Central bank's autonomy to set caps on real estate welcomed

Central banks autonomy to set caps on real estate welcomed

Deepthi Nair

Published: Sun 18 Nov 2018, 8:24 PM

Last updated: Sun 18 Nov 2018, 10:30 PM

The UAE Central Bank recently lifted the 20 per cent cap on real estate lending as a percentage of the total deposits of banks. However, a new ceiling on lending has not been put in place, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, chairman of the UAE Banks Federation, said.
The fixed 20 per cent cap has now been replaced with a more flexible policy whereby the central bank may choose to impose restrictions on the banking sectors' loans to the real restate sector, depending on its views on the health of the property sector in the economy.
"In the past, it was prescribed in the law, so the central bank had no choice but to apply. Today, the Central Bank may say 20 per cent or 10 per cent or 30 per cent overnight," Al Ghurair said. "The flexibility is with the central bank, which is the right thing to do as these are tools you use depending on the cycle of the economy."
The move to provide the central bank with autonomy regarding setting real estate caps allows for faster response time to the economy and market movements.
"The central bank is entrusted with balancing growth of the national economy. The more autonomy the Central Bank has over various factors in the economic system, the more responsive they can be to market movements. It is unclear yet what the new cap will be. However, I am confident the authorities and the Central Bank will consider what is best for the real estate sector and the economy as a whole," observed Fadi Nwilati, CEO at Kaizen Asset Management Services.
Removing the 20 per cent cap on real estate loans is a positive step and should create further demand for real estate and reduce the barrier to entry for many individuals in Dubai who couldn't access real estate previously, said Abdul Kadir Faizal, co-founder of Smart Crowd. 
"However, a word of caution is that there should be some percentage cap on real estate loans, possibly 10 per cent. This is so that the borrower must take some element of risk and stake in the asset to reduce liabilities and ongoing risk for the lender, especially where we are seeing interest rates slightly rise and expect this trend to continue," Faizal added.
With the US Federal Reserve hiking interest rates, mortgage takers in the UAE are facing the prospect of higher monthly payments for their home loans.
Lewis Allsopp, CEO, Allsopp & Allsopp, said: "Further rate hikes could stall or hinder purchases at a high level but not in the low to middle sections. Buyers need to look for more favourable long-term fixed rates or low fixed margins. Lenders with attractive short-term fixed rates and high margin follow on rates need to be looked at with caution. The same could be said for the high settlement fees of up to three per cent now being charged by most lenders."

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