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Property portal bullish on UAE
Muzaffar Rizvi (INTERVIEW) / 5 March 2012
DUBAI - Propertyfinder.ae, the UAE’s leading property portal, is one of Dubai’s huge success stories, growing from a small startup company in 2007 to an SME 100 firm just five years later.
It ranked number three out of 72,000 small to medium sized enterprises, or SMEs, in Dubai during a ceremony held recently at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
During an interview at his office in Dubai Media City, a jubilant Michael Lahyani, chief executive of propertyfinder.ae told Khaleej Times that the award recognises the achievements of the company over the last few years.
“It’s truly an honour to receive this accolade and join the ranks of Dubai’s top companies. It’s also great to see the government acknowledging the SMEs in Dubai and finally recognising their impact on the economy,” he said.
The Dubai SME 100, who awarded the honour, is a premier ranking of Dubai’s 100 top performing SMEs, launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development. The award seeks to identify the emirate’s top SMEs which have the potential to be world class enterprises and invest in innovation and people.
Wholly-owned and operated locally, the portal specialises in the UAE’s real estate industry. It offers services to property seekers, agents and brokers as well as provides real estate agents with the largest potential audience of house hunters in the UAE.
“We have around 50,000 live properties on the site, that number stays around that level as new properties come on as old ones drop off,” Lahyani said.
In reply to a question, he said portal takes all appropriate steps to protect the users from any kind of scams. “All property listings came from Real Estate Regulatory Authority registered property agents. We don’t allow private individuals to list their own properties which protects the users from potential scams.”
“In terms of the property split, around 40 per cent of our properties are rentals and the rest are for sale.”
Renan Bourdeau, managing director of propertyfinder.ae, said the portal secured good business in 2011 as its revenues surged following a record increase in visitors to the website.
“Revenues grew by over 60 per cent in 2011 thanks to a lot of hard work. We reinvest all profits back into the company to make sure we continue to grow and also ensure we remain the top property portal in the UAE.” he said, attributing the rise to the close working relationship with the agents and brokers registered with the property portal.
To a question about the growth in visitors last year, Lahyani said visits to the site grew by 124 per cent from January 2011 to January 2012 due to user-friendly website and marketing efforts.
“We have increased our marketing efforts and also spent a lot of time improving the sites look and functionality. We are always trying to improve our user offering and still maintain the same goals as when we first started, we want to help people find the ideal property as quickly and easily as possible,” he explained.
Not a deal maker
Lahyani make it clear that portal is not involved in deal-making process between the buyers and sellers.
About the ratio of successful property deals through the portal, he clarified that propertyfinder.ae is a bridge between the buyers and sellers through registered real estate agents and is not involved in deal-making process.
“We don’t get conversion data from our brokers so we are not able to tell you exactly how many properties were let or sold, but I can tell you that we send more than 30,000 enquiries for properties each month which is why brokers keep listing properties with us,” he said.
To a question, he said the portal has a leading market share in terms of brokers as well as online property seekers or sellers in the UAE.
“In terms of brokers, we have around 200 registered brokers and more than 3,000 agents that accounts for around 60 per cent of the UAE market.
As those looking for a property, it’s hard to know exactly but I would say we have over 50 per cent of the property search market using propertyfinder.ae,” he explained.
GCC expansion plan
About the business growth plan for 2012, Lahyani said the company is keen to boost its market share following recovery in real estate industry.
“The UAE is our key market and there’s a lot in the pipeline for 2012.”
To a question about the expansion in the region, Lahyani said the company has already chalked out a plan to expand its activities and services in the GCC region this year.
“We’ve recently launched in Qatar under propertyfinder.qa, and this is our first step outside of the UAE. It will be followed by other countries of the GCC by the end of the year.”
Real estate outlook
Lahyani was upbeat about the UAE property sector in near term and said the market is on track to gain the stability following rise in demand.
“Our outlook on real estate is positive. The demand for UAE property is growing and slowly, but surely heading to meet the oversupply.
We’re seeing prices increase in developments that are popular like Oceana on the Palm or qualitative towers in Dubai Marina.” he said.
“There’s a big shortage of quality real estate aimed at the upper class and there’s a shortage in the affordable housing range required. “I believe that by 2015 the oversupply will have been absorbed by the growing demand and then we will start to see new developments again,” he said.
About the recent trends in property market, he said buyers are more interested in villas as the prices have come down to more affordable levels.
“Were seeing strong interest for villas right now as prices have been low for 18 months meaning people are getting more for their money.”
“We are also seeing prices increase in communities like the Springs and Arabian Ranches. I think the industry needs to be mindful of the fact that the real estate market is still recovering so needs to price accordingly.”
Most demanded areas
Lahyani said Dubai Marina is the most searched community in residential areas.
“Dubai Marina is the most searched community for both buy and rent, this has been the case for many years and is likely to continue. The Marina is a big development with thousands of properties and a range of prices which appeals to a wide range of people.”
He further said that Business Bay area is a great investment opportunity for future. “Business Bay is an area to keep your eye on, there is still a lot of work to do there but it’s in a fantastic location and will be a great investment for the future, if they get the infrastructure right.”
In reply to a question about the impact of Dubai Metro on real estate industry, he said residential and commercial properties situated near to metro station are in demand. “The closer a property is to a metro station, the higher the demand. Same for commercial, as businesses are looking for offices close to the metro so their staff can commute easily.”
In reply to a question about the visa regulations for property buyers, he said: “There’s been a bit of a disappointment with the visa laws as the developers had promised a visa for property owner and this didn’t always materialise. So they’ll have to make it clear and straight forward, then it will indeed impact the market.”
“Dubai is an attractive investment given the finance issues faced internationally, the visa could make it even more attractive,” he said.
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