Changing Landscape: Dubai Property Developers Adopt New Strategies

Changing Landscape: Dubai Property Developers Adopt New Strategies

By: Fadi Nwilati, CPA, CGMA,

CEO, Kaizen Asset Management Services

Today, Dubai has a new Marina, the Dubai Canal and a BVLGARI hotel located on Jumeirah Bay Island, which is in the final stages of construction and set to open soon.

Dubai is changing and shifting thanks to a multitude of forces. Dubai’s building boom grinded to a halt as the global financial crisis took centre stage in 2008. It was the second half of 2008 when the world economy crashed, walloped by recession, the future of Dubai was unclear at that stage. After a few turbulent years, Dubai bounced back and committed to a remarkable turnaround.

Just take a few minutes and reflect on the dramatic landscape changes that have taken place over the past two years alone. Today, Dubai has a new Marina, the Dubai Canal and a BVLGARI hotel located on Jumeirah Bay Island, which is in the final stages of construction and set to open soon. Bluewaters Island, home to the world’s highest observation wheel the ‘Dubai Eye’ and The Tower which is set to be taller than the Burj Khalifa. In a country where shopping is a favorite pastime for residents with high disposable incomes, there is no shortage of malls, shopping centres and boutiques. We have seen developments like City Walk and Box Park open in the past few years.

The 16th edition of Cityscape Global, the Middle East’s largest, most influential real estate event was yet another clear indication of the Dubai’s innovative vision for future development. The level of investor trust within the market was evident at the event with some Master Developers recording up to Dh 1.3 billion in sales at Cityscape Global. Cityscape this year was indicative that the Dubai property market is stabilizing as the down cycle is nearing its end.

But the question remains, how will the market stability improve? It’s the long-standing property investors that believe in the Arabic saying, one way or another, that real estate may get sick, but never dies. In light with current global instability, one of the most notable property market trends playing out through this cycle is that levels of investor activity that are set to break through unparalleled standards. Millennials in particular are surprisingly drawn to real estate as an investment opportunity. Millennials are also notably much more active in the investment game, but alternative forms, not the traditional forms.

With so many new homes slated to enter the Dubai market, demand is projected to increase rapidly, especially from the millennials who are primed to venture into buying homes instead of renting, according to the organizers of the International Property Show (IPS). Research shows Dubai millennials firmly value the importance of home ownership and its investment benefits. Based on a study conducted by Dubizzle, 44% of millennials in Dubai are looking to buy a home in the next few years. And why not? Dubai offers residents a luxury, tax free lifestyle, with high salaries to afford their own homes. Real Estate Developers in the Dubai have adopted a new strategy to meet the Millennials requirements and to embrace the 21st century of living.

From its humble beginnings as a sleepy fishing port, Dubai has a skyline that has changed beyond recognition. This innovative city has morphed into a global marvel today. It has defied the norms and defined new innovation standards that will captivate the world. Dubai has also recently entered the top five ranking economies in the world, according to American Think Tank Brookings Institution. Uncertainty in the world economy has increased, “but if I had to place my bet on a city, I would place it on the city and country that delivered in the past, and will surely deliver in the future”.

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By: Fadi Nwilati, CPA, CGMA


Many land owners today have made a call today to offer their plots for sale or scrapped their decision to develop their real estate projects. While in many cases these decisions are correct, there is no harm in conducting a fresh feasibility analysis and reconsidering the decision, as in some cases, land owners may be losing on a great opportunity.

Over the last 2 years, I have been leading and working with several land owners developing real estate projects and have been leading, since 2015, approximately AED 1.5 Billion in projects value all the way from feasibility study, design management, tendering, authority approvals, project financing, project & unit registrations, escrow account set up & management, tendering and construction award, and construction supervision.

While most large-scale contractors remain busy with Expo 2020 projects, and trust me, there are many in planning & execution stage, construction prices remain reasonable. Margins for real estate developers remain healthy. When conducting feasibility analysis for the projects I have been involved with, the worst-case scenarios, which are based on the absolute bottom prices of the global financial crisis, result in breakeven. So as a worst-case scenario, the capital invested by real estate developers remains “safe’ in principal.

Land owners today should seriously consider to develop their plots, or at least explore the opportunity, whether their intention is to rent or sell the properties. Banks continue to offer construction financing, even for first time developers, to projects that have been well planned and analyzed. I have assisted in arranging over AED 500 Million in bank funding in the last 18 months and can tell first hand that some banks’ appetite for the right real estate projects remains positive.

Of course, not every land passes the checklist for development today. A thorough analysis of the location, demand, sell-ability or rentability, and exit strategy must be conducted prior to making such decisions. In a project we are currently leading, the projected annual returns, which have been analyzed by multiple professional entities and banks, are 20%. This proves that despite the current market situation, there are projects that remain promising and tick all the boxes. If you happen to own a plot of land, explore the option of developing it. There are multiple scenarios for land owners to explore if they wish to limit their exposure and minimize their risks.

Dubai remains in need for specific types of properties that remain absent, with few developers exploring built to suit schemes, and certain unique, not necessarily prime, residential & commercial projects. As a real estate developer, it’s time to decide not to copy what’s already being developed, and to think differently. Unique projects, both on the prime & lower end of the market, have been in historically in demand and healthy.

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