Dubai Real Estate Developers Revising Prices and Payment Plans Based on New Market Conditions

With an estimated 70+ projects that are now for sale across Dubai, we are increasingly seeing Real Estate Developers revise their offering, prices and payment plans to gain market share.

While the major established developers like Emaar Properties, Nakheel and Dubai Properties Group are still able to sell out projects with relative ease – there are now dozens of smaller, private developers that are building various types of projects across Dubai.

The competition is strongest on the mid-end segment. Hot spot areas of development include projects like Dubai Sports City, Jumeirah Village and the greater Dubailand area. With so much competition in this segment, developers are adapting to the market place with new, innovative campaigns and product placements.

A bit of background; Dubai’s real estate market crashed in late 2008 and between 2009 – 2011, the market corrected drastically with prices declining between 30 – 50% in some cases.

Starting in 2012, mainly as a result of instability in the region (remember the Arab Spring), billions of dollars poured into Dubai – largely being diverted into the local real estate market.

From 2012 – to late 2013, the market appreciated drastically. In order to cool down the market and prevent another bubble, the Government took a number of measures to prevent speculation. An increase in the mortgage cap, doubling of transaction costs and preventing off-plan buyers to resell immediately have all contributed to a slow down.

The slow-down has not been as drastic as once feared. The correction which began in mid-2014 has seen prices decline by 7 – 10% on average for most communities. Many of the small and medium sized investors have started consolidating their positions. Most mature communities have high occupancy rates and now witness less transactions.

The overall market has now shifted towards the off-plan market. Buyers from within Dubai and from overseas are attracted to purchasing on payment plans which minimize cash flow and risk.

Thousands of units have been announced for development since 2013. In the long run, the city will require new housing to counter a growing population and high rental costs which contribute to the high cost of living in the city.

With so many under-construction projects, developers are competing against one another in ways that they have never done before.

Developers are revising prices downwards and in an interesting turn of events, many new projects are now offering payment plans which extend to upto 3 years after completion – a concept which was pretty much unheard of a few years ago.

Good examples of these extended payment plans are projects like Royal Estates in Dubai Investment Park, GGICO’s numerous developments in Sports City and Dubai Silicon Oasis and Al Khail Heights.

Even high-end developments are beginning to introduce flexible payment plans. Fortuna Village, a 30 townhouse development enclave within Victory Heights, has recently offered buyers a chance to pay off their units upto one year after handover on a 6% increase on the purchase price.

According to research done by on under-construction freehold supply, there are 9,000 villas, 6,300 townhouses and 38,000 apartments currently under-construction across Dubai.

What is a Real Estate Development Agreement?

Of all of the legal agreements that you will have to go over in your lifetime, a real estate development agreement is one of the longest and one of the most complicated. Many of the other forms we’ve looked at here are short; usually one or two pages and they can be filled out and read over in only a few minutes. With a real estate development agreement, you will likely need hours to wade through one of these dense, 10-50 page documents. Let’s take a look at what a real estate development agreement is and why they are so lengthy.

A real estate development agreement is just that, an agreement to develop a parcel of land for personal or commercial use. The agreement can be between an individual and a construction company, a commercial builder and a city or town, a city and town and a retail business or other combinations of the above. Some real estate development agreements between large companies like Wal-Mart and a city or between a company that will be dealing with hazardous chemicals, like a gas station and a city, can be extremely long as they need to cover any eventuality that could arise during building or later on if there is an accident.

The typical real estate development agreement starts off with simple definitions of who is involved with the agreement, the date and where the piece of property that is scheduled for development is. The agreement will also spell out the municipality that is in charge of overseeing the development. The next part of the contract is often the “Witnessed” section that lists all of the necessary steps the builder has had to complete up to this point to have the development agreement approved by the city. The city will make sure that the area you’ve chosen to build on is properly zoned for the type of building you intend to do and they will also check that you’ve submitted a development plan, which is different than this agreement, to the city in advance of this form. Once those steps are met, the meat of the contract is spelled out.

The first section is the definitions that simply spell out what each term used in the contract refers to. For example, the city or builder will likely define what “total cost” means so it can be used throughout the contract. If it is a simple home building contract, there will only be two or three definitions, if the contract is for commercial property, there could be dozens.

Next, the development plan sketches out the project. This section is often short and simply lays down the ground rules of the build, such as the time frame, property limits and so on. The improvements section can be quite long as it outlines all of the improvements this development will do with the city like improving sewer lines that it hooks up to.

The final sections of the contract go over deadlines for building and things like landscaping rules, parking rules and what rules are in place for further building on that parcel of land. Overall, a real estate development agreement is often as complicated as your plan is: simple for homes, complicated for commercial properties.

Uncommon View – Commercial Real Estate Development

This is a story I heard growing up:
When my grandfather was 10 years old he found a penny. With that penny he bought a pencil. He sharpened that pencil then sold it for two cents. He took that two cents and bought two more pencils, sharpened them and sold them for four cents. He reinvested his four cents in four more pencils, sharpened them and sold them for eight cents. Then, again, he bought eight more pencils, sharpened them and sold them for sixteen cents. This went on until my grandfather had amassed $10.24. That’s when my great Aunt Sophie died and left us her portfolio of shopping centers, office buildings and rental homes. Our family has been in the real estate business ever since.

The story isn’t true, but it taught four valuable lessons:

1) Sweat equity is a powerful tool;

2) If you reinvest your earnings, wealth can grow geometrically;

3) The BIG money is in real estate; and

4) It would be nice to have a rich Aunt Sophie.

Like most families, we didn’t have a rich Aunt Sophie, so my parents focused on lessons 1, 2 and 3. I mention this story as a backdrop. My life growing up was always about real estate.

