank UBS and Dubai-listed Shuaa Capital as advisers on a potential merger between the two United Arab Emirates construction firms, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Arabtec, which helped build the Louvre Abu Dhabi, said in September the two companies “commenced a review of the possibility of combining their construction businesses.”
The Gulf construction sector has slumped since a collapse in oil prices four years ago forced governments to rein in spending, leading to a debt crunch at some companies that operate across the Middle East.
Switzerland’s UBS are working with Arabtec, while Shuaa is working with Trojan, the sources said.
Arabtec, Trojan and Shuaa was not immediately available for comment, while UBS declined to comment.
Discussions began last week, they added. Should the talks succeed, the companies will start due diligence and a process for a potential merger, said one of the sources.
Trojan Holding, which own a number of construction companies including Trojan General Contracting, has worked on large contracts for developers including Aldar Properties, Emaar Properties, and Nakheel.
Arabtec Holding in November hired New York-based investment bank Moelis & Co (MC.N) to work on a new debt-restructuring plan.
The move came little more than a year after Arabtec raised 1.5 billion dirhams ($408.4 million) in a rights issue to wipe out accumulated losses and separately asked banks to waive terms on its debt.
The UAE, home to the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, has faced a sharp real estate slowdown due to oversupply and weaker investment appetite amid lower oil prices.
Dubai’s residential property market was unlikely to see a meaningful recovery in 2021, S&P said in a report in February. Prices have fallen 25 percent to 33 percent in nominal terms since 2014, the report said, citing property consultancy Asteco.
S&P said it expected them to fall another 5-10 percent this year, meaning they would approach the lows reached in 2010, after the financial crisis.
Unlike a general perception that rents will go up ahead of Expo 2020, residents will be paying less rents due to a supply-and-demand correction, subdued population growth, bearish market sentiments and global or regional economic uncertainties, they said.
Latest data released by ValuStrat indicates that average annual rents in Dubai dropped by 9.2 per cent in the first three quarters of 2019 compared to 8.4 per cent in 2018 and 9.1 per cent in 2017.
Apartments across Dubai registered a 9.4 per cent year-on-year decline in rents, while villa rates dropped by 8.8 per cent so far this year. Average rents in Dubai fell approximately 27 per cent during the last three years and the similar downward trend is expected to continue in 2020.
"The general decline in annual rents is expected to broadly continue for many areas, with more sharpened drops in areas with significant new supply pipelines," Haider Tuaima, head of real estate research at ValuStrat, told Khaleej Times. "We have no reason to believe that rents would increase in 2020."
The report showed that average apartment rents in Dubai dropped from Dh74,373 in the first quarter of 2019 to Dh70,548 in the third. Villas followed a similar downward trend as average rates fell from Dh221,202 to Dh210,454. Residential occupancy in Dubai is estimated at 86 per cent.
"The market condition is slow due to a supply and demand mismatch. Rents are likely to pick up momentum from the first quarter of 2020 onwards," said Saad Maniar, senior partner at Crowe in DIFC.
Elaborating, he said the residential rent market will remain under pressure next year due to a supply and demand correction. However Expo 2020, extraordinary infrastructure and recent changes in property laws and regulations will have a positive impact on economy in general and the real estate sector in particular.
"No one should have a doubt that Expo 2020 and excellent infrastructure will attract more investors in Dubai," Maniar said.
Average annual rents for two-bedroom villas stood at Dh105,000; three-bedrooms were at Dh160,000 while four-bedrooms remained at Dh209,000. Moreover, average rents per annum for studio apartments were Dh48,000, while one-, two- and three bedroom apartments were at Dh67,000, Dh97,000 and Dh130,000, respectively, according to the report.
John Stevens, managing director at Asteco Property Management, said rents' downward trend is likely to continue in 2020. However, tenants who have been paying below-market rents, as they are protected by the rental cap, could expect marginal rental increases in line with the law.
"Overall, Asteco expects rental rates to continue their downward trajectory in 2020, albeit at a lower rate, which means the majority of tenants should be paying less rent next year," Stevens told Khaleej Times.
He said that the lower rents are strongly linked to the negotiating skills of tenants and their willingness to move if the landlord is not flexible. "Many tend to stay put to avoid the cost/hassle of moving and therefore do not take advantage of declining rents," he said.
