Dubai Real Estate Market Will Peak In 2015

The rise of Dubai's fast-growing residential real estate market is likely to peak in 2015, but will not suffer the same dramatic pitfall seen in 2008 and 2009, a leading Dubai real estate boss has forecast.
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“We do a lot of analytics and we do a lot of market research. We know that every eight or seven years there are some disturbance in the market and nothing can climb so rapidly,” Masood Al Awar, CEO of Tasweek Real Estate Development and Marketing, told Arabian Business in an interview.

“I think 2015 will be the peak but if we sustain it, [growth] can be prolonged to avoid the downturn… avoid the pitfall [of 2008],” he added.

While Property prices plummeted nearly 60 percent in the aftermath of the Dubai property crash in 2008 and 2009, Al Awar said such a dramatic drop was unlikely this time and growth was likely to plateau as the market was being managed in a more strategic way this time around.

“We have to make sure the pitfall is prohibited and we manage the cash flow and move forward. It is about sustainability and growth,” he said.

Tasweek Real Estate Development and Marketing manages a number of projects in Morocco, the UAE, and Malaysia and is planning to launch an AED1 billion ($272 million) IPO in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Al Awar’s comments echo those expressed in a report last month by property consultants JLL, which claimed that growth in the Dubai residential market is slowing as government steps to curb speculative buying have an impact and higher prices start to affect demand.

Second-quarter trends in the market suggest the risks of the Dubai property market overheating and then crashing, as it did in 2008-2009, are easing, Craig Plumb, JLL's head of research for the Middle East and North Africa, told Reuters.

"It's good news that the market is slowing down," Plumb said, adding that when the market eventually reached the falling phase of its cycle, the pull-back was unlikely to be as violent as it was five years ago when it triggered a corporate debt crisis in the emirate.

For now, the residential market is still climbing rapidly; average sale prices jumped 36 percent from a year earlier in the second quarter, compared to 33 percent in the first. Rents gained 24 percent, after 23 percent in the previous quarter.

But on a quarter-on-quarter basis, rises are slowing. Sales prices grew 6 percent in the second quarter, down from 10 percent in the previous quarter, JLL calculated. The increase in rents dropped to 3 percent from 7 percent.

Seeking to avoid another boom-bust cycle, authorities took a series of steps last year to cool the market. The United Arab Emirates central bank imposed caps on mortgage loans, and Dubai doubled its transaction fee on property deals.

Plumb said these steps were having an impact and in addition, market forces were at work as, with prices in many areas back near their pre-crash levels, some buyers started to question the affordability of prices.

While apartment prices have continued to rise, prices of existing villas, in particular, have started to lose steam, with anecdotal evidence of a drop in asking prices that looks set to continue in coming months, he added.

The cooling of the market can be seen in falling sales volumes for all residential sectors, with Dubai government data showing villa sales shrank almost 50 percent from a year earlier in May, JLL said.

Plumb said that while the residential market as a whole still had further growth ahead of it, and was unlikely to turn down for at least six months, it had entered a period of slowing rent rises that would precede a phase of falling rents.

Other parts of Dubai's property market - hotels, retail space, and offices - are further back in the cycle and remain in phases of accelerating rental growth, the JLL report said.

High vacancy rates and plans for future supply continue to constrain the office market, even though rents have been rising modestly, the report found. Dubai remains one of the world's strongest-performing hotel markets, with average occupancy rates around 85 percent in the year to May.

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