In my article “Keys to Closing Commercial Real Estate Transactions”, I mentioned my father because he was, and is, a wiz when it comes to commercial real estate. It was through him that I came to represent commercial real estate developers.

What I didn’t mention was that my mother was active in the family real estate business as well. While my father focused on commercial land development, my mother focused on residential real estate. I should have known better than to mention one but not the other. This article could be sub-titled “Keys To Maintaining Harmony”.

What does maintaining harmony have to do with commercial real estate development? Stick with me on this, then decide.

My mother cared about “quality of life” issues. Comfortable homes. Neighborhood parks. Safe streets. Good schools. Museums and other cultural enhancements.

I remember watching my mother lay out walking paths around detention ponds in residential developments and looking through catalogs evaluating park benches and playground equipment for neighborhood parks. As a residential real estate investor, developer and broker, my mother focused on “living environments”. If families were going to live in her neighborhoods then the neighborhoods had to be “family friendly”.

As you might imagine, with my father focused on commercial development and my mother focused on residential quality of life issues, conversations around the dinner table were always interesting, and sometimes dicey.

On one side of the table, my father envisioned expansive commercial development for retail shopping centers, office buildings, restaurants, hotels, theaters, warehouse superstores, entertainment centers, nightclubs and more.

On the other side was my mother insisting upon neighborhoods with comfortable homes, safe streets, parks and other open areas, dry basements, clean air, clean water, and minimal noise and light pollution.

According to conventional wisdom – derived from public zoning board and plan commission hearings and community planning group meetings when commercial development is proposed near existing homes and neighborhoods – one might expect a clash of ideas turning into heated challenges and demands to forego development. Fortunately, our dinner table was nothing like most public hearings.

My mother and father each respected the vision of the other and understood the natural symbiotic relationship between residential and commercial development. Instead of complaining that one was trying to destroy the vision of the other, they anticipated each other’s legitimate development and environmental needs and sought reasonable accommodation when possible. Sometimes they couldn’t agree, but there was always a meaningful attempt to understand the viewpoint of the other, exchange ideas and come to a mutually respectful and workable plan.

My mother was a resourceful advocate. She made my father think about how commercial development would impact residential neighbors and plan ways to mitigate adverse consequences on families. Long before coming into their current vogue, I learned at our family dinner table the concept of “lifestyle commercial centers” and complementary residential/commercial mixed use developments.

The point for commercial developers and residential advocates is that they should each turn down the volume of their development debate and respectfully listen to what the other is saying. When the other has presented legitimate concerns or needs, those concerns and needs should be reasonably accommodated where possible. An idealistic dream? Perhaps. But I grew up watching it work.

To be sure, not all expressed concerns are legitimate and not all proposed accommodations are possible. In those cases, resolution must necessarily be left up to public plan commissions, zoning boards, and municipal trustees or aldermen to arbitrate and decide the debate. As guardians of the public welfare entrusted with promoting the best interests of the community at large, they must decide. In a fair and evenhanded political environment, your best bet for prevailing is to demonstrate that you have listened with respect and have made reasonable and conscientious efforts to promote public harmony rather than discord.

POINT: If you are a commercial real estate developer proposing a commercial development near existing residential neighborhoods, don’t pretend they don’t exist. Think about how they will be impacted and include in your development plan ways to mitigate any adverse consequences created by your development. Talk to your residential neighbors. Listen to what they have to say. They are not ALL crazy. Sometimes (often, actually) they have legitimate concerns about real problems. If you can include in your development plan a way to economically fix a problem they already have (such as flooding, blight, inadequate parking, lack of sufficient parks or playgrounds, poor traffic circulation, etc.), your chances of favorable governmental action to approve your development plan goes up.

Whether you are a commercial real estate developer or a neighborhood advocate, understand that, whether you like it or not, conditions change. Nothing stays the same. Obsolescence and blight are natural products of time. Redevelopment is coming. If not today, then someday.

Which brings me back to my point of promoting family harmony by making amends to my mother. You don’t necessarily have to read what follows. This is primarily for her.

My mother retired last year but says she still enjoys reading my newsletters and articles. Perhaps a mother’s love, but she always likes to read what I write about real estate and real estate development. She says her favorite is a poem I wrote about “real estate development” called The Great Pyramids Of Egypt Are In Disrepair. She thinks I should share it.

The poem was written in 1992. I have to admit, it never occurred to me that the poem was about “real estate development”. I can assure you, I was not consciously thinking about real estate development at the time I wrote it.

But my mother is a smart woman and I have learned my lesson. I am not going to lightly cross her again. So, in the interest of family harmony, here it is. I leave it to you to decide if it is about real estate development. If you don’t think so, please don’t tell my mother.

THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT ARE IN DISREPAIR

We looked deep into each other’s eyes and said:
“Our Love will last forever”.

When I was two my parents built a new house
next door to the one we rented from my grandfather.
It was “ultra modern” with all the latest conveniences
A garbage disposer – dishwasher – central air –
central vac – wall-to-wall carpet – a private den –
We had a bird bath – and two hundred newly planted Scottish pines.

It’s a parking lot now –
The church next door needed it.
Business was good.

The church doors were padlocked last year.
God moved down the street to nicer quarters.

I saw a news clip recently.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt are in disrepair.
They may not last unless work starts soon.
Sometimes the damage can be too great.
Even mummies get so wrapped up in what
they are doing they can begin to unravel.

Yesterday a friend asked: “Whatever happened to that girl?”

The POINT (according to my mother):

Change happens.
What seems new and permanent today
Will be gone tomorrow.

No time stands still.
Real Estate projects are no exception.
Redevelopment is coming.