Stevens attributed the decline in rents to oversupply, subdued population growth and bearish market sentiment in addition to limited or negative business/employment growth and global or regional economic uncertainties.
The ValuStrat report named Dubai Sports City, Discovery Gardens, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai Marina and Dubai Production City as locations where rents dropped the most in the first nine months of 2019. For villas, the report mentioned Arabian Ranches, Jumeirah Village, Jumeirah Islands, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Jumeirah Golf Estates, where rents declined from 13.7 per cent to 7.1 per cent during the January-September period.
Asteco Property Management is the oldest, largest and most successful multi-disciplinary Real Estate Company in the UAE with over 34 years of Commercial success and today announced that they have launched their proprietary Vendor Portal.
“Our Vendor Portal allows companies to register the services that they offer to Asteco” said John Stevens, Managing Director of Asteco. “For companies, it will ensure that the goods and services they have on offer are visible to all our Property Managers whom are working to service almost 500 managed properties across the UAE”.
With their details registered on the Vendor Portal these companies will be available for consideration for future RFPs and proposals required by building Owners, based on the areas they operate and services that they offer.
For Asteco it means that the entire process, from selection of suppliers through to award of contracts, is streamlined through a qualitative assessment of the Vendors submitted supporting documents and references, whilst also allowing there to be an increase in transparency across all our offices of the capability, professional qualifications, experience and prices secured for these services.
Developed by an internal team of programmers, the Vendor Portal compliments the Proprietary software platforms Asteco has already developed which includes, Property Management, HR and ERP platforms. “Whilst we have looked at purchasing software platforms from specialist providers, on many occasions we have found it more efficient to develop our own software rather than customising an existing platform”, said Stevens,”The Vendor Portal is a prime example of this, it has been built from the ground up based on the requirements of our users and we expect this to be a very beneficial tool for Asteco, Clients, Contractors and Consultants”.
To register on the Vendor Portal, suppliers should visit www. https://vendor.asteco.com
For more details, please visit www.asteco.com
Asteco provides support and influential input to the Dubai Land Department during the development and implementation of their software platform known as “Mollak” which is set to issue service charge invoices to jointly owned properties
The Dubai Land Department, DLD, through its regulatory arm Real Estate Regulatory Authority, RERA, launched a first-of-its-kind electronic system titled "Mollak" that incorporates innovations to ensure that justice and transparency are maintained.
The DLD prioritises customer satisfaction and happiness, in line with national strategies, and developed this system to help co-owned property owners and ensure smooth and easy operations with their property managers.
"Mollak" provides a new and integrated system to monitor accounts related to service charges in these projects by relying on the financial accounts operating according to the mechanism of the escrow account. The system operates across a range of stakeholders in managing co-owned properties. It also operates within the real estate unit owners’ database and the database of real estate units registered and approved by DLD, where no user may change the data.
Marwan bin Ghalita, CEO of RERA, said, "The Real Estate Relations Regulatory Department at RERA developed the work mechanism of this new system by relying on the competencies of citizens working at RERA to help disperse real estate knowledge through sustainable and modern electronic means in service of the real estate sector. As a customer-centric approach to its services, RERA committed a pilot phase with most management companies, financial auditors, and financial institutions for the programme before officially launching it in Q2 2019 to high acclaim."
Through the system, 468 bank accounts were successfully opened for project service charges, 88 management companies and 1,212 real estate projects were registered and approved by RERA as well as 200,000 real estate units, comprising residential apartments, villas, offices, and commercial shops. As a further consolidation of RERA’s emphasis on security and customer trust, it attracted seven banks to act as account trustees for co-owned properties and registered eight financial auditors to explicitly audit the application fees that were submitted for accreditation.
Bin Ghalita added, "Through the system, RERA seeks to increase the role of governance, regulation, and supervision as well as the participation of private sector specialists to increase real estate transparency and maintain the balance between real estate developers, management companies, and homeowners. This is to increase customer satisfaction and happiness in the services provided by RERA as well as facilitate the procedures of real estate unit owners when dealing with management companies and managing service-fee accounts."
Mohammed bin Hammad, Senior Director of the Real Estate Relations Regulatory Department at RERA, commented, "Thanks to the innovative new Mollak system, co-owned property projects will be managed with the utmost provision of high-quality services in line with the expectations of owners and residents. RERA’s registration of auditors and banks to monitor transactions in the system is evidence of its emphasis on security, regulation, and customer trust."
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